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KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. – You can do about anything online these days, including preparing for those times when you’re not. That’s the idea behind PLANet for Credit Unions, which bills itself as the industry’s only credit union-specific, Web-enabled business-continuity planning (BCP) software that meets both FFIEC and NCUA regulations. PLANet is from Strohl Systems of King of Prussia, Pa., which, building on its flagship Living Disaster Recovery Planning System, began working on a solution just for community financial institutions in 1999 and released it 18 months later. About 150 credit unions are now using PLANet, according to Michael Jennings, vice president of consulting at Strohl Systems, who says it’s the company’s fastest-growing product. Others have noticed, too. PLANet recently won the CUNA Technology Council’s first Best of Show Award at the Future Forum in Reno, Nev., and it also has a fan in Barbara Goodsaid, disaster recovery coordinator at $760 million Municipal Employees Credit Union in Baltimore. “We had a disaster-recovery plan that had been put together in 1998 and 1999 with the assistance of the Blair Technology Group, but decided we should update it after 9/11. The folks at Blair (a Strohl Systems partner and re-seller) suggested we take a look at the PLANet system. We did and decided that it fit our needs,” Goodsaid says. “It’s pretty straight-forward to use, and having it hosted online makes a lot of sense. And it eliminates a lot of work when we have to change something or add a new product,” she says. Even just updating employee contact information can be daunting if done manually. PLANet takes care of that by automatically changing all references to a phone number anytime it’s changed in any section of the plan. Goodsaid cites that kind of functionality, plus knowing there’s a backup to her 77,000-member credit union’s continuity plan accessible from anywhere there’s an Internet connection, as a couple benefits of the PLANet solution. Making what could be difficult easy is the idea behind PLANet, Jennings says. “Not many community financial institutions have in-house BCP expertise or knowledge,” the Strohl Systems vice president says. “PLANet provides the necessary expertise through the use of industry best practices and expert-developed recovery scripts, which are customizable, step-by-step instructions for dealing with virtually any disruption to a business-critical function or business unit.” The company also turns to its customers for input. “We work very closely with our users to improve functionality,” Jennings says. “We take their recommendations seriously – our latest version reflects that fact. We incorporated several user suggestions, including enhanced importing capabilities and a `Manage My Resources’ function that enables administrators to manage their entire plan from one simple home page.” The company also keeps up with NCUA and FFIEC requirements for business-continuity planning and makes changes as needed. “Since PLANet is an ASP product, updates can be made easily,” Jennings says. “And as new regulations and requirements are introduced, PLANet is updated to reflect those changes with no need for users to install new software. Employing a solution that does not further tax an IT department is an added bonus. It transfers the burden of managing, updating and backing up the software to the service provider.” As for the cost of the solution, Jennings says it’s based on asset size, and as for the return on investment, he says: “Financial institutions must have a plan, so their choice is to either use a tool such as PLANet, which is specifically designed for business-continuity planning, or use a static word-processing tool. “PLANet uses a relational database and comes with a built-in planning methodology, 58 recovery scripts, 50 roles and responsibilities for team members, and flexible importing functions. “These features alone can reduce the time spent building and maintaining a plan by more than 70%. Overall, organizations can save $30,000 in the first year by using PLANet instead of an in-house program. And they can save more than $5,000 a year by suing PLANet to maintain that plan.” MECU hasn’t had to use the preparations kept current in its recovery plan, Goodsaid says, but it hasn’t sat idle, either. “Luckily, there has really been no opportunity to bring the plan into action, although we have visited it on a couple of occasions when severe storms were expected in the area, and when the country has gone on Code Red because of terrorism concerns,” she says. -

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