How One CU Plans to Continue Service During Disaster, Not Just Afterwards

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LARGO, Md.-Money One FCU here looks differently at disaster recovery these days: the $99-million CU is focused on serving the member during a disaster, not simply recovering systems afterwards.

"Our yearly business continuity planning primarily focused on IT recovery," VP-Information Systems & Technology Susan Wilhelm explained. "Now our focus is on how the entire organization can function and serve the member as we recover our systems."

Money One's thinking changed two years ago when it partnered with Hagerstown, Md.-based Ongoing Operations, a business continuity (BC) solutions CUSO that won this year's 2010 CUSO Collaboration and Innovation award from NACUSO.

The CU now considers disaster recovery on a daily basis, continued Wilhelm. "We're really prepared." Daily, weekly and monthly checklists remind the CU to update the recovery plan based on changes in systems or processes, she said. "BC isn't just a once-a-year test anymore."

A recent DR test was an "eye-opener," pushing employees to work together to run the business under a disaster scenario, which was a chemical hazard combined with a telecommunications break, Wilhelm said. All systems were restored "incredibly fast," within three hours, and some critical systems were up immediately.

The test showed the CU which processes needed improving, such as updating certain systems right away with new employee information so that new employees are part of the recovery team, she said.

A remote test last year taught Money One that important physical files weren't accessible, said Wilhelm. Consequently, the CU has moved those files to an accessible location or made digital copies.

Money One has reconsidered which servers to recover first during a disaster. The CU is more attuned to keeping vital files and information up-to-date and accessible, including vendor contact information.

Money One manages its recovery plan from 2Recover, Ongoing Operations' secure, redundant system for BC plans. The web-based system sends daily e-mail alerts reminding all managers to update documents based on recent Money One business changes, said Wilhelm. "2Recover keeps us on track. As a result, our plan is comprehensive, current and continues to improve year after year."

Every 15 minutes, Ongoing Operations (OGO) backs up Money One's data, operating systems and applications off-site as part of the Replicator service. The Replicator also doubles as a recovery and failover server, automatically jumping in to keep the CU running if there's a disruption.

Money One can recover its e-mail system within minutes, whereas recovery used to take three to four hours, said Wilhelm.

The OGO Crisis Management Notification System allows Money One to send the same message instantly to all employees via phone call, email and instant message. Money One sometimes uses the system for normal business tasks, such as monthly conference calls and approving staff time sheets, she said. "The service is meant for a disaster, but it's also useful for everyday tasks."

OGO is affordable, she said. "With BC, hardware, software and maintenance are expensive. Ongoing Operations recommended cost-effective solutions that fit our budget and addressed our specific needs."

OGO helped Money One cut costs by allowing the CU to augment its existing infrastructure to bring BC up to speed, rather than requiring it to start from scratch, Wilhelm said.

OGO's technology is "impressive," she said. Security, generator capacity and redundancies are among the remarkable qualities, said Wilhelm.

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