Comerica Inc. has opened a backup facility to process check images in the event of a system failure at its main check processing site.

The 6,500-square-foot operation in Auburn Hills, Mich., is located only 30 miles from the main processing site in Livonia, Mich., where Comerica pioneered the use of check-image technology.

The close proximity of the two facilities allows the bank to easily staff either site in the event of a disabling disaster.

Comerica officials said the recovery site will provide the bank with fee income potential, since the bank plans to turn its excess processing capacity into a service bureau business. Three major banks are already interested in such an arrangement, said Wayne J. Mielke, a Comerica spokesman.

The recovery site is viewed as a "natural extension of our commitment to be on the leading edge of check processing technology," said Thomas Mines, senior vice president, transaction processing, at $33 billion-asset Comerica.

Replicating the environment at the bank's Livonia center, the recovery site has 59 Unisys Corp. image workstations, and three reader-sorters.

The site is able to process 1.2 million unencoded items per day, which is equivalent to the check volume processed daily at the Livonia location.

Mr. Mines said Comerica decided to create its own hot site after exploring a number of disaster recovery alternatives, including outsourcing.

"We will no longer have to rely on others for check processing in the case of a disaster," Mr. Mines said. "This clearly enables us to control our own check-processing destiny."

Though many institutions choose to place backup facilities far from their primary site, Comerica opted for a local site because of the speed with which such a location would allow the bank to resume operations.

Mr. Mines said the recovery site also will allow the bank to test new software without affecting processing at the main facility.

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