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Judy Ward
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First American Gains Multi-Channel Stability

Community bank adopts DataMirror's iCluster solution to support its core systems.

By the end of the '90s, First American Bank, an Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based community bank, found itself in a changing world. It increasingly operated in multiple channels, and 20 percent of its customers had chosen to bank online.

In a 24/7 customer-service environment, having continuity and a strong disaster recovery plan had become more important than ever.

Furthermore, in addition to managing its own internal needs, First American also handles information processing for four other financial institutions. All these considerations caused the bank's officials to realize that the existing strategy of outsourcing First American's systems recovery and continuity activities was turning out to be less than ideal.

So executives at First American-which has more than $2 billion in assets and more than 30 Chicago-area locations-decided that the company should bring that part of its operations in-house. But to make it possible, management had to find high-availability e-business software. Ultimately, they chose software from Toronto-based DataMirror Corp.

First American Bank utilizes an IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) iSeries 820 as its main server and an IBM pSeries 620 as its backup. As a result of Y2K initiatives, the bank had installed on that hardware the Silverlake core processing system from Jack Henry & Associates, Inc. (Monett, Mo.). "At the time it was a brand-new platform, so we decided to outsource our business-recovery issues" to Comdisco Inc. (now Comdisco Holding Company, Inc., Rosemont, Ill.), says Noel Levasseur, an executive vice president at the bank.

But two things subsequently made the bank question whether it should continue to outsource, Levasseur says. First, self-service-oriented platforms such as the Web and voice response became more popular with customers. "In today's world, we have tremendous growth in self-service delivery channels such as the Internet and voice response," he says. But First American could not make the self-service systems available during periods of downtime because of the bank's limited arrangements for back-up.

Second, Levasseur says, "Our annual allotment of test time always seemed to be thin. It was a challenge to test other than locally, because the communications infrastructure was connected to the main IT location or to Comdisco. That did not lend itself to platform- or silo-specific recovery."

So, "we began looking for something that would address not only our business recovery, but just normal availability," Levasseur explains. First American considered three providers. Staffers talked with each to understand their products' functionality, how they differentiated their products from the competitors', how each supplier's product would work with the bank's current core solution, how each planned to support the bank if it bought their product, and their company's financial viability.

Continuous Availability

First American Bank decided to go with DataMirror in late 2001, largely because of its support capabilities. The iCluster solution is a single integrated system that can detect primary system failure and invoke operational switching for continuous availability and 100 percent cluster-enabled resiliency. For example, it captures iSeries objects and database transactions from primary systems and mirrors them in real-time to one or more recovery iSeries systems.

Since the December 2002 implementation of the DataMirror iCluster software in the bank's two data centers, the results have been tangible. "DataMirror provides an opportunity to offload to a second machine. We can now switch over to the remote site in 30 minutes, versus 24-plus hours," Levasseur says.

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SNAPSHOT

INSTITUTION: First American Bank (Elk Grove Village, Ill.)

ASSETS: $2 billion-plus.

BUSINESS CHALLENGE: Support a 24/7, multi-channel customer service environment with improved business continuity support.

SOLUTION: DataMirror Corp.'s (Toronto) iCluster.

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