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Vicki Gerson
Vicki Gerson
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The Equitable Bank Gets Connected

Adds WAN from Time Warner Telecom and integrates voice and data networks.

An integrated communications service can improve a bank's efficiency. Recognizing the potential benefits of centralized management of voice and data networks, and seeking to improve the connectivity that linked its 10 branch offices with the bank's data center and disaster recovery location, The Equitable Bank (Milwaukee, approximately $425 million in assets) signed a three-year deal with Time Warner Telecom (TWT; Littleton, Colo.), a provider of managed voice and data networking solutions, to install a secure wide area network and provide broadband voice services for the financial institution.

The bank's previous system, a 56K frame relay solution, was capable of transmitting only banking transaction data. "With the advent of the Internet, and the size of some bank applications, we needed the proper bandwidth," says Mike Block, The Equitable Bank's IT officer.

In January 2003, Block started looking for a new solution. He carefully examined four vendors' proposals that summer before settling on TWT. "It was a big step for the bank to go from a managed wide area [network] with our core service provider to buying our own wire network."

New Infrastructure

The implementation began in September 2003, and the actual conversion at the branches was completed in early November. TWT had to perform some infrastructure work, including digging trenches for the optical (fiber) cables, but no platform or telephone changes were necessary at the bank, which was able to dispense with almost all of its routers.

TWT's reliable business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities were key to the successful implementation. "Time Warner Telecom took our business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities to the next level," adds Block. "Their Ethernet Native LAN service is the foundation for creating our warm/hot disaster recovery site. It also allows us to expand our server facilities, which had little room to grow, and provides an Ethernet connection between our data center and our disaster recovery location."

One reason the bank selected TWT was the redundancy that was built into its system. TWT's network features dual fiber rings - if the outer ring were to fail, it immediately would transfer communications to the inner ring.

In addition to reliability, points out Denise Kalina, the bank's corporate secretary and manager of voice service, the new system offers significant cost savings and a throughput performance increase for voice services. "We were able to save 30 percent over our previous solution for packetized voice services. Moreover, by using packetized voice technology and unused voice lines with this upgrade, we increased our branch offices' burstable voice bandwidth capabilities by 242 percent at no extra cost to the bank."

The new solution also has allowed the bank's sales force, primarily its loan officers, to work at branch locations. This is more convenient for the bank's customers and is generating more business for the bank. "Before this change, [loan officers] were forced to stay at our headquarters because the branches were too slow to give them the required information," Block says.

The new solution has exceeded the bank's expectations. "We were hoping to get a T1 line, and look what we got," Block points out. "I was shocked when we heard we could have this technology." The transition was so seamless that employees kept asking when it was going to happen, says Block, who adds that the change occurred without disturbing anyone's work pattern.

Snapshot

Institution: The Equitable Bank (Milwaukee).

Assets: Approximately $425 million.

Business Challenge: Improve connectivity and integrate voice and data.

Solution: Time Warner Telecom (Littleton, Colo.) WAN and broadband voice services.

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