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Judy Ward
Judy Ward
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A Win for WAN Updates

Hancock Holding automates WAN updates with AlterPoint solution.

Every time Gulfport, Miss.-based Hancock Holding Co. ($4.8 billion in assets) - the parent of Mississippi's Hancock Bank, Hancock Bank of Louisiana and Hancock Bank of Florida - made a major change to its wide-area network, operations officer and WAN/LAN specialist Charles Roberts had to do it manually. "I would do it router by router, or switch by switch," Roberts says of the company's roughly 180 routers and switches. "If I had to touch every one, I would spend all week in here in the evenings doing it," he continues. "I was a one-person shop. ... There were too many branches, too many routers, too many everything."

Motivated by steady growth as well as new legislation, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, that meant the bank needed to update the system more regularly, Hancock, which operates 103 locations in three states, began looking for a technology solution to automate the process in late 2002. Initially, Roberts tested the DeviceAuthority Suite network change and configuration management software from Austin, Texas-based AlterPoint, which gave him a 25-device, 90-day license to try out the software.

Based on that experience, Roberts developed a list of minimum requirements for the eventual solution. Since Hancock utilizes Nortel Networks (Brampton, Ontario) technology, several suppliers that develop solutions for Cisco System (San Jose, Calif.) equipment quickly dropped out of convention. Five vendors were chosen to participate in a lab test that ran from October 2003 to January 2004.

Roberts set up a test bank of routers and switches. He would make a change on one router with one vendor's software, gauge the results, then cancel the change out and repeat it with each of the other vendors' software. In making his choice, Roberts asked himself, "Using this software, how long does it take me to make changes?"

"DeviceAuthority was always easier than the other product," Roberts says. "The DeviceAuthority technology was faster and simpler. I was going for speed and accuracy, and DeviceAuthority won out." In February 2004, Hancock purchased version 3.0 of AlterPoint's DeviceAuthority Suite. Roberts characterizes the spring 2004 installation of the solution on IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) 2003 servers as "really an easy process."

Now, DeviceAuthority allows the bank to make minor changes to its network, such as altering a user identification, automatically. Roberts still does some testing before making major changes, such as code updates or routing-table updates, but after testing, the software handles the rest of the process automatically.

Whereas a major change used to take more than 50 hours, now it takes just six, relates Roberts. When he comes in the next morning, DeviceAuthority Suite also has prepared a report that tells him if the changes failed on any devices. Additionally, the solution produces compliance reports for the bank.

Time Is Money

The technology has saved him lots of time, Roberts says. It initially freed him up to spend more time on the bank's VoIP system and now enables him to devote more energy to a variety of other projects at the bank. DeviceAuthority also has saved Hancock money, Roberts says. "We are saved from having to bring in another person to help out. ... It is like having another person - a really fast person."

These days, Roberts uses the software to make major changes to the system every two or three months on average. The bank plans to upgrade to DeviceAuthority's newest version, he says, but has no other plans to alter its use of the software. "To be honest," he says, "I do not need to use it that often, because now I can do so much at one time."

Snapshot

Institution: Hancock Holding Co. (Gulfport, Miss.).

Assets: $4.8 billion.

Business Challenge: Automate changes to bank's wide-area network.

Solution: AlterPoint's (Austin, Texas) DeviceAuthority Suite network change and configuration management software.

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