North Island Credit Union aims to support its membership with critical services such as electronic banking and access to depository information -- even during times of disaster. But as the events of Sept. 11, 2001, showed, the financial institution's business continuity plan was inadequate.
Prior to 9/11, the San Diego-based credit union stored backup data tapes in a secure off-site vault and maintained backup servers on both the east and west coasts. But in order to restore the data on the backup servers, North Island system administrators would have to fly to the backup locations twice a year, relates Dante Chavez, the credit union's VP of network and telecommunications services. With air travel grounded after 9/11, the system proved ineffective.
To ensure better business continuity, North Island (more than $1 billion in assets) began searching in 2004 for a system to replicate mission-critical databases, files and e-mails that would not require a significant investment in bandwidth or infrastructure, Chavez recalls. He and his team talked with business partners, searched the Internet and met with vendors to identify a solution, narrowing the search in the fourth quarter of 2004 to offerings from Southboro, Mass.-based NSI Software (known as Double-Take Software) and Waltham, Mass.-based XOsoft.
After testing both vendors' solutions, the credit union selected XOsoft's WANSyncHA business continuity software suite, primarily for its ease of use, according to Chavez, even though XOsoft only provided phone support during the test. "It was good that XOsoft was not here for the test because it showed us the simplicity of the software," he says.
In the first quarter of 2005, the credit union purchased WANSyncHA Server for its file server, WANSyncHA SQL for its Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) SQL database server and WANSyncHA Exchange for its Microsoft Exchange e-mail server. The XOsoft software suite provides real-time data replication to backup servers, and automatic failover and failback, according to the vendor. If a problem occurs with North Island's primary server, users automatically are shifted to a backup server to maintain continuous application availability, Chavez explains. Once the main server is back online, changes to the data on the backup server are reflected on the primary server and users revert back to the main server.
The credit union conducted a pilot in the second quarter of 2005 and began implementation in the third quarter. An implementation engineer from XOsoft came on-site to train Chavez and his four system administrators. "This is really plug-and-play software," Chavez says. "The software is strictly out of the box and nothing has been customized. We can download it from XOsoft's Web site and be up and running in minutes."
Since the solution relies on algorithms that allow data updates even over slow TCP connections, North Island did not need to upgrade its Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network or factional DS-3 (15 MBPS) data connection, Chavez notes. Additionally, the new system utilizes the 30 existing Dell (Round Rock, Texas) and HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) servers in the credit union's disaster recovery site in Irvine, Calif. North Island runs the applications on Windows, Sun (Santa Clara, Calif.) Solaris and Linux operating systems.
Chavez estimates that using the WANSyncHA software versus investing in high-speed bandwidth has saved the credit union approximately $1.2 million to $1.5 million in capital expenditures. Further, the applications' ease of implementation and use mean costly support from consultants isn't needed, he points out. "Literally," Chavez says, "you can run the program with your eyes closed." * --Vicki Gerson
** Institution: North Island Credit Union (San Diego).
** Assets: More than $1 billion.
** Business Challenge: Find a cost-effective way to replicate mission- critical data.
** Solution: XOsoft's (Waltham, Mass.) WANSyncHA business continuity software suite.