JERSEY CITY, N.J.-After winning the $100,000 Extreme Network Makeover sponsored by Horsetail Technologies and Credit Union Journal, Liberty Savings FCU has now entered the assessment phase designed to lead to a new and improved operating system.

"Right now we are in the process of establishing a baseline from which to move forward," said Chief Information Officer Jim Miller. "Working with Horsetail has been great; a real smooth process so far."

The current all-important process results in a network assessment, explained Horsetail Technology Executive Vice President, Christopher Sache.

"A few weeks ago we started performing the assessment, which included a project kick-off meeting that describes the assessment process and what tools are used to acquire and analyze the data," said Sache.

These tools serve to help determine the credit union's inventory program, bandwidth performance, internal network vulnerability and the overall capacity needs of Liberty Savings, among other initiatives.


Built On 'As-Needed' Basis

When Liberty Savings unexpectedly won the Extreme Makeover contest, Miller explained that the network had been built on an "as-needed" basis, with LSFCU historically being more reactive than proactive.

"Right now we are identifying both near-term and long-term goals," said Miller. "We are small ($69 million) and didn't have a lot of time to spend on documenting and planning future needs as much because we have to deal with operations, so hopefully this will help us with the things that get pushed aside on a daily basis."

While Baltimore-based Horsetail Technology conducts these assessments routinely with clients, there are always issues presented that are unique to a respective credit union. "With respect to Liberty Savings' infrastructure, they are very common, meaning that certain aspects of their infrastructure have been cared for and are in good shape, whereas other aspects are aged, not properly maintained and need to be upgraded."

Issues at Liberty Savings that raised red flags included the age of its security devices and firewalls.

"Today's firewall versions include intrusion prevention, gateway anti-virus and content filtering. They were operating on a classic layer two, layer three firewall," said Sache. "Additionally, they didn't have a tool in place that was monitoring the network as a whole, which can determine what is going on at the PC level, the firewall level. They need a tool so they are aware that systems are being backed up, updates are occurring as scheduled, and any intrusions are identified. Again, this is very common for most credit unions we see."


Assessment and Next Steps

As the winner of the Extreme Network Makeover, Liberty Savings is entitled to new hardware offerings from Dell, updated security from Sonicwall, network monitoring services from n-Able, help desk ticketing from Autotask, server room cabling services from Powersum, disaster recovery services from OGO, certified project and strategic planning from Horsetail as well as e-mail encryption from Horsetail powered by Zix. The rollout will occur in the coming months after the assessment in completed.

While Horsetail normally takes a few months to roll out a new platform after assessment, Miller said the company is focusing its energy on a quicker delivery, in this case weeks as opposed to months.

"This is an accelerated process on our side due to NCUA deadlines and other requests so we have deadlines in November and December," Sachs continued. "After the final assessment is delivered, which is scheduled for mid-October, we will begin rolling out all services within 30 days from that point. After that we will begin the network monitoring phase."

Miller, who operates the IT department with one other employee, said he looks forward to completing the process. "The assessment is an important process, but I think we will have more to talk about after implementation."




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