JERSEY CITY, N.J.-After nearly four months of reviewing more than 100 submissions, Horsetail Technologies, in association with Credit Union Journal, announced that Liberty Savings Federal Credit Union won the $100k Extreme Network Makeover.

"To be honest, I forgot that I had filled out the entry form and submitted it," said Jim Miller, chief information officer for the $68.9-million credit union. "So when I heard the news I was certainly surprised and of course quite thrilled."

From March 19 to July 31, credit unions were asked to submit a description of their current network, growth goals and network needs, essentially making the case as to why they needed a makeover and how it would impact operations. On August 3, a panel of partners involved in the project collectively decided that the $69-million Liberty Savings was most deserving of the award.

"Jim's submission was proactive and that matched our general philosophy in that we want to prevent problems before they hit the users," said Mark Berman, principal with Baltimore-based Horsetail Technologies. "Jim demonstrated a strong desire to act in this manner and as a result he really stood out."

Miller conceded that he doesn't recall "exactly" what he wrote in his own submission, but his words were inspired by the difficulties he and his team were experiencing. "The greatest day-to-day challenges are in managing devices in all of our locations, performing end-user support, identifying and controlling bandwidth management issues, maintaining sufficient network storage and doing all of this with an eye on security issues," Miller said.

 

In Need of Change

Liberty Savings, like countless credit unions post recession, has had to make tough choices when it comes to business initiatives. As a result, technology decisions were often placed on the back burner.

"Our network has been built on an as-needed basis and we have been reactive instead of proactive for the most part," said Miller. "We are small 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 the reason for the entry was to hopefully get assistance with things that get pushed aside on a daily basis."

While Liberty Savings has enjoyed steady growth during the last few years, Miller explained that certain aspects of the operation have note been keeping pace.

"Between 2007 and 2011, we grew from a single location to having three branches. We added VOIP capability to our internal telephone system and built our new branches entirely with VOIP sets/servers," he said. "We also added an internal call center to replace an outsourced solution. The past four years have necessarily been more about keeping up than planning ahead."

During all that growth, its network has obviously been one area that has also struggled with the load.

 

What's In Store

Over the next month, Liberty Savings will receive a preliminary "process assessment" from Horsetail Technologies that will result in an objective network assessment.

At this juncture, the wining credit union will be 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 email encryption from Horsetail powered by Zix.

"We are looking forward to suggestions from Horsetail once we are able to sit down and review the current status of our IT infrastructure," said Miller. "We hope that we will be able to improve network performance and security for our staff and members."

Berman explained that Horsetail Technologies provides managed services, solution integration and cloud management. The firm will be working very closely with Liberty Savings to develop a sound strategy that will include aligning participating vendors in a streamlined fashion.

"We will be in the process of assessment, ramping up and launching over the course of the next few months and the project should be completed by the end of the year," said Berman.

Credit Union Journal will be providing ongoing updates of the Extreme Network Makeover.

 

The Wish List

When it comes to the plethora of services that will be received by the end of the year, Miller is both excited and thankful.

"Some of these services are things we wouldn't have budgeted for ideally or in the near future especially in this period of time (economically)."

Miller does, however, have a wish list. "Not knowing all of the upgrades we can expect yet, we look forward to implementing a new secure email interface for member communication, being able to monitor our branch server rooms and moving from server-based email security to the SaaS model."

For more information on Liberty Savings, go to www.lsfcu.org. To learn more about Horsetail Technologies, visit www.horsetailtech.com

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