BRIDGETON, Mo.-The decision to use a public or private cloud for data storage is often mulled over by credit unions both large and small. Vantage Credit Union weighed the pros and cons and opted for the latter.
"A public cloud can't specify where data is stored, and I have fielded questions to this from auditors and members alike," said Vantage Credit Union Vice President of Technovation Toby Ragaini. "I have had these conversations with Google when reviewing Google Docs as an offering. Additionally, in the public sector, if our data is on a shared server and that particular server is confiscated for, say, legal reasons, we could either lose access to this data or it can become relocated among their server farm."
With approximately 99,600 members, 286 employees, 14 branches and $706 million in assets, Ragaini said his research indicated that a public cloud just didn't meet Vantage Credit Union's objectives. "Private clouds are specific to us. We may not own them, but I know exactly where the data resides."
Vantage CU recently reinvested in existing systems VMware, Cisco and EMC Corp. The difference was migrating from an active/passive system to an active/active.
"Passive/active is a great offering. For the sake of redundancy, I would hope all institutes at a minimum strive for this infrastructure," said Ragaini. "Active/active opens the door for other opportunities and guarantee members will have 100% availability 24/7/365."
The process from start to finish took the credit union nearly 12 months, although Ragaini noted that since similar active/passive infrastructure was in place, time was saved. A third-party vendor, Secure Data, was also integral to the rollout. Ragaini called the company's efforts "outstanding." Referring to the overarching technology as "leading edge" opposed to "bleeding edge," a beta rollout was not required. "This was an implementation more than beta per se."
Investment and Training
Migrating to an active/active platform is not without expense. The approximate hardware investment for Vantage CU was $2 million, although there were incentives.
"We depreciated the hardware over a longer period with hardware workloads potentially being less. Communication, however, is a sunk cost, but will increase when you get into an active/active environment due to the amount of bandwidth required," said Ragaini.
The active/active platform also requires two identical hosting websites operating at the same time, but with 60% of members using online banking, Ragaini said downtime for any reason (e.g., severe weather, power outage, etc.) is not an option. Determining Vantage's return on investment (ROI) is difficult to figure, he added. "ROI is somewhat intangible but outages are always costly."
As is the case with all new technological applications, Ragaini said it's best to look at the required learning like continuing education, which is budgeted into his department each year. He considers third-party training a bonus.
"Anytime we implement new technology or service is required by a vendor I require my team to take advantage of what I consider free training, and this is above our internal continuing education efforts," he said. "I encourage employees to ask questions, poke their nose in what is ours and develop and relationship with these folks [vendors] for further networks."
While the migration has proven successful for Vantage CU, an active/active environment may not be suitable for all credit unions. For other CUs looking to make a similar move, Ragaini said the discovery process should begin with "major" vendors that have "proven" technologies. "Active/passive may be good enough for small businesses. To go from 99.9% to 100% uptime is extremely costly; however, our mantra is to be 'Insanely Great,' so we are!"