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Agriculture Federal Credit Union

Never before in the history of the credit union movement has disaster recovery and business continuity been more top of mind among credit union executives. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, credit unions – along with many other organizations in a wide array of industries – have been devoting significant time, energy, and effort to revamping and improving their disaster recovery and business continuity policies, procedures and plans. One Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) has come to the forefront in assisting credit unions with affordable and state-of-the-art business continuity services: Ongoing Operations.

Agriculture Federal Credit Union (AFCU) is one of the founding members and investors in Ongoing Operations. With over a dozen years at the credit union and even more before that in the financial services industry, AFCU CEO Margie Click understands the importance of delivering uninterrupted, high quality and convenient member service to her 25,000+ members. She explains that “even though Katrina was a wake-up call for everyone, we knew that there are all sorts of scenarios where our operations could be negatively impacted, especially at our headquarters here in Washington, DC.” She adds that “we felt good about investing in Ongoing Operations and were completely confident that it would succeed. We have an excellent relationship with them and are very pleased overall with their support and services.”

Andy Dooley, AFCU’s head of Information Services, and his staff work closely with Ongoing Operations in the development of disaster recovery: planning, documenting, testing and implementing. When you consider all of the pieces that go into recreating a credit union’s office environment and technology infrastructure in a remote location, the task can be almost overwhelming. But Dooley says that “the Ongoing Operations staff is helpful and knowledgeable. They provide excellent support – both onsite and remotely.” Click adds that “credit unions larger than us have more resources. Ongoing Operations offers any extra support we may need, and we appreciate their assistance.”

A key component of Ongoing Operations’ appeal to many credit unions is their high tech headquarters in Hagerstown, MD. Dooley confirms that “they have an ideal setup in Hagerstown – it is a building that was purpose-built for a defense contractor during the Cold War. It is perfectly suited to disaster recovery operations.” In addition to its strong construction, rural location and backup power grid capabilities, the headquarters offers plenty of room for growth in both cubicle space and secure data center rooms. Dooley points out that “security is very strong throughout the building– there is restricted access to server rooms and security cameras are present everywhere.”

When it comes to helping credit unions solve their business continuity problems, some vendors take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Not to mention that most of them offer no guarantees of availability – they work on a ‘first come first served’ basis that could potentially leave a credit union out in the cold during a real world emergency. Ongoing Operations takes the opposite approach: flexibility is their byword. They realize that there are many pieces to the business continuity puzzle and that each credit union must be able to pick and choose the options that best fit their risk tolerance levels and IT infrastructure. Click describes the Ongoing Operations approach: “they adapt their options to their members’ needs — anything from utilizing just a few of their services to becoming an owner/investor.” Meanwhile, Dooley appreciates the fact that “we can be 100% assured that if we declare an emergency then we will have space guaranteed to be ready for our use.” He concludes that “their solutions are specifically tailored to credit unions. It was one of the smartest things we did to partner with Ongoing Operations.”