H E B Federal Credit Union (HEBFCU) of San Antonio, Texas has been in service for more than 50 years and currently has over 16,000 members and more than $145 million in assets. The Credit Union serves the employees of H-E-B Grocery Stores, which is a large privately held supermarket chain based in San Antonio, with more than 350 stores throughout Texas, as well as in northern Mexico. With less than forty employees supported by one internal IT employee, HEBFCU is not considered a large Credit Union in Texas or the US. However, they have done something that the majority of even the largest and most technologically-savvy financial institutions have yet to do: implement a complete cloud solution that features redundancy, very high levels of uptime and great flexibility. Their partner in this journey has been Ongoing Operations (OGO), a multi-owned CUSO best known as the Credit Union movement’s top provider of disaster recovery and business continuity solutions.
Haru Bhagat, IT Manager at HEBFCU, was tasked with moving the Credit Union’s infrastructure to the cloud in a secure and trouble-free manner. With over 10 years of experience, Bhagat was more than up for the job. He recalls that “we were at the end of life of many of our servers and ready for a refresh. We had also experienced some outages with some of our existing vendors and were looking for an experienced team of IT professionals to work with us every step of the way.” With such a mission critical assignment at hand, a great deal of due diligence was called for to absolutely ensure that the right partner was chosen. HEBFCU started with a list of 10 vendors which was soon narrowed down to three finalists. The Credit Union’s criteria for choosing a vendor was fairly typical: 1) technically competent; 2) strong on security; and 3) affordable. Yet something that was also important was “an intimate knowledge of Credit Unions and their unique culture,” according Bhagat.
After nearly a year of research, demonstrations, on-site visits and checking of references, Ongoing Operations emerged the clear victor. Bhagat confirms that “we had a great comfort level with OGO and really liked the fact that many of their employees come from Credit Unions and have been with OGO for a long time.” He adds that “all of their references told us that OGO’s employees are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.” Bhagat even took the time to visit OGO’s headquarters in Hagerstown, MD which is a very large and impressive facility that was purpose-built for a defense contractor during the Cold War; in other words it is perfectly suited to disaster recovery operations. “At the end of the day, we felt that OGO understood our needs, had a deep knowledge of the cloud, and would work hard to provide the uptime that we required,” says Bhagat.
The first order of business was to move the Credit Union’s all-important email platform over to OGO. Hosted Microsoft Exchange was configured and HEBFCU could then be relieved of the tedious and time consuming management of email communications. For the next phase, the Credit Union starting moving their core production servers over to OGO – this included member statements, imaged documents, receipts, accounting folders, loan files, etc. The Credit Union worked with OGO’s highly experienced telecom and network engineers to architect a highly redundant topology that included in-house backups every 15 minutes in Hagerstown, nightly backups to OGO’s other secure facility in Phoenix, and a third daily backup of the most critical data back to HEBFCU’s own San Antonio data center. According to Bhagat, “we were really pleased with this design and all of our migrations have worked out smoothly.” The system is supported by multiple telecom circuits and secure VPNs (virtual private networks), and it replaced their older tape backup system with a state of the art disk-to-disk backup solution.
Bhagat reports that “it has been a great improvement. We feel confident that our data is safe, secure and available.” HEBFCU’s senior management team is also pleased with the cost savings that they now enjoy. Bhagat concludes that “our relationship with OGO has saved us money and given us an improved IT infrastructure. We are pleased with the results.”