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“SingleHop is a true partner — an extension of our team. Vendors do something for you — like print credit cards or checks. But partners help you go faster. With SingleHop, we can leverage the full scope of what’s possible in AWS.”Steve McAtee, CIO, at Vibrant Credit Union
Vibrant Credit Union is a rapidly expanding, technologically progressive organization with branches located throughout Illinois and Iowa.
AWS Managed Services and SingleHop Dedicated Private Cloud
Vibrant Credit Union moves fast — so much so that employees know they are expected to move at “Vibrant Speed.” The Moline, Illinois-based organization is undergoing a period of significant expansion, recently adding several branch locations via mergers across the Midwest.
Fast growth, however, hasn’t changed the credit union’s commitment to providing first-rate member services and technology. Vibrant’s development and support of user-friendly applications like video banking, business e-services, and personal online and mobile banking platforms rival the experience one might find at a big bank, according to Steve McAtee, Chief Information Officer at Vibrant.
“We’ve always been a progressive credit union from a technology standpoint,” said McAtee. “Our willingness to adopt a hybrid cloud IT model is creating agility that our competitors will struggle to keep up with. With the emergence of services like Amazon Web Services, institutions like ours have the capability to deliver hightech services to our members at much less cost and at greater speed.”
To accommodate Vibrant’s new branches and fully execute the hybrid model, McAtee arrived at two important conclusions: First, operating and managing an on-premise data center was no longer viable, and second, his team needed to focus on revenuedriving, business-facing projects as opposed to routine monitoring, provisioning, and management of infrastructure. On both counts, McAtee partners with managed cloud and hosting provider SingleHop.
“SingleHop is a forward-looking service provider,” he said. “While other places are locked into old ways of operating, they recognized the changes and direction of the infrastructure space and assimilated the hybrid model with the addition of their managed AWS operation.”
McAtee first came to SingleHop to accelerate his move away from Vibrant’s onsite infrastructure operation. Price pressures, capital expenses, and the added security burden of data center management were driving factors for the migration. He now hosts many of Vibrant’s legacy, steady-state Windows workloads in a SingleHop Dedicated Private Cloud (DPC).
DPCs are VMware-powered, fully isolated compute and storage environments, custom engineered for compliance and rightsized for application resource requirements. SingleHop’s solution flexibility — from the ease of the onboarding process to day-to-day management — was a driving factor for the partnership.
“With my SingleHop environment, I don’t need to worry about managing the SAN, the servers, or redundant connectivity; I just need it maintained,” he said. “We reached a point in our evolution where the same became true with our AWS environments.”
For Vibrant, the value of AWS was abundantly clear — the scalability, rapid provisioning, and pay-as-you-consume model is ideal for many of Vibrant’s mission-critical applications. The challenge for McAtee was navigating the ever-expanding suite of Amazon products and mastering new operational skill sets needed to tap the public cloud’s full potential.
Each SingleHop managed AWS solution takes an application-driven approach to infrastructure management. Meaning, every project is carefully planned to accommodate the needs of the individual app in question. There is no one-size-fits-all option.
“SingleHop is a true partner – an extension of our team,” said McAtee. “Vendors do something for you, like print credit cards or checks. But partners help you go faster. With SingleHop, we can leverage the full scope of what’s possible in AWS.”
The following are a few of the ways SingleHop’s AWS experts assist Vibrant.
Windows Remote Desktops on AWS – Using AWS EC2 instances, SingleHop is helping the Vibrant team develop runbooks for provisioning and managing Windows Virtual Desktops used by tellers during branch operating hours.
Documenting and Imaging – SingleHop is helping Vibrant move its custom document and imaging application (used for forms, terms/contracts and loans) to Amazon S3 by designing provisioning procedures and S3 structures.
Video Banking Platform – This web application (described by McAtee as “Facetime for Credit Unions”) utilizes Elastic Beanstalk and S3, complete with an integration with DocuSign. SingleHop is coordinating with Vibrant to develop a specific cloud formation for how the Elastic Beanstalk stack spins up, determining the services it needs, and building protocols for patch management.
Security and Compliance –Vibrant uses a third-party software platform for compliance and security monitoring within AWS. Serving as Tier 1 and Tier 2 support, SingleHop’s AWS operations team continuously monitors Vibrant’s environment and takes action on alerts as they arise.
Vibrant’s aggressive technology strategy isn’t coming at the expense of its budget. In fact, compared to other credit unions, Vibrant’s IT budget to institution asset size ratio is well-below average, according to McAtee. “I’m able to use AWS to reduce my compute spend down to exactly what I need, but I’m also able to leverage SingleHop to provide resources and expertise by the project instead of having a large staff increase around all those pieces,” he said. In order to implement the AWS strategy on their own, McAtee said he would have needed two additional full-time employees.
Reducing opportunity costs — the negative trade offs associated with choosing one project or activity over another — are important motivators for leveraging strategic partnerships. “I want my staff to specialize in revenue-generating projects,” said McAtee. “That’s why we look to partners like SingleHop.”
The Vibrant IT team includes employees dedicated to security and networking, IT operations and help desk support, and DevOps. SingleHop is adding more eyes and arms to these teams, but McAtee says that even if he could easily recruit AWS certified engineers full-time, he wouldn’t want to because the specialized support from SingleHop helps him provide more meaningful opportunities for his employees — experience that provides them more visibility within the organization. “If you’re only hiring for niche or speciality skill sets, it can be difficult for CIOs of smaller organizations to provide career paths for those individuals,” he said.
Vibrant was also drawn to SingleHop for its strong managed security pedigree — a critical requisite for any banking, insurance or financial institution. The proliferation of malicious security exploits has made it increasingly difficult for internal IT departments to staff accordingly and mitigate or identify a breach with confidence. Economies of scale and expertise are essential, according to McAtee.
“We’re going to reach a point, if we haven’t already, where it’s impossible to make a credit union safe enough if you don’t host or co-locate,” he said. “With SingleHop, I have access to knowledgeable resources and security technology that falls within my budget.”