How well are credit unions prepared for data center outages?

 Back in July, 365 Main, a major data center hosting companies such as c|net, Craigslist, e-surance, and the Oakland Raiders, lost power.  For most of the day.  And 365 Main has the time, money, and resources to make sure that (almost) never happens.  Here is the full story straight from 365 Main.  Jesse Robbins has a slightly more digestible version here at O’Reilly Radar.

 So if a major provider like 365 Main can drop clients for half the day, what protections are in place in our CU’s?  What are reasonable expectations from our members?  Do we need to stay up for 24 hours after a power outage, or just survive until the power company comes out to replace the broken transformer or power pole?  Obviously the most important thing is data loss and, for the most part, as long as the CU has the appropriate safeguards in place to protect against power surges, the servers and data should be safe from melting.  After basic data preservation then comes up time.  As a member, how would you feel if you went into a branch and the teller said that they couldn’t actually do anything on your account until tomorrow because their computer system was down?  You probably wouldn’t have online banking to check your balance and the CU would probably have to limit the amount of cash they could withdraw for members since they don’t actually know how much each member has.  So out comes the pen and paper to hand write which members took how much money.  Not an ideal situation.

Put the members’ hat on.  What would they expect?  I’d be miffed if I couldn’t get cash out, but I’d probably survive.  For a day. 



CheckChecker Beta Testing Opportunity

The CUSO that I’m slowly migrating to, FiLinx, is getting ready to release our second product, a simple check fraud tool called CheckChecker that is designed to be used by front-line staff. Each CU gets a specific url and can pass that url around to the entire CU. No logins or passwords for tellers to have to use. They simply type in a routing number and are presented with real-time info from the Federal Reserve about the routing number itself as well as a fraud alerts, if any, from organizations like the FDIC, NCUA, CUNA, etc.

You must be a CU to participate and all you need to do is go to the registration page here. This is out of "alpha" and is fully functioning in beta with two clients already. In the first month of usage, one of the CU’s stopped a $4800 bad check that normally would have come through. Naturally we’re looking for beta testers to test out he product, well actually have their tellers test the product, and give us any feedback.

Use the promo code "robsblog_6monThs" (without the quotes) when registering to get 6 months free. After the promo period ends, the cost per month is one dollar per million in asset size. So if the CU is a $500 million dollar CU, they’d only pay $500 a month. We also cap it at $1,000 a month, so if a $2 billion dollar CU uses it, it is still only $1,000 a month.  Oh, and it is free for credit unions below $25M in assets (all 5,376 of you).

If you have any questions for feedback, leave them on the blog here or email me. 

Open Source Software and CU’s

In an article on TechCrunch today, the founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, took some harsh words about the grey line that exists in the open source community: how to make money from it.

After BarCampBankSeattle, a small group of us have continued the discussion surrounding the core processing marketplace and opportunities that exist within that space.  Primarily, if an open source core processor will work.

Some CU’s love the idea of open source; a community based development of software that is technically free to the end users, although it is not without cost.  Other CU’s shy away from open source because they would much rather have a turn-key solution in which the vendor provides all of the servicing for the particular product and is on the contractual hook as well.

While some CU’s accept OSS (Open Source Software) and everything that comes along with it, would those same CU’s accept an open sourced core or any other software related to their core, online banking for example?  As this Coding Horror article talks about, many open source product have scaling issues associated with them and the article uses Twitter and RoR (Ruby on Rails) as the example.

Assuming that CU’s could/would accept a major open source operating component (core, online banking, debit/credit cards, payroll processing, etc), how would the company providing the software keep the lights on and servers running?  In the TechCrunch article, WordPress takes some flak for no longer allowing sponsored themes, or themes with text ad links embedded in them, in their theme directory, yet sells an anti-spam plugin to commercial and other non-personal users.  One could go the MySQL/Red Hat/Sugar route and offer "Enterprise" versions of the software for a price while open sourcing the basic version. 

Could a core provider offer a basic version for free but also offer an "Enterprise" version to clients willing to pay?  Would CU’s even buy a core processor that is open sourced?  How do you address the perceived security concerns associated with open source?  As someone point out to me, the ratio of hacker-to-contributor would be much higher for an open source core than FireFox or OpenOffice for example.  If you create a nasty FireFox plugin that reboots someone’s computer, woo-hoo, but if you could go download the core software that a bank or credit union is running, where would you spend your time?

Free Blogs for the CU Industry!

Yup you read the title right.  Free blogs.  But wait, you can get free blogs just about anywhere you say.  While that it true, I’ve grown slightly tired of seeing credit unions attempting to get into blogging using free tools like Blogger or  While both provide some basic functionality, neither are flexible enough to make great looking or feature-rich blogs.

I have setup to address just this issue.  Powered by WordPressMu, the multiple blog engine that is based on, anyone can sign-up instantly for a personal blog or a credit union blog.  One of the major differences between and is the ability to use plugins and have complete control of theme files of your site.  And obviously, there isn’t any software or servers for you to manage!

If you are a teller or the VP of Marketing and have been wanting to setup a blog about your CU, the CU industry, or just a personal  blog, stop by and set on up.  Play around it with it for a while and see if you like it!

I’m always looking for feedback, so comment on an article or drop me a line on the Contact page.  And if you are one of the 3000 or so CU’s without a homepage, drop me a line.  I would love the opportunity to help out any CU setup a free website!

CU Homepage on WordPress!

Just stumbled onto Mutual Savings CU’s website and it is done with WordPress.  And, I don’t know if sadly is the right word here, but it looks a lot better than many CU sites I’ve seen!  Very easy to navigate and very clean!  It is a great example of how WordPress doesn’t just have to be a blogging engine, but works great as a CMS as well.

I’m not sure about the name, but Banktastic looks cool!

My earlier post this week,  Making RSS Easy, stirred up a great pot.  Mark over at the Garland Group has been working on exactly what I was talking about.

Banktastic is, "A community helping bankers quickly find relevant, industry specific information and share it with others".  While I can pick on Mark about the name, the work they (he) has done to aggregate RSS feeds is awesome.  The page that lists all of the feeds is here.  This is the Credit Union Feed and this is the Master Feed.  I can’t wait to share this with my peers!

Flash, Flash, everywhere!


As of late, I’ve been seeing flash websites pop up everywhere.  The latest FI-related one is called Lose Your Lunch Hour.  We’ve seen Dump Your Bank and the Coop Crusader this year.  It seems that lots of FI’s and organizations are spending money on these great looking flash sites, but what exactly is it they do?  How are they getting monetized? (I doubt they are)

Two more examples outside of the FI industry: The Simpson’s Movie and Honda F1 Racing.  These are clearly great marketing tools, but how can CU’s best take advantage of this new trend?  Picking on bankers forever isn’t going to make any money, so how we incorporate great flash with a functional website?  Coast Capital has some cool use of flash, but again, it is not a key component of their functional website.  Maybe VanCity’s We All Profit?  Another great example of a flash marketing website, but how can we use these?




Making RSS easy

I’m continually finding myself talking to more executive level employees about ideas generated from the blogosphere (like Doug’s funeral plot lending) and the sources of the ideas.  Most of them are now familiar with the the term blog and kinda have a grasp of it, but now we need to make the information easy to consume.  Subscribing to RSS feeds is fairly easy to do with the appropriate tools (Google Reader, Outlook 2007, etc) however keeping tabs on all of the sources of information is challenging.  Open Source CU has a great blogroll that’s pretty inclusive, but doesn’t catch everything CU related, try as they might. 

So what I want to be able to do is provide one, or maybe two, feeds to c-level employees, or anyone else interested, to simplify their consumption of feeds as well as the management.  I’ve been looking everywhere for a community-like tool in which a group of people (myself, Trabian, Garland Group, Gene, Ron, etc) would be able to contribute and manage a list of RSS feeds that simply aggregate into one massive feed.  That way instead of trying to subscribe to the 50 CU-related feeds or 50 FI-related feeds the new user to RSS could simply pick one or two feeds and have their finger on the pulse of the whole industry.

So to sum it up, I’m first looking to see if there is a tool to aggregate RSS feeds into one simply syndication and if it can be setup to have a group of people manage it…