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Towpath Credit Union

Towpath Credit Union benefits from "Big Bank" technologies while continuing to operate as a local credit union focused on serving their communities.

In 2017, Towpath Credit Union initiated its digital transformation with the adoption of Microsoft 365 and Azure, a path that would help them to safely operate throughout a global pandemic with minimal interruption. Like many local businesses, Towath CU's operations had become antiquated.


"By utilizing expert resources at Improving, we developed a cloud adoption strategy and quickly began to implement more of Microsoft's tools in our environment."

― Ed Schmuhl: Assistant Vice President of Information Technology

Transforming to a modern workplace

Like many local businesses, Towpath CU's IT operations were antiquated based on outdated approaches to security and productivity. All infrastructure resources were located on-site at one of their branch offices with disaster recovery plans depending on complex and time-consuming processes.

The ability to be productive outside the office was nearly non-existent. Towpath CU partnered with Improving to modernize their workplace so that they could improve what they offered to their employees, attract new talent, and promote the growth of their business as well as overall improve their ability to work more effectively.

Improving guided Towpath CU on their adoption of Microsoft 365 services, transitioning their operations to a cloud-centered model where their employees could work more effectively and efficiently, inside and outside the office. Microsoft Teams has enabled employees to collaborate in real-time through web conferencing and instant messaging, allowing Towpath CU to move away from the mundane use of email for everyday communications. SharePoint and OneDrive have made sharing and collaborating on documents much easier and secure. In addition, Towpath CU is leveraging the power of Power BI analytics to help drive better and quicker business impacting decisions.

"Improving's support has enabled us to deploy many of the tools that the Microsoft 365 ecosystem has to offer, which all work together seamlessly and securely to facilitate collaboration. Our partnership is helping us create a business intelligence framework and culture of using our own data, which will provide us with invaluable insights when it comes to strategic planning. For an enterprise our size, we can punch above our weight when it comes to technology."

― Jeremy Wascak: Vice President of Development

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most businesses scrambled to figure out a way to make remote work possible. Towpath CU faced the pandemic already prepared with the technology ready to support having their workforce productive from anywhere while maintaining the upmost security practices. Their employees simply picked up their laptops and continued to collaborate and work together to keep their business running from the safety and comfort of their own homes.

"Our mission at Towpath Credit Union is to provide the best experience for our members, while improving the financial wellness of the communities we serve. The onset of the pandemic put this mission to the test, but thanks to Improving, our teams were able to deliver on our mission without missing a beat."

― Michael Sferro: President

Bringing the power of cloud to IT operations

AI-powered security, immediate capacity scaling and simplified disaster recovery are capabilities that were unrealistic for Towpath CU when maintaining server hardware within their own offices. In addition to the overhead costs of hardware refreshes, extended warranties and licensing management were becoming a significant burden to Towpath CU. Moving their computing assets into Azure simplified all of these.

"By moving our server infrastructure to Azure, we were not only able to reduce our long-term maintenance costs, but also reduce the complexity of managing hardware and software with limited IT personnel. Azure provides us a robust set of features around security and availability, further saving us additional time and money"

― Ed Schmuhl: Assistant Vice President of Information Technology

With Improving's help, Towpath CU moved nearly all their physical server resources into Azure and immediately took advantage of the peace of mind that came with knowing the Microsoft cloud was managing availability of all their business-critical applications, as well as adding layers of security through Defender for Cloud that were not previously available. Worrying about ageing hardware and adding capacity are concerns of the past as Towpath CU can now easily expand and contract their computing needs within a matter of minutes, which also streamlines costs as they only pay for what they actively need.

Leading with security

With all the advancements Towpath CU has made moving to the Microsoft cloud, security has been at the center of all decisions. Prior to adopting Microsoft capabilities, security was based on outdated practices assuming security meant being within the company walls.

Today, Towpath CU has adopted cloud security practices that provide protection for the device, the user, the application, and the data. Real-time monitoring with Defender for Endpoint can detect any suspicious behavior before it can have an impact on performance or security. Towpath CU is also made aware of any known vulnerabilities across all their devices based on the power of Microsoft's cloud security intelligence.

All devices are enrolled with Microsoft Intune so that common policies and configurations are enforced, and when deviations are detected, access is blocked to critical business systems. Intune also is enabling Towpath CU employees to be more productive using mobile devices while ensuring company data remains safe and protected.

"Credit unions, at our core, are about people helping people. We are a people business, here to serve others and to lift-up the communities we serve. Improving has given us the technology and scale to provide the tools that are necessary to compete with the biggest organizations while maintaining the integrity of a local, member-owned financial cooperative."

― Michael Sferro: President


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