Clarity Services, a part of Experian, improved the performance and efficiency of its production environment, as well as its security and reliability, with Flexential managed cloud services. Through a consultative process, Flexential designed and implemented a geo-diverse, high-performing solution to efficiently handle the credit reporting company’s production environment and enable Clarity to successfully navigate availability and regulatory requirements to satisfy a demanding online market space.

Real-time access demands improve reliability, flexibility and security

Clarity Services, Inc., a part of Experian, is a national credit reporting agency that provides real-time, nontraditional data reporting for underbanked, near-prime and subprime consumer segments. By providing up-to-the-minute, alternative credit data that is not available from traditional reporting agencies, Clarity assists lenders in gaining a competitive advantage, while reducing risk and fraud. Prior to 2014, the company had a managed hosting contract for its production servers at another company, its operational servers at Flexential and the rest of its IT operations on-site at its corporate offices. With its managed hosting contract set to expire in spring 2014, Clarity was ready for a change.

The company wanted more control over its production environment, faster response times, greater visibility from its host and more choice and flexibility in infrastructure provisioning. Because Clarity collects and handles extremely sensitive data, it is subject to the regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act; its customers also require additional industry-standard certifications such as PCI and SSAE-16. To satisfy these requirements, Clarity had to undergo thorough due diligence in assessing alternative managed hosting providers.

Another requirement was uptime and reliability. “Because we are a real-time credit bureau — meaning reporting and changes to credit files happen instantly — downtime is a serious issue for our customers,” said Jeff Scarsbrook, vice president of IT services at Clarity. “They get concerned when they can’t pull down up-to-date Clarity credit reports at any given time. That’s a business interruption for them.”

Geo-diverse infrastructure and proactive monitoring fortifies reliability and promotes heightened control

Clarity’s search for a new managed hosting provider for its production environment kept leading them back to Flexential. With the operations component of its infrastructure already collocated with Flexential, Clarity had experience with the company and its people. Flexential security and compliance credentials were impeccable, and the company was open and forthcoming about its policies and procedures. The geographic diversity of its data centers would effectively serve Clarity’s production and disaster recovery/business continuity requirements.

“We spent a great deal of time sitting down and talking with each other, discussing how to make it work and what it’s going to look like,” said Scarsbrook. “[Flexential] wanted to understand our business and what exactly we were trying to accomplish. They didn’t try to force-fit us into a box or tell us what to do. It was clear Flexential really wanted to partner with us.”

The infrastructure that emerged from the collaboration placed the live production systems at one Flexential location and a hot-standby site for disaster recovery/ business continuity at another geographically diverse location operated by Flexential. At each site, Flexential provides network device management, advanced monitoring and data protection. These managed solutions proactively help identify issues to minimize service interruption while employing industry best practices to help Clarity optimize its IT performance. The solutions also help protect against issues that can compromise the security and integrity of Clarity’s data and IT assets. Clarity’s day-to-day systems and infrastructure remain with Flexential at its current location.

Heightened control yields greater efficiency for improved performance

With its production environment running out of Flexential, Clarity now has control over its day-to-day management functions, which was impossible through its previous provider. Clarity can make changes to its production environment directly, rather than going through a third-party provider, which sometimes took up to three days and was detrimental to business.

“We could handle a lot of that in-house, which we are able to do with Flexential. If we need to tap Flexential’s expertise to get something done, they’re right there for us, like an extension of our IT team,” Scarsbrook says. “It’s much more efficient. Furthermore, the concerns we had over availability were quickly alleviated in the move to Flexential.”

Immediately after moving the production environment to Flexential, Clarity experienced a 25% performance boost. After performing system optimization — some of it code and some of it infrastructure tuning — performance scaled by 200%. Collaboration and solution tailoring as a result of partnering with Flexential really proved its value, Scarsbrook recalls.

Flexential’s expertise navigating regulatory compliance issues also adds value, Scarsbrook notes. “Our customers, the larger ones in particular, want to see those certifications to verify their data is safe,” he said. “We take full advantage of the fact the both we and Flexential have certifications. Flexential has been extraordinarily helpful all the way, including responding to our customers’ questions and concerns. We didn’t get that level of support or transparency from our previous provider.”