Head in the Clouds

Editorial
September 10, 2015

Field services providers embrace hybrid cloud infrastructure for scalability, automation, and cost containment

Change is difficult but often essential to survival.” —Les Brown

Cloud computing is the next big technological paradigm shift for organizations to stay competitive, remain profitable, and prosper in uncertain financial times. Technology has progressed from punch cards, to mainframes, to client-servers, to web-based approaches for importing, storing, processing, and producing data to drive business initiatives. With the continued evolution of processor capabilities, storage growth, and real-time information needs, organizations must transform their IT strategies if they are to remain relevant.

The 2014 report Data Growth, Business Opportunities, and the IT Imperatives conducted by IDC and EMC reveals that the volume of total data we, as a society, create is doubling in size every two years. By 2020, the global volume of data will represent 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes. To put that number in context, the volume of textual data in the Library of Congress represents 15 terabytes of space, or roughly 0.000000015 zettabytes. Field services organizations are seeing a rapid increase in storage consumption from the millions of pictures, videos, emails, and data coming into their environments from myriad sources. These organizations are charged with storing multiple copies of each piece of data on their storage arrays, replication arrays, network storage devices, and backup media. The consumption, storage, and management of this volume of data is forcing field service organizations to change their strategy for data management.

Field services IT departments must rapidly respond to changes in security, regulatory, compliance, and client needs within their IT infrastructure and IT applications. In addition, these IT environments also must be agile enough to rapidly scale their environments up and down to meet changes to transaction volumes—while controlling costs—to ensure the profitability of the business.

Cloud computing strategies provide the essential tools for IT organizations to gain scalability and agility within their organizations while meeting the cost control mandate.

Although the idea of cloud computing has been around for over a decade, it has been only recently that this process of transitioning workloads to cloud environments has experienced a significant spike in the business world. Many businesses are moving away from investing capital in data center environments and racks of physical servers toward co-located private cloud environments or pure public cloud-based infrastructures. These businesses are gaining greater agility, scalability, and availability of their systems and business processes. With the field services industry’s rapidly changing requirements and the need for secure data storage of millions of properties, these new technological approaches are critical for business success.

Cloud computing is generally categorized into three distinct approaches: public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud. Because of increased scrutiny from regulators and the need to keep property information secure, while better controlling costs, the best way field services companies can serve their mortgage servicing clients is by adopting a hybrid cloud infrastructure strategy.

Making It Public

For several years, IT professionals and businesses have debated the best way to utilize cloud computing within their organization. Those in favor of the public cloud offerings cite the cost savings of predictable operating expenditures over variable capital expenditures. Public cloud advocates also enjoy the known cost structures for scaling their environments to address usage, speed, and increased data capacity needs.

Public cloud offerings tend to be less expensive and easier for businesses to rapidly implement, while avoiding the capital costs of purchasing and maintaining data centers and physical hardware. Public cloud infrastructures are billed on a consumption model, representing the end user client’s use of storage, central processing unit (CPU), memory, bandwidth, and level of redundancy.  As additional services or technical resources are consumed, monthly operating expenditures will increase.

Public cloud environments also provide great benefits to organizations beyond capital cost avoidance, which include automation, scalability, rapid deployment models, and decreasing staff needs. Public cloud clients are able to build systems and complete environments in minutes with the automation tools built into the public cloud offerings. Many public cloud clients also are building elasticity into their environments, allowing them to auto-provision and scale up to meet the demands of their users, then dynamically de-provision systems during lower utilization periods to further optimize operating costs. With the cloud provisioning and automation toolsets, public cloud clients require less IT administrative staff, lowering their staffing expenditures and shifting their existing staff toward more engineering focuses.

Because public cloud computing runs on shared hardware, consumed by many different clients, security concerns may be an issue for financial clients running their mission critical applications and storing their protected data in a shared public cloud environment. Other areas of concern with public cloud offerings include the accessibility of retrieving data or moving data between providers, linear growth in operating costs, and the auditability of public cloud environments.

Private Eyes
 
Many IT organizations are implementing private cloud environments, which leverage the public cloud technologies like virtualization, automation, and enhanced monitoring within their physical or co-located data center environments. IT organizations that prefer private cloud computing prefer the agility, automation, scalability, and redundancy of public cloud offerings, mixed with the management, security, and control frameworks built within their own data center environments.

The private cloud is developed and implemented to support a single organization—whether managed internally or by a third party—and hosted within internal data centers or co-located environments. Highly sensitive and confidential data can be stored securely in a private cloud offering, with the IT organization maintaining total control of the security and audit components. IT organizations also have greater flexibility and options for managing access to their environments in a private cloud offering.

Private clouds maintain higher costs than public cloud offerings due to the need for both capital and operating expenditures related to the maintenance and support of the data center environments, physical hardware, software, and the cloud framework tools. However, the increase in costs is offset by the total control an IT organization can maintain with relation to security, audit/compliance, technical capabilities, and data access.

Best of Both Worlds
 
A hybrid cloud combines both public and private cloud services that companies are leveraging into a comprehensive solution to solve business problems. While being separate entities, many organizations are combining public cloud services for scalability and agility in their infrastructures, while maintaining private cloud offerings for security and control of their protected data.

Fields services organizations will find that a hybrid cloud strategy will offer their organizations the greatest flexibility, while maintaining the tight security controls needed to meet audit and compliance requirements. Regulations and guidelines require that property data remain stored in a secure location with stringent access controls around that data. Using the hybrid strategy allows for the flexibility and cost savings involved in consuming public cloud resources with unrestricted data, while maintaining their critical systems and confidential data in the controlled private cloud environment. Several national field services companies, like Safeguard Properties, have begun utilizing the hybrid cloud system to leverage public cloud offerings for informational websites and research and development (R&D) projects, while maintaining all of restricted data within their tightly controlled private cloud environments.

Earlier this year, RightScale, a cloud automation vendor, released its 2015 “State of the Cloud Report,” which surveyed 930 IT professionals about cloud computing. It showed that hybrid cloud offerings remain the preferred strategy for businesses, with 82 percent of businesses reporting that they use a hybrid offering. This is up from 74 percent in 2014’s report.

The Sky’s the Limit
 
Field services providers must take a cautious approach to cloud computing. Many mortgage servicers have yet to fully embrace public cloud technology due to legitimate security and compliance concerns. However, field service providers can leverage a hybrid cloud strategy, keeping their sensitive data protected in their private environment, while leveraging public cloud offerings for development, test, and stage environments to lower capital costs and pay for the services they consume on an as-used basis. Field service providers also can leverage cloud service offerings for targeted applications like time and attendance, payroll, CRM, or Web hosting initiatives. Safeguard has implemented a comprehensive hybrid cloud strategy, integrating the company’s new state-of-the-art data center environments with private cloud technologies, while utilizing public cloud services for hosting of informational websites and strategic research and development projects not containing sensitive data. Using a hybrid cloud approach has helped Safeguard provide better services to its mortgage servicing clients through ensured and enhanced security, dynamic agility, and enhanced monitoring.

The hybrid cloud approach has allowed Safeguard to be more agile in reacting to issues or needs in a timely manner. Leveraging public cloud offerings for rapid R&D builds of solutions has allowed Safeguard’s IT department to rapidly prototype and deploy test solutions, without tying up infrastructure hardware and human resources. These solutions are vetted out in protected public cloud offerings, then brought back into Safeguard’s private cloud environment for deployment into the production infrastructures. In leveraging public cloud services, Safeguard has been able to lower its capital spend for development environments and developmental IT staffing support.

Safeguard’s newly implemented private cloud infrastructure has provided great efficiencies and agility to support the rapidly changing needs of the industry. System deployments have decreased from multiple days down to minutes, environmental patching has been reduced from weeks to several hours, and system failovers have decreased from hours to minutes.

This new level of agility has positioned Safeguard to better support and rapidly respond to dramatic fluctuations in transaction volumes. For example, during grass-cut season, Safeguard can dynamically increase system capacity to support increased transaction volumes, then scale back as transaction volumes decline in the fall.

Safeguard’s private cloud strategy, termed “Data Center 2.0,” has implemented redundancies at all tiers of its environment, across multiple geographically diverse data center environments, while removing single points of failure. This is done so the company’s clients are not affected and, in most cases, are not even aware if system issues arise. This cloud strategy also enhances Safeguard’s monitoring capabilities, as systems and transactions can be analyzed down to the packet level. This gives the company complete visibility into the health and performance of applications across all systems, networks, and end-user environments.

Despite questions, uncertainty, and lingering doubt from the mortgage servicing industry, a cloud computing strategy is a requirement for field services providers to maintain the agility to support rapidly changing requirements and support the exponential increase in data, while controlling IT costs within their organization.
 
SCOTT ANDERSON is the AVP of infrastructure services for Safeguard Properties, the largest field services company in the U.S.

Source: MReport

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CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.

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Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.

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CHEIF INFORMATION OFFICER

George Mehok

George Mehok is the chief information officer for Safeguard. He is responsible for all strategic technology decisions, new systems deployments and data center operations supporting a national network of more than 10,000 mobile workers.

George has more than 20 years of leadership experience dedicated to high-growth companies in the mobile telecommunications and financial services industries, spanning startups to global industry leaders.

George played a senior role in the formation of Verizon Wireless, leading the IT product development and strategic planning team. He led the integration planning for the Verizon merger including: GTE, Vodafone-AirTouch, Bell Atlantic Mobile and PrimeCo.

As chief information officer at Revol Wireless, a VC-backed CDMA wireless communications network operator, George’s team implemented an integrated technology infrastructure and award-winning business intelligence platform.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from The Ohio State University. He is a board member of Akron University’s School of Business Center for Information Technology, in addition to an advisory board member for OHTec.

In 2013, George won the Crain’s Cleveland Business CIO of the Year award for his team’s work in completing a major acquisition and technology transformation at Safeguard. In 2015, George’s team was recognized by InformationWeek’s annual Elite 100 ranking of the most innovative U.S.-based users of business technology. The mobile inspection technology developed at Safeguard was selected as InformationWeek’s “One of the top 20 ideas to steal in 2015”.

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General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard, with oversight responsibilities for the legal, human resources, training, compliance and audit departments. Linda’s broad scope of oversight covers regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, pro-active risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human capital and training initiatives, compliance and audit services, litigation and claims management, and counsel related to mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda’s oversight of the legal department along with multiple compliance and human capital focused departments assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans almost 20 years, and Linda’s experience, both as outside and in-house counsel, covers a wide range of corporate matters, including regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.

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Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.

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AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.

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AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.

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AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.

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AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.

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AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.

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AVP, Mobile and Analytics

Jason Heckman

Jason Heckman is the assistant vice president of mobile and analytics for Safeguard. He is responsible for both Safeguard’s mobile development and strategy as well as the company’s data warehousing and business intelligence. Jason oversees the design, development and release of all Safeguard’s internally developed mobile applications. He also oversees the development and delivery of operational and analytical data technologies throughout the organization.

Jason joined Safeguard as manager of mobile in 2012. During that time he led the development and integration of Safeguard’s mobile applications across the company’s vendor network to provide real-time data from the field. In 2014, he was promoted to director of mobile applications and named assistant vice president in 2017.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Jason was the director of application development and business intelligence for Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana.

Jason holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

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AVP, Business Development

Tim Rath

Tim Rath is the AVP of business development for Safeguard. He is responsible for developing innovative growth strategies for Safeguard and developing and overseeing potential partnerships, mergers and acquisitions.

Tim joined Safeguard in 2011 as project director and has filled numerous roles within Vendor Management, most recently serving as director of vendor management, a role he assumed in 2011.

Prior to Safeguard, Tim worked as director of supply chain at PartsSource Inc. in Aurora, Ohio, a provider of medical replacement parts, procurement solutions and healthcare supply chain management technology services. He also has held sales positions with Rexel, ComDoc, and Pier Associates, all based in Ohio.

Tim holds a degree in marketing and sales from The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He also earned his FAA Certified Commercial UAS (Drone) Pilot license in 2017.