When the call came from management to shut down operations and transition all employees to remote work, IT staff at Woodforest National Bank® had a plan.

“Our existing architecture wasn’t designed to support the massive increase in remote office workers.” Said James Heck, AVP of Network Services. “Suddenly, everyone in the main offices was told to go home. The need for remote connectivity exploded—quadrupling overnight.”

It wasn’t easy. Woodforest National Bank is celebrating 40 years as one of the strongest community banks in the nation, proudly offering outstanding customer service since 1980 with more than 750 locations and 1.5 million retail accounts.  The bank’s success is due to a sincere focus on building relationships, discovering opportunities to better serve its communities and understanding the financial needs of every customer. Protecting that reputation was paramount.

With Cisco SD-WAN, Woodforest National Bank stopped COVID-19 from disrupting business and tarnishing their reputation. The plan to move to SD-WAN for cloud connectivity was in the works, but the pandemic created immediacy. The generous offers Cisco provided during the initial days of the pandemic helped.

Woodforest National Bank survived the pandemic shutdown thanks in part of Cisco SD-WAN

Aging Infrastructure: An Unexpected Blessing

Like many network teams who faced disruption from the 2020 pandemic, James and his IT team considered themselves lucky to have implemented SD-WAN before the shutdown. The automation and ability to remotely manage a global, distributed network using Cisco SD-WAN was invaluable when Woodforest Nation Bank was forced to shift operations in March.

“Our network infrastructure was old and needed an update.” Heck said. “Our fleet of Cisco ISR 2900s [also known as the ISR G2], was coming to its End of Life.”

The Cisco ISR G2 routers running a legacy WAN offered less flexibility to respond to the changes that were required when the pandemic struck.  As business-critical applications like Office365 moved to the cloud, that legacy routing equipment requiring private MPLS lines to cloud applications would have skyrocketed costs.

“We had to think of something. It wasn’t just a network refresh. It was more than that. We needed SD-WAN.” Heck said. Even though Woodforest National Bank was an existing Cisco customer, the Woodforest IT team did their due diligence, evaluating all SD-WAN options before deciding on Cisco SD-WAN running on the ISR 1000 with IOS-XE software. “We looked at bandwidth, rackspace, features, and throughput. Cisco SD-WAN on ISR 1000 was the right choice.  We needed best-in-breed.

The Cisco SD-WAN Difference

Woodforest National Bank continued its reputation for customer success through shutdown

Cisco SD-WAN provided the flexibility, scalability and speed that James and his team needed to ensure continuous operations in the face of a global pandemic. Leveraging dynamic path selection; automated templates, policies and branch activation; multicloud onramp and integrated security; Woodforest National Bank was able to provide a consistent and secure cloud application experience no matter where their employees were located.

Woodforest put the process in motion. For every branch, they replaced the router, switch, access point and moved from a traditional WAN to Cisco SD-WAN. This all had to be done before the branch came online in the morning—and many branches lacked IT Staff trained to perform the operation.  The entire process, including a software upgrade over wireless LTE, took less than 45 minutes, from rack-and-stack to online connectivity. That wasn’t all.

“We have call centers in Jamaica.” Heck said. “Those were shutdown by their government. Our service queues piled up overnight so that our bankers had to assume the role the call centers played using the Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC&C) solution and LTE as a backup. Thanks to Cisco SD-WAN and its seamless UC integration, we were able to route service calls to workers with the new WAN edge architecture. We did this all from the Cisco vManage dashboard.”

Woodforest National Bank takes cybersecurity seriously, protecting its customers with multilayered security down to the firmware

Firmware Security, a Critical Component in Financial SD-WAN

Cisco SD-WAN provides fast, secure and reliable multi-protocol connections, with advanced routing, cloud networking and multilayered security capabilities. But it was the advanced Trust Anchor in the Cisco ISR 1000 that brought Woodforest IT true peace of mind in their transition to SD-WAN. The Cisco Trust Anchor is a secure, embedded core that protects device authenticity, the boot process, device firmware and their public key infrastructure (PKI) from advanced persistent threats (APTs)—a critical capability for financial organizations that transact billions of dollars.

“We bought the ISR 1000 because of its firmware security.” Heck said. “It secures our Plug N’ Play portal as we activate SD-WAN devices from half-way across the world using serial numbers. We have our stock room teams receiving and onboarding the device. They are efficient workers but are not trained network engineers. The Cisco Trust Anchor provides that extra layer of protection when activating and operating our SD-WAN.”

Now, James and the rest of the Woodforest National Bank IT team are ready to face the next challenge. Whether Woodforest National Bank returns to the office or shifts their architecture to a permanent remote model, their IT staff can provide secure network connectivity and reliable application access with a few clicks in the Cisco vManage dashboard. “It cannot be overstated.” Heck said. “This was the most successful project of 2020. Actually, it may be the most successful project we’ve ever had.  And we did it all during a global pandemic.”



Company: Woodforest National Bank

Region: AMER

Industry: Financial

Challenge: Shift to remote work with full, multicloud access

Solution: Cisco SD-WAN (software)

Challenge: Secure device and application transactions down to firmware

Solution: Cisco ISR 1000 (hardware)

Challenge: Consume networking and security services in a simple, flexible fashion

Solution: Cisco DNA for SD-WAN & Routing, Essentials Tier (license)




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Pat Vitalone

Product Marketing Manager