When developers architect a solution they often draw a picture of a cloud in the high level design diagram to abstract out complexities at the early stages. As high tech companies searched for ways to deliver an integrated set of software, data and processing services to an expanding set of mobile, non-wired devices like the iPad, they would often circle all these services up in a cloud on a whiteboard. Over time, “cloud” became an industry standard term for delivering software as a service (Saas)—think Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office 365—and online storage platforms like Apple’s iCloud and Dropbox.
Vertafore has been drawing clouds in architecture diagrams for years and investing heavily in making those clouds a reality for our agency customers. Agencies of all sizes need to integrate with carriers, secure customer and policy data to ensure regulatory compliance, have a disaster recovery plan in place, provide remote access to producers and key staff, and minimize IT footprint and spend in an industry still recovering from a soft marketing and anxiously awaiting further signs of economic recovery.
These concerns have helped shape some of our biggest R&D investments and are reflected in the choices our customers make. Vertafore offers a hosted version of AMS360 that runs in our Fort Worth data center. Nearly 60 percent of our agencies choose to run AMS360 in our data center instead of in-house on their own servers, and that percentage continues to increase. Jeff Brogan, CTO of Plexus Groupe, started moving all his agency’s core business applications to the cloud four years ago. When I spoke to Jeff at NetVU he said that “AMS360 was our last critical app to make the transition and one of the most important.” Jeff said that the “move to the cloud allowed us to take out a lot of the day-to-day IT admin costs.” Jeff entrusts Vertafore with installing and configuring servers, backing up data, keeping that data secure, and performing software updates. This frees up time for Jeff to focus on value add activities like providing IT consulting to key clients, supporting internal users and the executive team, and taking a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating redundant steps in high volume transactions or processes.
Data security and disaster recovery are key factors driving many agencies into the cloud. Agencies live or die based on a few core attributes: hiring and retaining good people, nurturing great relationships with customers, creating and enforcing consistent procedures, and securing customer and policy data. It’s ironic that for an industry so fluent in helping our policyholders identify and manage risk, many agencies store database backups in the back seat of their cars and have no disaster recovery plans! Think about that for a moment. If an agency’s office is demolished in a catastrophic event and the tape backup is fried from sitting in a car in the hot sun all summer, the agency has just lost all of their customer and policy data!
AMS360 customers running in the cloud don’t have those concerns. I spoke with Chris Munoz, Vice President, Hosting Services at Vertafore, and he explained the many benefits our AMS360 Online customers get as part of their monthly subscription: “Our online customers get excellent uptime, 24x7 system monitoring, automatic software updates, periodic server refreshes, nightly backups, and a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.” The Vertafore data center has passed both SSAE16 (formerly SAS70) attestation and a Verizon CyberTrust Security certification. And with the June release of AMS360 v6.5, Online customers will have all customer Personally Identifiable Information automatically encrypted at no additional cost. And remember that nightmare catastrophic event scenario above? Munoz said “if a F-5 tornado hit the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, our AMS360 Online customers would be back up and running within 12-24 hours.” How many agencies running a management system on servers at their offices can make that claim? Not many.
Another great example of a cloud initiative at Vertafore is WorkSmart Engage. Dave Padget, Senior Product Manager, explained that WorkSmart Engage “is the first and only insurance-specific collaboration tool. WorkSmart Engage makes it easier for agencies, customers, carriers and MGAs to work together on complex commercial submissions.” This exciting tool provides secure workspaces in the cloud for agencies and carriers to share and manage client information, policy documents, and large complex files in real-time. Dave says this “makes for more efficient commercial submissions, speeds time to market, and increases team productivity.”
So when you hear about the “cloud” take a step back and consider the underlying business drivers. Clarity comes from focusing on the business needs first and then looking for the right technology and services to address those needs. For insurance agencies of all sizes, minimizing IT spend, securing mission critical data, and integrating and collaborating with carriers are top of mind issues today. And Vertafore has a range of cloud-based solutions ready to address these critical business needs.