Private Cloud: Key considerations for an insurance agency

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1 white paper private cloud Private Cloud: Key considerations for an insurance agency in the insurance industry, there are many options for meeting insurance agency information technology requirements. An agency can own the information technology process purchasing and managing the hardware and software that keeps its business functioning; or it can delegate all or part of the process to another company that specializes in this area. Within each of these high-level scenarios, there are dozens of additional options, ranging from the hardware or software vendor chosen to the type of outsourcing model selected. Invariably these are critical decisions that best serve long-term agency business goals when they are based on the results of a detailed IT needs analysis, including the benefits of cloud computing with the flexible and secure technology to drive connectivity and collaboration. One IT strategy that is gaining popularity among insurance agencies is a private cloud solution. A private cloud solution is a segregated cloud computing infrastructure that is reserved for the sole use of a single organization. It is typically hosted by a specialized computing services provider and used by the agency to reduce costs and keep their employees focused on strategic activities, not IT issues. Compared to public cloud solutions in which the agency shares resources with other companies, private clouds give insurance agencies more flexibility and provide higher levels of data security and control. Gartner insurance industry analyst Juergen Weiss put this trend in context, writing in 2012 that private clouds are the most viable cloud deployment model because of the additional security and data sovereignty they provide. 1 In this whitepaper, we present the Applied Systems view of the top business considerations every insurance agency should address to be successful, and the role that a private cloud solution can play in ensuring their success. We also provide a short overview of Applied Private Cloud, a private cloud solution designed specifically for insurance agencies. Five Ways a Private Cloud Deployment can Benefit Insurance Agencies 1. Assign more employees to customer-facing activities 2. Significantly lower total cost of ownership for information technology 3. Enhance data security and regulatory compliance 4. Implement a better disaster recovery plan at a lower cost 5. Scale operations and technology capabilities faster Cloud Adoption Trends in Insurance Many carriers already use cloud-based technology to enhance customer service and drive business growth, and they are seeing impressive results. Adoption of private cloud computing is in the early stages of what can be expected to be significant year-over-year growth for the foreseeable future. A 2013 market study published by International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasted that worldwide spending for hosted private cloud services will experience a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent through 2016 to a total of $24 billion. 2 For the insurance industry, Gartner estimated in 2012 that less than five percent of the average IT budget for insurers was allocated to cloud computing, but predicted significant growth, especially in private cloud deployments. Despite a lower overall budget allocation for cloud computing in 2012, a significant majority of the 116 insurance companies surveyed by Gartner in 2012 were productively using, implementing or planning to implement a cloud solution within a year. 1 Weiss, Juergen, A Quick Look at Cloud Computing in the Insurance Industry, Gartner, Inc. March 6, Quoted in Exploring Demand for Hosted Private Cloud Services, Business Technology Roundtable, March 22, Web. September

2 We expect this (current spending levels) to change throughout the next three years because insurers have little budget flexibility, and more than 60 percent of their annual budget is typically focused on running the business, wrote Juergen Weiss in A Quick Look at Cloud Computing in the Insurance Industry. Early adopters of cloud computing will be small to midsized insurers or affiliates of large multinational insurers. Small and midsized organizations will typically lack the financial and human resources to maintain their IT assets themselves. Weiss also predicted that private clouds will remain the preferred cloud deployment scenario for insurance companies. 3 Figure #1: Adoption of Cloud Computing by Insurers Already using productively 40% 14% Currently implementing No, and no plans to launch such an initiative in the next 6-12 months 18% 13% 15% Currently in pilot mode Plan to use within the next 6-12 months A significant majority of insurers in 2012 were productively using, implementing or planning to implement a cloud solution within a year. Source: A Quick Look at Cloud Computing in the Insurance Industry, Gartner, Inc. March Agency business fundamentals and the role of private cloud solutions If, as the research indicates, private clouds will be the preferred IT outsourcing option for insurance companies in the future, much can be gained by agencies that carefully analyze its potential impact on business operations. To stay competitive over the long-term, every small and mid-sized insurance agency needs to devise a unique strategy that addresses the classic business challenges of how best to invest in people, products and support systems. For each major component of their business strategy, there are decisions about information technology that must be made. The following pages include five strategic business considerations every insurance agency must address and the positive role that a private cloud solution can play in enabling their success. #1 How can an agency maximize the talent of its staff? More than most companies, insurance agencies are in the relationship business. Much of an agency s success depends on having as many employees as possible directly addressing real customer issues and opportunities with knowledge and efficiency. Among the key considerations in agency workforce management is deciding if there is value in maintaining internal IT expertise and, if so, at what numbers and skill levels. Often agency executives conclude that IT staff should be kept to a minimum, enabling more employees to focus on core activities. Any IT outsourcing strategy will allow you to minimize the internal IT staff needed to run your business. A private cloud implementation can help optimize the ratio of IT employees to your overall staffing. Because a private cloud implementation is a segregated infrastructure, the agency can confidently move its applications to the cloud to create a more tightly integrated IT platform. This, in turn, increases efficiency, enabling the agency to reallocate resources from day-to-day IT management tasks to more core activities and, as a result, respond faster and better to customer demands. A private cloud provider hosting the agency s IT infrastructure will also be in a better position to stay abreast of changes in IT capabilities and to keep hardware, software and storage resources up to date. The bottom line: Private cloud deployments enable agencies to assign more employees to customer-facing activities. #2 Where should financial investments be made? Maximizing the number of employees focused on core activities is just one of the decisions with major financial implications. Deciding whether or not to maintain your own IT infrastructure is another. Private cloud strategies, like other outsourcing approaches, can reduce or virtually eliminate all 3 Weiss, Juergen, A Quick Look at Cloud Computing in the Insurance Industry, Gartner, Inc. March 6, 2012, Page Symantec s 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey. Symantec.com. January Page 8. content/en/us/about/media/pdfs/symc_2011_smb_dp_survey_report_global.pdf

3 but a few basic investments in IT infrastructure. They offer a pay-as-you-go arrangement where the agency is charged only for the capacity it uses and can avoid making major capital investments in hardware and software. For many agencies, a private cloud implementation will deliver more benefits than other outsourcing options. Because a private cloud can accommodate an agency s entire IT platform, there are additional cost-saving opportunities due to more processes being standardized and automated, and resources can be pooled and distributed to better utilize IT assets. Private clouds also preclude the need to re-architect applications that can be necessary when a public cloud approach is used. The bottom line: Private cloud deployments can significantly lower total cost of ownership for information technology. #3 What is the best way to keep data secure and easily accessible to employees? Securely maintaining the privacy of business information is a prerequisite for the successful operation of any insurance agency, as is making data easily accessible to employees. Private clouds are an ideal way to strike the right balance between data security and accessibility. Private clouds inherently add an extra layer of security over public clouds and internally managed IT infrastructures because they operate in a segregated, secure infrastructure. Assuming the private cloud provider has insurance industry expertise, the agency can be confident that the physical infrastructure and business processes will take into account the complex compliance regulations that must be met by the agency. Private clouds also stand out in their ability to make data easily accessible, allowing agencies to streamline business processes. In a private cloud, insurance companies can integrate agency management applications with other standardized business applications, such as financial management, human resources and procurement, to create a central location where employees can access every application for either back-office or customer-facing processes. The greater ability to customize and integrate applications in a private cloud also makes it easier for agencies to introduce business-class mobile technologies. By contrast, public clouds present barriers to adoption of mobile technologies because they preclude any meaningful customization. And adding mobile access to an internally managed IT infrastructure is difficult because of the complexity, quickly changing technology and specialized expertise required. The bottom line: Private clouds can enhance data security and regulatory compliance. #4 How can an agency withstand a disaster Hosting a core IT infrastructure and all customer data in a dedicated offsite location can be an agency s most effective disaster recovery strategy. In addition to providing an extra layer of security, professionally managed data centers are designed to withstand disruptive events so they can deliver high availability. The fact that the data center will, in all likelihood, be in a different location than the agency s offices reduces the odds that it will be impacted by the same events. The net result is that while an agency and its insured may be dealing with a disaster, there will be operational continuity because the IT infrastructure is not being impacted. For an insurance agency, avoiding downtime after a disaster means avoiding unnecessary costs and customer attrition. For agencies classified as a small business, the cost of downtime resulting from an extreme weather event has been estimated at $3,000 per day. Costs for larger organizations can exceed $10,000 per day. 4 Private cloud operators also typically assume responsibility for managing backup processes, ensuring that when there is a need to recover and access data, it will be the most up to date version. The bottom line: Private clouds allow agencies to implement a better disaster recovery plan at lower cost. #5 How can an agency position itself to adapt and grow? Insurance agencies often need to adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities, and private cloud implementations support this need for business agility in several ways. With a private cloud, the agency has access to all the computing power and data storage it needs to scale its IT infrastructure up or down quickly as business needs dictate. 4 Symantec s 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey. Symantec.com. January Page 8. content/en/us/about/media/pdfs/symc_2011_smb_dp_survey_report_global.pdf

4 The higher degree of standardization and customization possible with a private cloud also streamlines the response to changing opportunities. The pay-as-you-go relationship with the cloud provider means that responding to growth opportunities does not require a major upfront investment in IT capabilities. For the agency, using the private cloud option means a faster time to market for offering new services or moving to new markets with considerably less business risk. The ability to scale operations was cited as the top reason for adopting a cloud computing strategy by 57 percent of companies surveyed in the North Bridge Venture Survey of 455 Enterprise and SMB companies. 5 The bottom line: Private clouds enable insurance agencies to scale their operations faster. Applied Private Cloud Overview Applied Systems delivers a private cloud solution designed specifically for companies in the insurance industry. Agencies using Applied Private Cloud receive a dedicated online environment in which they can run Applied TAM or Applied Epic, as well as any other third-party application they use to run their business. An agency s private cloud implementation is supported by dedicated computer resources in an Applied data center, staffed 24/7 by experts with deep knowledge of data security, disaster recovery support and unique insurance industry requirements. Applied Private Cloud deployments are located in specially designed facilities equipped with redundant power, cooling and Internet providers. Each private cloud infrastructure gives the agency a fault tolerant platform that can be scaled dynamically to match their operational needs. Conclusion The fundamental goal of any insurance agency technology strategy is to gain the most competitive advantage for the smallest possible investment in time, talent and money. For many agencies, adopting a private cloud solution can be the best way to meet their need for cost-effective, secure and efficient business processes that enable financial success. But, like any major business decision, determining if a private cloud solution will deliver significant return on investment requires rigorous analysis of the agency s business and how information technology can and should support it. Private cloud solutions are worth a closer look. For many agencies, private clouds can meet security and compliance requirements in ways that also reduce costs, increase efficiency and facilitate flexible growth. 5 North Bridge Venture Survey of 455 Enterprise and SMB companies, July

5 CONTRIButors This report was prepared by Applied Systems, Inc. ABout APPLIED SYSTEMS Applied Systems is a leading provider of software that powers the business of insurance. The company is recognized as a pioneer in agency and brokerage management systems and data exchange between agencies, brokers, carriers, and their clients. By automating the insurance lifecycle, Applied Systems software enables millions of people around the world to safeguard and protect what matters most. To learn more, please visit com or call Applied Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. This document is provided for information purposes only. It is intended to give timely, but general, information on the subject matter covered herein, and the contents of this document are subject to change without notice. Prior results and case studies mentioned in this document do not guarantee a similar outcome on any particular situation in the future. You should consult with an attorney or other professional service provider with respect to how the matters discussed herein affect and relate to your own business affairs. This document is not warranted to be error-free, nor subject to any other warranties or conditions, whether express or implied. Applied Systems and its affiliates specifically disclaim any liability with respect to this document and no contractual obligations are formed either directly or indirectly by this document. Any statements made herein are not a commitment to deliver any material, code or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions, except as provided for in a separate software license agreement. The development, release, timing and availability of any products, features or functionality described herein remain at the sole discretion of Applied Systems and its affiliates. All other names of products and published works identified herein may be the trademarks or otherwise proprietary material of their respective owners. Applied Systems, Inc. 200 Applied Parkway University Park, IL For more information visit appliedsystems.com Copyright 2013 Applied Systems

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