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SaaS: How Secure Is It?

Hosted Insurance Software: Evaluating Security

Over the last several weeks we have talked about the benefits of using a hosted insurance Software as a Service model, like we use with the Partner XE agency management system.

As long as you can access the internet, you can access your data. Not only that, someone else handles software upgrades and system patches and provides redundant backups of your data which is stored on secure servers housed off-site.

Do a quick Google search on “how secure is SaaS” and you will get a myriad of responses. As with all things that are relatively new, there are proponents, detractors and everything in between.

Unless you have a full-fledged, dedicated security setup, however,  it is very unlikely that your in-house server is as secure as a hosted application would be.

A few things to consider if you house your information on servers in your own office:

  • How, when and how often is your data backed up?
  • Where is your data stored?
  • Who has access to your confidential data and servers?
  • How do you secure your data so that it can only be accessed by those who SHOULD have access?
  • What is your disaster recovery plan? Do you have one?

With a hosted insurance Software as a Service model such as we use with the Partner XE agency management system, your data is backed up for you automatically. You never have to worry about remembering to do it, whether you do it correctly, or whether your backup device is too full. It is also stored across multiple hardware servers so that no single hardware failure will prevent access to it. Can you say the same for your in-house system?

Instead of residing in your office, susceptible to power surges, natural disaster, thievery, etc., when you use hosted insurance software like the Partner XE agency management system from SIS, your data resides on secure servers housed at an impregnable data center with around the clock physical security as well as internet and server firewall data protection and malware and anti-virus protection. Weekly security patch updates take place without your ever having to think about it.  So there is no chance that your security measures are not up-to-date.

Not only that, access to your data is restricted with encrypted communication and secure logons.  Smart routers ensure that there is nobody getting to your data but you and those authorized to get to it.

AND, with SaaS, disaster recovery is part of the package – all you need to do is make sure your data is properly entered into the system.

As we said last week, an important thing to consider is that when you invest in hosted insurance software you are buying more than just the software, you are buying access to the people behind the software as well – a whole team of experts whose main priority is making sure that the system runs smoothly AND SECURELY for you.

The People Behind The Cloud

Hosted Insurance Software – Support

Evaluating the people behind the cloud


As we said last week, Software as a Service, by definition, is a software distribution model where an application is hosted by a service provider (such as SIS) and made available to customers via the internet.  An important thing to consider is that when you invest in SaaS you are buying more than just the hosted insurance software, you are buying access to the people behind that insurance software as well – a whole team of experts whose main priority is making sure that the system runs smoothly for you.

This is a far cry from buying a program which you then install yourself, teach yourself and maintain yourself.

Take SIS’ Partner XE Agency Management System which runs on a Software as a Service model for example. You not only get the system, you get the programmers who are constantly working to improve the software, the trainers who help you get up and running, a customer service team to answer your questions, and a tech department to facilitate the integrated/ automated maintenance & patch update schedule.

Because you are using a hosted insurance software model, you also have someone else maintaining and protecting the server (or servers) on which your data resides.

Essentially, the only “technical” thing you need to worry about is your internet connection and making sure your computers are up-to-date. The experts at your solutions provider do everything else. It is critical then, that you have a high level of trust with regards to your service provider.

Some questions to ask a provider to ensure they are worthy of your trust:

  1. How does your organization work with agencies of MY size? (To ensure they work well with YOUR agency)
  2. Where does your service team reside? How are they trained? (To ensure they are experts and can meet your needs)
  3. Tell me a bit about your business model. How do you plan to meet my needs now and in the future? (To ensure they can grow with you.)
  4. Tell me a bit about how you ensure my data is backed up, up to date, protected, and I can access it when I need to. (To ensure you can be comfortable with them handling your data).

At SIS we meet all of the above criteria. We know that you aren’t in the insurance software business. That is our job. It’s also our job to understand yours so that we can show you how to get the most out of your investment.

Why SaaS?

Cloud computing is the big hype these days, but what is it and what does it mean to you? Why SaaS?

By definition, cloud computing is the ability to access and interact with data on any platform with an internet connection.  There are several subsets of cloud computing, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).  SaaS, specifically,  is a software distribution model where an application is hosted by a service provider (such as SIS) and made available to customers via the internet. SIS’ Partner XE Agency Management System is based on a Software as a Service model.

The benefits of SaaS are many, and influence both your ease AND cost of doing business.

It’s Simple:

  • Accessible: You can access your data anywhere, at any time so long as you have an internet connection and up-to-date computers.
  • Always up-to-date: With SaaS, software upgrades and system patches are automated.
  • Scalable: When your software is hosted using a SaaS model, you can add or remove users quickly and easily, with no new infrastructure required.
  • Easily administrated: With SaaS you can remove your IT hat and free up time for growing your business.   All maintenance and updates are handled by your provider.

It’s Secure:

  • No lost data: Cloud computing and Software as a Service models provide redundant backups of your data, protecting you against computer failures, natural disasters and more.
  • Protection from hackers: No data stored locally.
  • Protection from on-site disasters: Should you have any disasters at your place of business, your critical business data is safe and secure.
  • Protection from theft: You don’t have to worry about data being stolen from your servers or laptops.

It’s Cost Effective:

  • Consistent, budgeted payments: With a  Software as a Service model, you can budget your fixed costs and not have to worry about spikes in maintenance costs, purchasing upgrades or increased personnel needs. SaaS allows you to proactively secure your costs of doing business and budget rather than have to react in a knee jerk fashion to whatever issues occur.
  • With scale comes efficiencies:  One provider can support 5000 users at a fraction of the cost it would be for those same to support themselves.

Keeping It Together

Use your Partner XE insurance software to track conversations and set reminders.

One of the best marketing features within your Partner XE agency management system is the ability to track conversations and set reminders. If, for example, you want to run a targeted drip marketing campaign you can use the system to:

  • Create your list
  • Send the mailings
  • Set up reminders so that you stay on track and your mailings go out at set intervals
  • Set reminders for follow up calls

It won’t make your phone calls for you, but it will make sure that, with everything else going on, you don’t forget them!

In addition, every conversation, or email communication you have with that client/prospect is tracked within the system, easily accessible with a few clicks of the mouse – not only that, everything is retained in a file that is time and date stamped.

If you need assistance in maximizing the marketing potential of your Partner XE agency management system, just give us a call at 800.747.7005, Option 2.

February 2011 Update

By now you have probably noticed our new look and new branding, launched in late December to reflect our vision for SIS as we enter a new era in our history. These are just the first of a number of improvements you will see as we begin a new decade of growth and ongoing partnership with you.

We are continually adding new clients and increasing the number of systems we support – a trend which will serve to strengthen the voice of the NASPA group and provide additional feedback for future product enhancements.

Here are just a few of the ways we are working to serve you better.

NASPA Work Groups

The National Association of SIS Partner Agents (NASPA) is currently forming two separate work groups to provide the SIS team with user input and suggestions on on-going product enhancements.

Each of the two groups will focus on one of the following:

  • Enhancements to Partner XE certificates and forms
  • Future enhancements to the Partner XE product

We value the input provided by NASPA and appreciate their role as a clearinghouse of ideas. If you are interested in participating in and contributing to either of the two work groups, please e-mail NASPA Board President John Heinsz at [email protected]

Product Enhancements

As we continue to work in conjunction with NASPA to enhance our agency management system, our immediate focus is to improve the overall function of Partner XE’s forms and certificates.

We have received reports from some Partner XE users of slower than expected response times. Our investigations have found, thus far, that the response issues stem from a combination of local network, internet, and product interaction.

We understand the importance of product performance to your business. We have a team working to improve the efficiency of the system, looking at all aspects – from the client application to the networks, servers and databases.

Our next product release, planned for the coming months will target the concerns with forms, certificates, and response times. We also plan to have one to two more releases by the end of this year based on NASPA’s direction and your feedback.

Operations

In order to improve our operations and ensure that we are always up to date with the most recent security releases from Microsoft, we have redefined our maintenance windows to include a Wednesday update in addition to the long standing Sunday update.

Our new schedule is as follows:

  • Operating System Updates: Wednesday 10:00 PM to Midnight Eastern Time
  • Major Product Updates: Sundays 6:00 AM to Noon Eastern Time

The Wednesday night update is intended to keep the system current with Microsoft’s latest operating system patches. Microsoft releases their updates on the second Tuesday of the month which we will then deploy in a managed fashion the following night.

While these updates will typically only take place once a month, we are reserving the slot weekly in order to be able to accommodate any emergency updates that might arise.

Sundays were chosen for the major updates, simply because our records show this to be the least used time on the system. As always, we will still make our best effort to announce well in advance if we plan to use that allotted time.

If you haven’t yet taken a look at our new website, or subscribed to the RSS feed for our new blog, we hope that you will take a minute now and do so. For the month of February, blog topics will focus on getting the most out of Partner XE’s marketing capabilities. March topics will cover Software as a Service.