Max Re provides P&C insurance, life insurance and reinsurance from its headquarters on the sunny island of Bermuda. While the vacation hot spot promises blue waters, sunny skies and sandy beaches, it also experiences severe hurricanes that can disrupt business.
But closing shop isn't an option for Max Re ($917 million in annual premium), which also has an office in Dublin, Ireland, and serves clients outside the 21-square-mile island, stresses Kevin Lohan, the insurer's vice president of technology and systems. "Whenever we're down, we might miss a deal," he says. So, in 2003, after experiencing significant business growth, Max Re embarked on an initiative to ensure business continuity.
There are two primary methods to address business continuity and disaster recovery - backup technology and replication technology, Lohan explains. In early 2003, Max Re examined both types of solutions, including San Francisco-based Veritas' (which has since merged with Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec) NetBackup and Commvault's (Oceanport, N.J.) Galaxy backup solutions, and NSI Software's (Hoboken, N.J.) Double-Take and XOsoft's (Waltham, Mass.) WANSync replication solutions.
"I wasn't biased toward either technology going into testing," Lohan recalls. But, he adds, he discovered during testing that backup technologies require more manual intervention than replication technologies. Backup technologies, Lohan explains, require that users store data on backup tapes or drives in a secure facility on a regular basis. In the event of a business interruption, the data must be reinstalled and the system restarted.
"Backup technology seemed more cumbersome than simple replication," Lohan says. "Replication allows us to restore our systems on an automated basis." Replication software also costs about 25 percent as much as backup technology, according to Lohan, though it typically requires a greater investment in hardware. Backup technologies, he adds, tend to be more appropriate for companies securing much larger amounts of data.
In August 2003, Lohan selected XOsoft's WANSync software over Double-Take - primarily because it required less configuration to deploy on Max Re's Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Exchange servers, and the software was a little more user-friendly, he relates - and rented space in a facility in Dublin operated by local telecom EsatX to house servers to store the replicated data. Max Re purchased HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) ProLiant Windows servers for the facility that mirror the data file and the Microsoft SQL and Microsoft Exchange servers at its Bermuda headquarters.
WANSync updates data in real time over the insurer's wide area network so the company can operate from the Dublin facility if there is a business interruption in Bermuda. Installation took less than a day, according to Lohan, who notes that the software investment was just one-third the cost of the total project and represented less than 1 percent of the insurer's annual IT budget.
Though Max Re has not experienced a disruption since the implementation, Lohan considers WANSync a good investment. He has tested the system extensively and is confident it will provide business continuity when the need arises. For now, Lohan notes, he continues to adjust the replication technology to handle Max Re's ever-increasing data demands. As the amount of data continues to increase, he says, the insurer may have to rethink its priorities as to which data it needs to replicate.
Case Study Profile
Max Re (Bermuda; $917 million in annual premium).
Lines of Business
Property and casualty, life insurance and reinsurance.
WANSync from XOsoft (Waltham, Mass.).
Ensure business continuity in the event of a hurricane or other business outage.