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Center for Excellence

Highmark seeks to differentiate itself with new data center equipped with state-of-the-art physical and information security.

A iming to provide the infrastructure necessary for Internet-driven, 24/7 business, and also to build capabilities to differentiate itself from its competitors, Highmark (Camp Hill, Pa.) opened a new 87,000-square-foot data center near Hershey, Pa. The site features state-of-the-art physical security measures, including perimeter and interior surveillance, and biometric identification procedures.

The new center will provide support for the not-for-profit carrier's e-business needs, in particular, its e-Platform initiative, which provides a low-cost product for customers who will transact business exclusively via electronic channels, relates Lowell Starling, VP, infrastructure management, Highmark. It also provides connectivity with more than 100 hospitals and 15,000 healthcare providers for membership and claims transactions, according to Highmark, which processes more than 500,000 claims and 33,000 customer responses daily.

Marketing Edge

In addition to providing additional capabilities, Starling says, Highmark wanted to replace its 1983-built data center with something that would give the carrier a marketing edge. "We believe that technology is a differentiator in the marketplace, and we wanted to use this as a showcase facility," he says. The center also demonstrates commitment to the regional economy, Starling adds. "We didn't go outsourcing -- we built the facility right in the middle of one of our primary markets."

One of the new center's most notable improvements is its focus on security. The old data center was housed in a mixed-use building with a large complement of employers dedicated to other functions. From both a HIPAA perspective and owing to a contract with the Department of Defense, Highmark built the new facility to meet more-stringent standards. "The new facility has multiple layers of security, and we have now been certified by the Department of Defense as being in compliance with its requirements," says Starling. The physical perimeter of the facility is protected by video surveillance, including motion detectors and infrared sensing, providing the security desk with what Starling characterizes as "a pretty good handle on what's happening anywhere within a half mile." Newly adopted biometric measures protect sensitive areas inside the facility. "To get into the core data center floor, you not only have to present your ID badge, but then [a scanner] reads your fingerprint and matches the fingerprint with the card," Starling explains.

The center has been designed to function without outside supplies or utilities for at least three days and can withstand the winds of a Category 3 hurricane. It also was built with attention to environmental impact, according to Starling. "We collect rainwater off the roof, which we use for flushing toilets," he says. "We used recycled materials in the building, and we also recycled about 600,000 tons of waste materials coming out of the construction process."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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