Needing total system security as well as ready access to production data, by the late 1990s the information technology team at Kanawha Insurance Co. had a problem. "Our users wanted Web access to data, but we were not willing to connect a Web server to our production server because we could not afford the potential security breach," relates Ray Helm, senior IT consultant at Lancaster, S.C.-based Kanawha, a provider of life, health and long-term care insurance.
At the time, Helm and his team set out to find a solution that would allow real-time access to production data through a source separate from the production environment. "Our users wanted Web access to data; yet data security is always a priority, and with HIPAA regulations, our security concerns are only becoming more pronounced," explains Helm, who, despite these concerns, began considering various data replication solutions.
Ease of Use
The team at Kanawha eventually decided on DataMirror's Transformation Server as the data mirroring solution of choice, and the implementation of the solution began three years ago. "The DataMirror solution was the easiest to use and we had used their applications in the past so it was a good fit," says Helm, who acknowledges that the carrier chose this option despite the fact that the solution was "not the cheapest" in comparison to other vendor offerings.
Transformation Server provides out-of-the-box data integration with no programming required. The solution supports real-time bi-directional data integration over multiple platforms and databases, including DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Sybase. For system administration and monitoring, DataMirror's Enterprise Administrator Monitor allows users to determine the status and latency of replication at a detailed level.
Kanawha currently has two applications in production using the Transformation Server technology. The first, LSP (Life Support Plus), allows access to real-time data for life and health insurance policy information and currently mirrors approximately 80 files. The second, HBMS, is used for claims information and now mirrors 50 files. Both applications run on an AS/400 platform. A third application that will run on a Windows NT server is now being developed.
Working with six developers and an outsourcing partner, CGI (Andover, Mass.), Helm was able to complete the implementation of Transformation Server in a month. "They have an excellent customer support team," says Helm of the solutions provider.
Prior to implementing the DataMirror solution, Kanawha's users would have to request data through the carrier's customer service center either via telephone or by mail. The process could take anywhere from several days to a week. With the new applications, Helm estimates that data requests can be fulfilled "within a day, assuming it is extremely important information." Once a request for data has been fulfilled and ported to the Web server, it remains there and is updated as production data changes.
User response to the applications has been very positive. "We have several hundred users," says Helm, "and they have been very happy with the new system for requesting and accessing data."
CASE STUDY CLOSEUP
COMPANY NAME: Kanawha Insurance Co. (Lancaster S.C.; $662 million total assets).
LINES OF BUSINESS: Life, health, long-term care.
VENDOR/TECHNOLOGY: DataMirror's (Markham, Ontario) Transformation Server; CGI (Andover, Mass.), application development outsourcing.
THE CHALLENGE: Deliver real-time access to production data in a secure environment.