Aiming to provide not only the infrastructure necessary for Internet-driven, 24/7, 365-days-a-year business, but also to build capabilities to clearly differentiate itself from its competitors, Camp Hill, Pa.-based Highmark has opened the doors on a new data center, replacing a decades-old facility. Housed within an 87,000 square-foot structure, located near Hershey, Pa., the site is one of a few nationwide to earn a Tier-III certification from availability rating organization The Uptime Institute (Santa Fe, N.M.) and features state-of-the-art physical security measures, including perimeter and interior surveillance and biometric identification procedures.
The center will provide the necessary capability to support all the not-for-profit carrier's e-business needs, and in particular its e-Platform initiative, which provides a low-cost product for customers who will transact business exclusively electronically, according to Lowell Starling, vice president, infrastructure management, Highmark.
The new data center provides connectivity with over 100 hospitals and 15,000 individual healthcare providers for membership and claims transactions, according to Highmark. The carrier currently processes over 500,000 claims and 33,000 customer responses daily.
In addition to providing necessary capability, Starling says Highmark wanted to replace its 1983-built 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 comments. The center also demonstrates commitment to the regional economy, according to Starling. "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 over the former facility 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. "People parked their cars right next to the data center," Starling relates.
From both a HIPAA perspective and owing to a contract with the Department of Defense, Highmark has built the new facility to far 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 their requirements," says Starling.
The physical perimeter of the facility is protected by extensive 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 of the interior of 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 to say, 'Yes, that's you,'" Starling explains.
While many data centers boast a Tier III level of availability based on self-established criteria, Highmark's facility is one of less than 20 nationwide independently certified by The Uptime Institute, 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