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Northeast Delta Dental Deploys EMC Corporation DiskXtender Software and Centera Content Addressed Storage

EMC information lifecycle management technologies rescue Northeast Delta Dental from an otherwise unmanageable upsurge in claims content.


Northeast Delta Dental (Concord, N.H.; $68.6 million in total assets).

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EMC Corp.'s (Hopkinton, Mass.) DiskXtender software and Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) disk array.


Manage skyrocketing volume of digital imaging content by adopting information lifecycle management (ILM).

When a business boom at Northeast Delta Dental ($68.6 million in total assets) converged with dentistry's digital imaging explosion, the insurer's traditional methods for storing and retrieving claims information began to fail, according to Dan Kaplan, manager of networking and technical support for the Concord, N.H.-based dental insurance provider. "We were spending more and more resources moving data manually," he relates. "We needed to be adding value to our IT services instead."

Simply adding faster servers and higher-capacity tape drives to its LAN-based environment wasn't an option, Kaplan notes. "With up to 5,000 new claims per day, we were reaching Microsoft's (Redmond, Wash.) thresholds for file quantities on our Windows 2000 and 2003 servers," he says. "It wasn't about adding capacity or speed -- there can be only so many files in a folder before servers start locking up."

And managing the established information life cycle was costly. "We'd move about a terabyte of the oldest files off the servers onto tapes and send the tapes off-site," says Kaplan. "Invariably, a customer would call a couple of months after a claim was already gone. On average, it was a three-day turnaround to retrieve the tapes, restore them and search for the requested claim."

Although the carrier is primarily an HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) shop, a recent positive experience with EMC Corp. (Hopkinton, Mass.) inspired Kaplan to call the vendor in 2005 and inquire about a solution. EMC performed an on-site analysis in September 2005 and recommended two of its information lifecycle management (ILM) technologies, he recalls. First, EMC recommended its DiskXtender file archiving software for automating data movement based on user-defined policies. According to EMC, DiskXtender indexes, stores and retrieves content using relatively low-cost media, such as disk or tape, rather than file servers.

The vendor also recommended its Centera Governance Edition regulatory-compliant disk array for content-addressed storage (CAS), the ability to store information based on content rather than location. As a disk-based solution, Centera Governance offers faster data access than tape with a variety of internal controls to meet authenticity, integrity and retention requirements, EMC claims.

Kaplan also evaluated another vendor's offerings. "But the other solution required a lot more manual intervention," he says. "We decided to go with EMC due to its storage industry reputation." By mid-February 2006, EMC had completed installation. IT training occurred during testing, which required about a week, and Kaplan's team migrated to the new solution in March.

"We actually purchased two 4.8 terabit Centeras and installed one across the street from our main data center," Kaplan relates. "The two replicate between each other, giving us instantaneous disaster recovery capabilities we never had before."

In addition, utilizing ILM has freed up 3 terabytes of storage, erasing plans to purchase a new file server, Kaplan adds. Other benefits include minimizing tape-vaulting costs and, more important, the insurer's highly skilled network administrator is done functioning as an overpaid tape jockey, he says.

Best of all, information retrieval is fast and efficient. "We've significantly improved our customer service and minimized the disruption from insurance auditors," says Kaplan.

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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