In many ways, cloud computing is seeping into the mainstream of the insurance industry. Such is the case with one insurer. Amazon Web Services, considered the premier vendor for off-site cloud services, is highlighting a recently published case study involving the insurer's first major foray into the cloud.
The carrier wanted to offer e-signature capabilities, and it seemed natural that the entire thing be delivered via the Internet. However, being as security-conscious as they are, application managers were concerned about the security and privacy aspects of such an offering. Documents containing sensitive customer information would be traveling out to a third-party cloud provider, which was, in this case, Amazon. Security and privacy are concerns holding back many carriers from fully embracing the cloud.
“The software-as-a-service solution would give us 100-percent electronic handling capabilities for getting policies signed,” says director of IT for the insurer. “But the business team looked to our department to make sure we could meet the privacy requirements. Our company has different data classifications, with customer names, addresses, social security numbers, and other personally identifiable information deemed highly sensitive and therefore more stringently protected. To license the e-signature solution, we had to be sure that sensitive data would be protected at a level that is acceptable to our internal compliance team.”
Before arriving at its decision to deploy, IT and security teams consulted a range of tests against the cloud-hosted software to ensure that breaches could not occur. The tests went well, but a major challenge was that Amazon security does not extend into the application layer. At this end of the process, the IT team employed another third-party security solution, Trend Micro SecureCloud, that enables the insurer's team to manage data security and encryption at the application layer.
The takeaway here is that companies need to stay in control of their own data security, no matter what type of cloud service—public, private or hybrid—is employed. Cloud service providers offer compelling new capabilities, but security starts—and stays—at home.
Now that the insurer is comfortable and experienced with a cloud application, there's no doubt there will be more cloud-based initiatives in the works for the carrier.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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