Businesses are always striving to stay ahead of the curve, no matter the industry. While the most common strategies discussed in this guide center around innovation of products and services or offering a new edge that competitors lack, one area that is commonly neglected is information technology. IT is constantly changing, and with all of the other responsibilities they have to tackle, businesses often find it hard to stay on top of recent developments. That’s why IT support for businesses can provide invaluable insight—and why insurance agencies should be looking to capitalize on the experience of a dedicated IT expert for their company.
How IT Is Evolving In The Insurance Industry
IT is on the fast track to innovation the world over, and the insurance industry is not exempt. Within the realm of insurance, IT has continued to change how policies are offered, how customers are tracked and categorized and more. From the hardware that powers insurance to the software that helps clients achieve their goals, information technology has undergone immense shifts in the last decade.
Think about how your insurance agency did business ten years ago. You likely relied heavily on equipment like desktops to get the job done. However, in the years since, the situated desktop has gradually been replaced by powerful PCs and laptops that can do more than before. On top of that, telephone and mobile devices expand how insurance agencies do business—and even allow the company to take their work with them in their pocket. To manage these changes, insurers are turning to IT cloud services.
Similarly, data and voice networks have revolutionized communication. Networks within a building, between buildings, within data centers and even directly to staff homes connect all relevant parties more easily than ever before. With this advantage comes the need for network monitoring and a unified communications strategy.
Maybe your insurance agency has been doing well enough keeping up with tech evolution, but now you’ve got piles of machinery and equipment. Datacenters, which are rooms (or even entire buildings) specifically designed to house IT equipment, need their own management if you’ve seen expansion in the tech department over the years.
Of course, all of your technology remains connected through the use of servers—which are usually managed from within your datacenter. Server maintenance can cripple your productivity and require innovative IT solutions that your leadership may not have the solutions to, as technology continues to evolve.
Even the software you use on your computers is a vital part of the success of your insurance agency. The running, management and deployment of built software to clients is usually the role of IT support personnel; if you leave this task up to one of your non-specialized employees, you are missing out on penetration testing and other vital services that a pro could offer.
Of course, one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the last few years has been the large shift away from telephone support and toward mobile assistance. If you are trying to integrate an IT help desk into your workflow, or even if you need help throughout your day, it is valuable to have access to a dedicated team of info tech personnel at your disposal. This is why partnering with a company specializing in IT support can offer more advantages than relying on someone “computer savvy” in your office.
Biggest Challenges Associated With Insurance IT
Of course, how you have chosen to approach advancing technology within your specific insurance agency will depend on a multitude of factors—how familiar you are with new changes, what pain points your agency is experiencing and more. In general, here are the most common challenges that insurance agencies are facing when it comes to integrating and benefiting from IT in their workplaces.
Many Agencies Use Legacy Systems
Even though technology has advanced so much in recent years, computers themselves have been around for some time. With that comes the frequent use of legacy systems—both software and hardware—that may not be up to the task of managing all of your clients as smoothly and painlessly as they could. You may find that your software simply doesn’t let you perform tasks that would be helpful, or they are cumbersome and time-consuming. Or perhaps your hardware takes a long time to load because it is dated.
No Dedicated IT Support Team Or Plan
Making any changes to how your agency approaches technology can, in and of themselves, seem overwhelming and not worth the time. This leads many insurers to shirk a dedicated IT support team, hoping they can handle everything themselves. However, it’s important to realize that by employing the expertise of a specialized team that focuses on IT, you can clear this element from your plate and focus more on other tasks that require your attention.
Security Liabilities With Data & File Sharing
Often due to the legacy systems mentioned earlier—alongside a lack of knowledge about proper internet and security hygiene—your systems may also be vulnerable to breaches. Just as IT is constantly evolving, so too are the threats that could jeopardize important client information, like social security numbers and bank account data. A dedicated IT team can help you shore up your cyber security vulnerabilities to keep your clients protected.
Lack Of Employee Training For IT Security
You and the rest of your agency have a lot of work to do. Staying apprised of changes in IT security protocol is probably not at the top of your priority list—or within your skill set. This means that your team is likely lacking important security training that a dedicated IT support provider can offer.
Compliance Issues Insurance Agencies Often Overlook
Among the many responsibilities you have toward your clients as an insurance agency are compliance matters. These regulations help to protect sensitive data and ensure proper treatment of the people who rely on your services. This is another area that IT support personnel can assist you with to ensure that you remain in compliance and avoid harmful behavior or costly mistakes.
Non-Secure File And Data Sharing
Part of good cybersecurity hygiene is properly handling sensitive or confidential data. If you transfer data from one place to another in a non-secure manner, it is vulnerable to being shared to the wrong sources. IT support can help you to properly encrypt such information and prevent it from ending up in the wrong hands.
An Incomplete Or Missing Incident Response Plan
Of course, even the best laid plans can sometimes go awry, especially as the technology scene continues to evolve. If a new vulnerability has resulted in compromised data, it is vital that your insurance agency has a robust incident response plan detailing what to do next. If you don’t know how to create one of these, or if your existing strategy needs more work, IT support professionals can help.
Issues Regarding GDPR Compliance
GDPR stands for the General Data Protection Regulation, which is a specific law that details the requirements that organizations must follow in order to properly safeguard data. Your company will be evaluated on these metrics, and failure to properly comply could result in fines or other disciplinary action. You don’t need to tackle GDPR compliance on your own; the experts can help take this responsibility off of your plate.
Issues Regarding HIPAA Compliance
HIPAA is another specific law tailored toward how data is shared and with whom. Like the GDPR, it places restrictions on how you share information—which is important as an insurance agency, since you will be gathering and utilizing sensitive data about each of the people you provide coverage for.
Recommended IT Support & Security Services For Insurance Agencies
So you’ve reviewed how your agency approaches issues of technology, cybersecurity and data management compliance, and you’ve determined that your processes could use some improvement or guidance. The good news is that there are professionals who specialize in this area and can help to provide personalized strategies. As you consider who to entrust with your IT support responsibilities, consider some of these services that could help fill your most immediate needs.
IT Cloud Services
Moving significant portions of your data to cloud services can dramatically boost your agency’s productivity. When everything is stored in the cloud, anyone on your team can access information as needed, and communication becomes much simpler. However, with the use of cloud services comes the need for proper management and data security protocols.
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Clients are counting on your agency to properly manage the policies that cover some of the most important and impactful incidents in their lives. It is critical that you keep relevant information backed up so that if something happens to your hardware or accounts, you still have access to the data that you need to provide uninterrupted service.
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Despite your best efforts, disasters can still happen. From a natural weather event that destroys all of your computer hardware to an online attack that compromises your entire cloud system, disasters come in many forms and require comprehensive preparation. A thorough disaster recovery plan will safeguard critical information and get your agency up and running again as soon as possible.
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Remote Monitoring & Management
Another advantage of having dedicated IT support for your insurance agency is their expertise in setting up remote monitoring to manage your accounts. With remote monitoring, you can check on the state of your servers and receive notifications of any problems without needing to be available in person. This puts the power to manage your information technology directly into your hands at any time.
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All servers need to undergo maintenance from time to time as critical updates and changes are made to their operations. Without regular maintenance, a server can begin to experience downtime or even data loss, impacting your insurance agency’s compliance with important regulations and hindering smooth productivity. An IT professional can help you insure that your servers are staying up to date with as little downtime as possible.
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Vulnerabilities can arise out of previously secure systems as data-compromising strategies and updates continue to develop. Network monitoring grants your insurance agency the power to keep track of the health of your networks and identify potential threats as soon as they appear. Both for compliance reasons and for your customers’ peace of mind, network monitoring is a powerful step forward in your overall IT strategy.
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Penetration testing is a specific type of cybersecurity measure that gauges whether your system is vulnerable. During a pen test, your IT support team will conduct a sort of “intentional hack” of your system to see if they can identify any issues. This is why the process is sometimes called an “ethical” hack—because you consent to it for the purposes of improving your practices.
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IT Help Desk
Having direct access to professionals is a great way to improve the way you do things and the decisions that you make. That’s why a good IT support team will offer help desk services to you—and help you set up the same type of advantage for your own clients.
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Getting multiple people to work smoothly together using technology requires a seamless communication strategy. If you have not upgraded your communication tech into some of the more modern options, consider how a program adapted to your needs could boost productivity and clarity in your office.
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IT Infrastructure Considerations For Remote Working
The COVID-19 pandemic permanently changed many agencies’ considerations for how they do business. Now, if your agency is making remote work available—whether permanently, temporarily or on a case by case basis—you will need to dedicate specific IT efforts to securing those connections. Remote workers are entering your system from a distance, and it is vital that they are the only ones permitted to do so, and that the information they share and consume on that connection remains exactly where it’s supposed to be.
How A Managed IT Service Provider Can Assist Agencies
You may understand that IT support is the next step your insurance agency can take toward progress. However, you might not have the space or budget to create an entire IT department from the ground up. Or maybe you have one person working on IT problems, but they need some help. These situations and more are why managed IT service providers exist.
These types of professionals are outsourced, meaning that they can approach your company’s problems with fresh eyes. They dedicate themselves specifically to the pursuit of top-notch IT services, so you can rely on their expertise to guide your agency with all of the latest options. And because they need not be a permanent part of your office, you may find them more affordable and accessible than full-time options.
Reach Out To An Experienced Insurance MSP
If you are ready to improve the technology in your insurance agency, a managed IT service provider can offer you many of the advantages of an in-house expert for a fraction of the cost. At Seaglass Technologies, we are proud to help businesses grow like never before thanks to improved technological advances in their companies. Reach out to learn more about the wide variety of customized solutions that we offer or to ask any questions that you may have about our services. We look forward to getting to know your company on an individual level.