The insurance market, like many other sectors, is facing a critical need to transform operations in light of the shift to digital business. Insurance research and consulting firm Novarica identified core systems upgrades, IT operations and infrastructure transformation as among the top three IT priorities for many insurance companies in 2017.
In recent years, Lockton, the world’s largest privately-owned, independent insurance brokerage firm, had been growing but could foresee these very same industry challenges. Business was booming but there was growing competition, margins were falling, customers’ demand was increasing with constantly changing preferences. The challenge facing IT was to future-proof the business to satisfy customers more while enhancing the IT operation that it can embrace digital disruption and scale with simplicity.
In 2015, the Asia Pacific CIO, Suk-Wah Kwok, set out to simplify and build a robust infrastructure to deliver more agility and flexibility, and also to be more cost effective given the falling margins industry-wide.
Under the new infrastructure vision, improving Lockton’s disaster recovery capability was one of Kwok’s priorities. Kwok’s emphasis on disaster recovery stems from an experience during the 9/11 tragedy when she personally witnessed how a catastrophic loss of data could severely hit unprepared companies, and how a lack of seamless business continuity can directly impact the brand and risk significant customer loss.
Core to Lockton’s infrastructure transformation was to 100% centralize and virtualize the server environment. This rendered the existing legacy backup solution inadequate. Being ill-suited to a virtual environment, the legacy system could take days to complete a system restore which is unacceptable in today’s Always-On world.
Kwok and Lockton required an availability solution that matched their vision for a dynamic and agile infrastructure as well as one that played well with the prevailing, UCS, HPE and VMware environment. Initially a cloud-based solution was explored but later ditched due to technology immaturity at the time and the expected high cost for increased bandwidth.
Lockton needed to operate on a high availability basis and guarantee customers that their data was fully protected and easily recoverable in the event of a crisis. This is particularly important for the insurance industry as protection is what the industry is about. Losing critical data is simply not an option. Guaranteeing recovery and uptime in the event of a crisis is a must.
It was clear that legacy solutions would not meet this diverse set of needs so Lockton looked to technologies built for the virtual era to smooth the company’s path to digital transformation.
Adoption of the Veeam Availability Suite has turned an uncertain and unpredictable scenario into a reliable and stable capability that Lockton and its customers can consistently depend on.
With Veeam, Lockton can always monitor and verify their backup operations. Compared to other solutions Lockton’s Kwok said that Veeam was not only good at backing up, but clearly excelled in restoration whilst being the easiest to use and understand. Being built from the ground-up to support virtual systems, Veeam enabled the CIO to complete the goal of delivering a 100% virtualized environment with easy and simple recovery.
Veeam’s consistent recovery time allowed it to not only ensure continuation of its services, but also boost customer confidence, by being able to give them greater assurance over service restoration times.
Lockton actually had no prior knowledge of or experience with Veeam. The solution was recommended to Kwok due to its suitability for Lockton’s virtual environment. Before taking the plunge, Lockton went through a live environment month-long Proof of Concept (POC) to assess the solution. To Kwok’s pleasant surprise, the POC was smooth and immensely successful. Despite being new to the solution, Veeam exceeded all their expectations. Veeam’s implementation in Lockton’s seven sites across APAC took a mere three months. “It was really one of the smoothest deployments we have ever done,” said Kwok.
Not only did Veeam lower the risk, it has also cut down costs. The seven sites are now managed with minimal resource or manual intervention as Veeam’s ability to centralize operations reduces the need for a high number of experts. Maintenance overheads have reduced by 75% as a result. Despite the unfamiliarity, deciding to use Veeam was not a difficult decision for Kwok at all. “From a cost point of view, Veeam offers exactly what we need at a fraction of the cost of competitor products,” said Kwok.
With previous solutions “there was a lot of tweaking and guessing which sometimes left staff simply scratching their heads as the solutions didn’t always behave the same way under the same situation. But with Veeam its functionality is always consistent.”
Kwok noted that the firm has been using Veeam for almost two years now and “it always works the way we expect it to work”.
“Cost effective, easy to use, simple. The simplicity was a key factor for me. It was so simple to install, so simple to maintain. It does what it said it would do and it does it all the time.” Kwok said. “It is a lot to say that you can deploy a solution that, once installed, takes care of itself and is trouble-free. You can then focus your energy on revenue generation initiatives.”
The simplicity, higher levels of certainty, reliability, and the confidence IT can give to the business to provide higher guarantee to Lockton’s customers was the main driver for Kwok to adopt the new Veeam solution.
“In comparison with competitor products we also evaluated, Veeam clearly excelled in price and performance. So, to me, the adoption of Veeam really was a ‘no-brainer’.” noted Kwok.