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Who Drew the Short Straw?

When it comes to responsibility for technology in your agency, who drew the short straw? Maybe it's you, or maybe someone else. Regardless of...
April 24, 2006

Agency Technology: Can't Live With It - Or Without It

Bill JenkinsBy Bill Jenkins
Vice President, Business Development
PIA National

When it comes to responsibility for technology in your agency, who drew the short straw? Maybe it's you, or maybe someone else. Regardless of who it is, ending up with the responsibility for technology is commonly viewed in many agencies as having drawn the short straw.

You can hear many reasons why technology is looked at this way in an agency, such as:

  • I have my real job in the agency to worry about
  • There's always something going wrong
  • Everyone always comes to me with their problems
  • I speak English, not "geek"
  • I can't ever seem to get it to work "just right"
  • Technology "support" is often frustrating
  • Technology is not my strong suit - I'm no expert
  • I'd rather get a root canal
  • The list goes on and on

However, although there can be many challenges, just about every agency agrees that we can't live without it. Since many refer to agency technology the way some might speak of a member of the opposite sex: "can't live with 'em / can't live without 'em," and we obviously need to be able to work with technology, the question remains, what do we do?

This is one in a series of articles in PIA Connection to let you know about several products and services we've found, which can help you simplify and more easily deal with technology needs within your agency. With so many agencies across the country facing the same, or similar challenges, service providers have emerged and been successful in understanding and meeting technology needs specific to the operation of professional independent insurance agencies.

One area everyone is familiar with is the need to back up your agency's computer files, agency management system files and other customer records and data. Not only is record retention a legal requirement, in many ways this data is the heart and soul of your agency's operations. So, it not only needs to be protected, it needs to be well protected!

One unfortunate result of last year's storms on the Gulf Coast was to point out the vulnerability of agencies when it comes to data back-up and storage. There were many reported incidents of lost, incomplete, damaged and non-functioning backups in agencies. One PIA member thought he was OK because he had two tape backups - one in the vault at his local bank, and the other in his pickup truck. But the bank was under water and his pickup truck was washed away in a flood.

In response to this, we began looking at alternative methods of offsite backup which use the Internet.

Companies which make it possible for you to use your agency's Internet connection to backup critical files at a secure remote location provide what are called "online data backup services." As Internet access continues to improve in both speed and reliability, this back-up option continues to become more and more popular. A quick search of "online data backup services" on the Internet will provide you with links to literally hundreds of companies offering these services. So how do you choose?

How to choose and offer our members a recommendation was the challenge we faced as well. The company we have chosen is Courtesy Computers, Inc. Courtesy has been in business for nearly 20 years - focusing specifically on services for insurance agencies. We have established a website link for PIA members here.

While Courtesy has all the "tech smarts" and experience any agency could ever need, the value added they bring to the table is their specific focus on the needs of insurance agencies and being able to provide high-quality and consistent customer service via telephone and the Internet to any agency location in America. The way in which they offer their online data backup services is an example.

When you sign up for their services, a support representative contacts you by phone, installs the necessary software on your computer and talks you through the whole process. Since they know agencies and agency management systems, they help you identify which files are most important for offsite backup and which can be archived. This can dramatically reduce your costs while still providing you with the security you need. Check out their services through our special link for PIA members or you can reach them by phone at (954) 321-8605, extension 400.

Bill Jenkins billje@pianet.org is Vice President of Business Development and Marketing for PIA National.

PIA Connection

This article originally appeared in the April 2006 PIA Connection.

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