Farmers Fire Insurance Welcomes Disaster-Proof BriteCore Platform on AWS
BriteCore is an AWS Advanced Technology Partner
Farmers Fire Insurance, a property and casualty (P&C) insurer that got its start in Pennsylvania in the 1800s, had been operating its policy, claims, and billing systems on an on-premises IBM AS/400 iSeries for three decades. The system was difficult to operate, expensive to maintain, and lacked a modern disaster recovery solution. Farmers Fire sought a cheaper, faster, highly available, cloud-based alternative and selected the BriteCore platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS) after BriteCore stood up a Farmers Fire proof-of-concept instance in just five minutes. Today, Farmers Fire runs 100 percent of its infrastructure on AWS, using Amazon WorkSpaces for desktop-as-a-service and its own Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) for networking. With this setup, Farmers Fire was able to seamlessly transition to a remote-work scenario in 2020 in response to COVID-19.
It all came down to a snowstorm. In 2013, Farmers Fire had transitioned from on-site Lotus Notes to Microsoft Office365 for email, and when a blizzard hit the following winter, only email weathered the storm when all other systems went offline. The company’s 1,500 insurance agents throughout Pennsylvania were unable to connect to the on-premises Agent Portal, causing mission-critical new business, policy administration, claims, and billing processing to come to a halt. That was the last straw for the company’s board of directors.
Self-operating a data center came with risks—at one point a cascading disk failure left production systems inoperable for nearly 48 hours in the middle of the business week. In general, it was a slow process to make changes to the IBM platform and some requests went unfulfilled because they were too labor-intensive. Meanwhile, licensing costs continued to increase as demand for the platform fell. For disaster recovery, the team used tape backup for multiple retention periods and backed up the entire platform on a single laptop kept in a vault in the office. In the event of a disaster at the office, Farmers Fire staff would need to drive the backup media three hours away to a third-party facility that provided spare systems and office space, at a cost of over $30,000 per year regardless of use.
Farmers Fire looked to the cloud for a solution with modern disaster recovery and high availability. At a tradeshow, Farmers Fire CIO Alex Gann came across BriteCore and was intrigued that the company was solely focused on deploying cloud technology for insurance companies. “We knew what we were on needed to be retired, and it was a real eye-opener talking to BriteCore,” Gann explained. “In five minutes they were able to stand up a Farmers Fire instance, compared to the two weeks that other companies quoted us.” BriteCore uses Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and AWS Elastic Load Balancing to power Farmers Fire’s policy administration, billing, and claims systems.
"From the blizzard to the disk failure, the benefits of the cloud became clear to company leadership. We are first and foremost an insurance company—we are not a data center operator. BriteCore on AWS gave us confidence to make that critical shift."
- Alex Gann, CIO, Farmers Fire Insurance
Results and Benefits
Once Farmers Fire retired its IBM platform and was completely implemented on BriteCore, the company’s IT costs decreased dramatically—by 24 percent. Instead of paying annual licensing and maintenance fees, Farmers Fire pays the cost of a SaaS subscription. Productivity also jumped. Entire tasks were automated, including several policy lifecycle processes that consumed significant time and attention from staff members. In the end, Farmers Fire has been able to process a higher volume of business with a smaller staff, netting productivity gains of 42 percent.
Said Goodbye to Outages, Hello to Modern Disaster Recovery
Using BriteCore on AWS, Farmers Fire won’t be taken down by a winter storm or disk failure. Outages are a thing of the past. The company receives weekly snapshots of its production system on AWS, indicating the health of its endpoints and resources. And this time, backups are stored in multiple secure locations, as opposed to one laptop kept in-house. “With BriteCore on AWS, it’s a much better disaster recovery story than where we were,” Gann said. “Management’s eyes light up when they see how much more robust this solution is than what we could do on our own—and at a better price point.”
"BriteCore on AWS gives us great uptime for disaster recovery and backup. Before we were writing tape and license-limited to 1 terabyte of backups, with costs doubling at the next level. But all those concerns have vanished."
- Alex Gann, CIO, Farmers Fire Insurance
Migrated 100% of Infrastructure to AWS
The immediate and resounding success of BriteCore led Farmers Fire to migrate 100 percent of its infrastructure to AWS. In transitioning to BriteCore, Farmers Fire moved 30 years of data to Amazon RDS and Amazon Aurora, prompting the move to migrate other on-premises systems to the AWS Cloud. The company worked with Vertafore to migrate its Windows server and imaging applications to Amazon EC2.
Transitioned Seamlessly to Remote Work
With its own Amazon VPC and Amazon WorkSpaces for employees, Farmers Fire was fully prepared to switch to remote work in response to COVID-19 in 2020. “WorkSpaces was a gamechanger for us,” Gann said. “When we shut down our office in March, there was no change at all. Everything runs exactly the same as if we were in our office—and I didn’t have to configure VPNs for everyone. We would have had many more headaches and complications for our staff, agents, and customers if it weren’t for our AWS infrastructure.”
"Farmers Fire has been an incredible partner. They’ve pushed hard to fully tap the capabilities of BriteCore on AWS. The BriteCore team is delighted to see the increased flexibility, resilience, and business success Farmers Fire has achieved."
- Phil Reynolds, CEO, BriteCore
About Farmers Fire Insurance
The Farmers Fire Insurance Company is a service-first, tech-forward property and casualty insurer, reliably meeting the insurance needs of families and businesses in Pennsylvania since 1853.
BriteCore is a trusted, fully managed insurance platform for the P&C industry that supports digital transformation, emerging technologies, and new business models.
Published September 2020