Exeter Family Friendly is a specialist insurer based in Exeter, UK that serves more than 70,000 customers across the UK and worldwide with healthcare and protection insurance. Selling exclusively through financial advisers, Exeter Family has grown to become a multi-award-winning insurance provider, building more than £160 million in assets and premium incomes in excess of £63.7 million in 2013.

When Pioneer and Exeter Friendly Society’s merged to form Exeter Family Friendly in 2010, the new organization had to merge two heterogeneous, legacy IT systems for policy administration, customer quotes, financial reporting, governance, compliance , and security. The systems were time-consuming to maintain and cumbersome to update, and Exeter Family needed to migrate both its core Software and infrastructure to meet the demands.

At the same time, the insurance company was undergoing a massive shift: insurers were moving online, aggregators demanded more rigorous SLA’s, and Exeter Family needed to find a way to make its operations more flexible to stay competitive.

Exeter Family initially migrated to use a co-location provider, but ultimately realized it needed more flexibility and scalability than a traditional infrastructure could provide. Whatever solution it chose, Exeter would need technology that would help it comply with strict regulations for data security.

Adrian Hodgkinson, head of IT at Exeter Family, had previously used Amazon Web Services (AWS) and saw that the AWS Cloud could help solve many of the issues the company was facing. “Insurance is a highly regulated industry where security, governance and compliance are key,” Hodgkinson says. “Big insurers have large budgets to “tick all the boxes,” but it can be more difficult for smaller insurers like us to ensure compliance.” Our Internal Compliance Team conferred with both financial services regulators in the UK and our legal team, and they found that they could use AWS and remain compliant. “Having used AWS previously, I knew the scalability and flexibility of the AWS Could help us to quickly adapt to the changes in the industry,” Hodgkinson says.

As Exeter Family migrated its technology infrastructure to the AWS Cloud, the team worked closely with a local team of AWS Solutions Architects to help bridge any knowledge gaps. “We were really impressed with Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC),” Hodgkinson says. “It lets us lock things away and allows us to run several infrastructures in parallel, which helps us to speed up innovation within our company.”

The company runs its infrastructure inside three Amazon VPCs in the EU West Region (Ireland). One instance of Amazon VPC runs all production environments with Windows Application Servers, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP Business One, Data Warehouse, Human Resource Software, Dynamics CRM, and Microsoft SharePoint. Exeter Family uses Elastic Load Balancing to shift traffic as necessary and AWS Direct Connect to connect to the internal Exeter Family network. Amazon WorkSpaces is used as a fully managed desktop computing service, which Exeter Family use as part of its BCP testing. “The simplicity of Amazon WorkSpaces has really made us rethink our DR process on desktop utilization, and its reliability makes it an essential of our BCP process,” Hodgkinson says. The company uses Amazon Glacier and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for encrypted backups, Amazon Route 53 for its DNS, and Amazon CloudTrail for auditing. On the other two instances of Amazon VPC, Exeter Family runs test/dev beds and production support, which enables the company to test new applications and features in an environment that is identical to production. The company runs its application servers and SharePoint sites on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

The company uses AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to control access to its network. “This level of control and granularity was not possible with our previous system,” Hodgkinson says. “When we combine IAM with CloudTrail for audits, we exceed the levels of governance which we had previously.”

By using AWS, Exeter Family has removed the blockers to productivity and speed. The team can expand its infrastructure as needed throughout the day, instead of waiting on long work queues. Exeter Family can now process its financial calculations in 3 hours instead of 18, which means the company can more quickly reply to customer inquiries. “Using AWS has sped up our processes dramatically—it’s like having extra staff,” Hodgkinson says.

By building its infrastructure on AWS, Exeter Family has achieved security certifications and accreditations, including ISO 27001. Gaining these certifications and accreditations right out of the box meant the company could immediately satisfy its internal compliance teams—even with a small team.

Exeter Family can now spend time innovating for customers, rather than keeping the infrastructure running. As a result, the company has been able to expand its services to respond to customer demands, offering mobile applications for people seeking new insurance products and processing customer inquiries more quickly. “By using AWS, we’ve been able to turn technology into an enabler of innovation for our business,” Hodgkinson says.

The company can now deal with customer queries in real time, over the phone, where previously Exeter Family staffers had to take an inquiry, develop a quote, and contact the customer. “Imagine customers having to wait hours or even days to receive our price,” Hodgkinson says. “Today’s consumer simply won’t accept a slow, cumbersome journey. This technology helps bring the immediacy our customers crave.” Since its migration to AWS, Exeter Family now serves more than 100,000 quotes per months online.

Freeing up staff to go the extra mile and excel in service delivery has earned Exeter Family a list of accolades and awards, as well. “For us, employing leading technology like the AWS Cloud doesn’t just make us more efficient and help cut operating costs, it actually helps us compete. We’re widely recognized as a market leader for service, a reputation which has been further enhanced since we launched with AWS,” Hodgkinson concludes.

To learn more about how AWS can help you run your enterprise applications, visit our Enterprise Cloud Computing page: http://aws.amazon.com/enterprise/.