Data centre update ensures foundation for growth

Competition in the insurance sector is increasing — Al Ain Ahlia Insurance Company aims to stay ahead of the pack with a complete refresh of its data centre, to support plans to bring new technology-based services to market to better serve customers

Tags: Al Ain Ahlia Insurance CompanyHPJumbo ElectronicsOracle CorporationUnited Arab Emirates
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Data centre update ensures foundation for growth Osama Hilal, IT manager of Al Ain Ahlia Insurance: The company has rebuilt its data centre from scratch to provide a platform for new services. (ITP Images)
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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 14, 2013

The financial sector has long been one of the biggest users and early adopters of IT, deploying technology to improve efficiency in procedures, to open up new channels to market, to boost customer service and to ensure security of transactions and data. And while the insurance sector may not traditionally have been as developed in the Middle East as banking or other areas of finance, it too has relied on technology to enhance processes across the board. As the sector increases in maturity in the region, attracting new entrants and international competition, the insurance industry is becoming increasingly more competitive, causing many companies to rely more heavily on technology to give them a competitive edge.

For Abu Dhabi-based Al Ain Ahlia Insurance Company, a strong yet flexible technology infrastructure has become an essential part of the company’s plans to maintain its leading position in the region’s insurance market in the face of increased local and international competition. Al Ain Ahlia is among the top five insurers in the UAE, with a forty year history of providing all lines of insurance, with a particular focus on large commercial projects.

Osama Hilal, IT manager with Al Ain Ahlia, explained that the insurance sector in the UAE is expanding rapidly, as new local companies look to enter the market and multinationals look to exploit under-developed markets in the region, using the UAE as a hub. In order to retain its position in the market, and to support further growth, the management of Al Ain Ahlia decided to refresh the company’s technology.

“The board and the management, looked at the business orientation, and decided this business orientation should be accompanied by new technology. This is the vision and mission of Al Ain Ahlia Insurance that the future is to be supported and driven by IT,” he explained.

The company decided to support its new growth with a complete refresh of its data centre, to enhance the capabilities of the infrastructure resources and ensure speedy processing of transactions, reduce downtime and give a flexible platform for growth. The enterprise division of Jumbo Electronics was appointed as partner for the project, and Hilal drew on his 27 years experience of IT in the insurance sector, to develop the plan to shift to a virtualised data centre based on modern server infrastructure.

“We rebuilt our data centre from scratch,” he said. “Mainly we focused it on VMware technology, for space saving and cutting costs to invest in future needs i.e high availability and proper disaster recovery, to protect our investment and the company assets, and to keep our customer database very safe.”

The company selected HP ProLiant DL series servers, reducing the number of physical servers, and cutting energy consumption and reduce operational costs. VMware was used for the virtualisation layer, with all applications shifted to virtual machines. The company runs the well-known insurance application PREMIA, from 3i Infotech along with Oracle 10 databases and Financials as well. An HR & Payroll application, serving the HR department and 200 employees was deployed recently. The complete system, which was deployed at Al Ain Ahlia’s Abu Dhabi headquarters, serves users in offices across the region, including  three main branch offices in Sharjah, Dubai, Al Ain, two offices on the borders with Oman and Saudi, and traffic offices, all of which are now connected to the data centre through VPN, to be able to access core applications.

Along with the technology refresh, the company revised and refreshed some of its processes in line with the technology, with the result that the company is now able to be much more responsive to customers. Having the main systems accessible from all branches means that all of them are capable of answering customer queries, rather than just the branch that issued the policy. The time to issue policies has also been cut considerably to be two to three minutes, and the physical documents have been reduced in page count, to save paper and manual processing. The double work of enterin all policies issued by the agents has been replaced by uploading mechanism developed in house. The company is planning on also shifting some systems online to enable customers to serve themselves better.

Hilal said that Jumbo had been chosen for their long standing in the market, and their presence across the UAE, meaning support could be delivered more easily.

“We found a good partner in Jumbo, because of their good reputation, and solid background in the market.” he said.

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