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Case Study Insurance Firm in New Hampshire (Podcast)

Dave Hodgdon, founder of PCG, talks with John Maher about an insurance firm in New Hampshire that had been working with PCG for 17 or 18 years. He explains how PCG has helped this company meet its tech needs, stay compliant with industry standards, and protect itself from cyber threats for almost two decades.

Portsmouth Computer Group · PCG Case Study – Insurance Firm in New Hampshire

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Dave Hodgdon, CEO and Founder of PCG, a managed services and security provider with headquarters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Today we’re doing a case study on an insurance firm in New Hampshire. Welcome, Dave.

Dave Hodgdon: Good morning, John.

Background of the Client

John: So Dave, give me a little bit of background about this company, how many employees they have, and what were some of the issues that they had when they originally started working with you.

Dave: John, this insurance firm is here in New Hampshire. They’ve got around 18 to 20 employees. They’re one of our clients, who have actually been with us for close to 17 or 18 years now. Originally why they came to us was their IT was being provided by another IT provider.

They didn’t really call it managed service providers back then. Back in the old days, it was like the break fix. We call it the old fire drill. When there’s an issue, you call. People didn’t really have the help desk and the ticketing system. You really weren’t monitoring. This is before a lot of that changed. So this company is what I call a legacy. They’ve been with us for some time and they’ve come a long way with us now.

I’ll talk about some of those items, but they just weren’t getting the guidance they needed. When they had an issue, they put the request, it could be days before someone would call them back. They heard about us through our referrals and I met someone there through Rotary, and they heard good things about us through another person using us. So that shows you how those centers of influence and how referrals help out. Having good feedback from someone else in the insurance industry that was a client of ours to say, “Hey, these guys are taking care of us,” so they referred us to them.

Recently, though, some of the background issues, as we’re all aware of through COVID, is they had four or five offices and more and more people were working from home. So they streamlined their offices down to two because a lot of people were working remotely. In the insurance world, some of the two key players in the software are called AMS and Applied. They want to move away from relying on that server being centralized in a server on premise. They wanted more flexibility.

And with this particular software vendor, we helped them with the project of looking at: here’s our options to keep it on premise and here’s our option to move it to the cloud. We always look at this at the fork in the road, let’s look at both options. Where’s the return on investment? Let’s weigh these both out. It is cheaper to have it on premise, but for how they want to do the work, it made sense for them to go to the cloud to not be tied to an office.

They were actually in an environment that had consistent electrical problems and issues with ISP services based upon their building location. They didn’t want to move. So it was very easy for them and us working together to get them up to the cloud. They also had their email on premise. This was maybe four or five years ago, so it was another big project. Let’s get that up to the cloud too. So we’re slowly making this insurance company more nimble, giving them the ability to service their clients from anywhere and any one of them right now can work from their home. They can work at the office and they’re able to take care of the client’s needs and their insurance needs.

IT Strategies for New Clients

John: What’s the strategy when you first start working for a firm like this?

Dave: Well, this is a little bit different since we took them on so long ago, but like anything, you still have to go see what they have. So we determined what they had. Again, we’re probably talking 2003 or 2004 that we took them on. We could tell that the equipment, I think at that point, was six or seven years old. So at that point, it was a huge server project of… Those were the days where there was a specific terminal. Servers had remote offices getting to the main office, where the main application sat.

The room wasn’t air conditioned. It was just a cluster. So we did a network rack. We put all the equipment there. We put in a new switch. We cleaned up the wiring. We went to each of the remote sites to make sure they were in the right place. We built what’s known as a site to site tunnel. We put the new Cisco firewalls in the three remote offices and made a connection. Back in 2003 or ’04, you really weren’t looking at compliancies. That was not addressed until a few years ago with them.

Network Assessment

John: Okay. And then in terms of doing a network assessment and looking at their network and figuring out what needs to be replaced or what the issues are, tell me a little bit about the network assessment.

Dave: Well originally when we did the first assessment, it was clear, we did the network project, but each year, one thing we do with all of our clients, we have that high level CIO call. So each year we’re consistently saying, where’s our roadmap. I remember doing, this was probably in 2008 or 2009, that the next server refresh was going to happen in ’12. 2012, the cloud wasn’t quite ready, so we did the servers again on premise. And then 2016, ’17, the cloud was improving. So when the servers had to come up for refresh, that’s when we decided to move them to the cloud. At that point, the email was still on premise on what they call Microsoft Exchange, John. We came up with a 365 project. I think we moved them about 2017 and we moved all their emails. So we’re slowly moving things from being dedicated to the building to moving to the cloud.

They didn’t have the capital expense. They didn’t have to spend it that way. They knew what the recurring monthly fee was. The key goals in the last year or two have been about compliance in meeting not only the client and the vendor requirements of making sure that they are compliant, but also ensuring they are safe…

Being in the insurance industry, we all need cyber insurance. They kind of had that part covered for them, but they didn’t have the checklist of are you doing MFA? Are you have a security policy for users to work from home? Do you have the right firewall in place? So we helped them to go through that checklist and get through what was needed to keep them up to par for their cyber insurance.

Outcomes of Working With PCG

John: Tell me a little bit more about some of the tactics that were involved in really getting them up to speed over the years.

Dave: I think the number one thing they really needed was training. They focused just on their world of living, on their line of business application, but we helped them figure out how to start using Microsoft 365, how to use Teams, how to start using OneDrive, how to have a better working from home policy, how to ask for help sooner before clicking something that gets them in trouble.

So, that’s all about the security training. So it’s constantly through the point of contact and moving that message from the leadership team down to the staff that we need to embrace our technology and learn how to use it to make money, but also we need to protect our assets and PCG is here to help us with the ride.

They are going to provide security training. We are doing the fake phishing campaigns. There’s a reason we’re doing it. We don’t want to think of, here’s PCG, big brother looking after them. We didn’t cause this whole cyber security to come around. It has evolved over time that we are helping to mitigate that risk.

But a lot of clients look at us as being the problem. It’s not us. We’re here to just try to help mitigate that risk. So that’s something we’re always trying to emphasize to the client… I don’t want to use the word struggling, John… Most clients are feeling that security is becoming more of an issue. That’s IT right now. So security, it’s got to be top of mind. What can we do? It’s all that’s in the news. It’s not what my PC is. It’s not what my printer is. It’s what can we do to secure us? And it’s just how things have evolved.

So a big part of our business and practice is focusing on … This is not what we intended to do 3, 5, 10 years ago. If you don’t do it, we’re going to be out of business. So we have to take it seriously. We have to invest in it. We have to look at the vendors that provide the best value. So we’re always looking to create that roadmap. And I think our clients appreciate that. The reason I’m telling you this is the existing insurance person that we’re dealing with, they’re always looking at other insurances to help them help their clients.

And we explain that same thing so they get what we’re trying to do, and they understand changes happen, that we’re not always going to stay with product X, because that product X might not be changing what’s best for them, so we’re going to look at product Y now, because now you’re going to the cloud. You’re working remotely. What you did before has changed. So, they like hearing that we’re nimble, we’re able to move with them and put the best possible services in place for them.

They love having the dedicated engineer. They’re only 15 minutes from here. If they’ve got an issue, the engineers can just drive over there. It’s a good relationship. They understand and value it. They’re very mature and they’ve been around a long time. They have totally migrated to the cloud, which is good for them. There are fees in the cloud. We don’t make up these fees and Microsoft’s changing their fees, their vendors change their fees. It’s part of doing business, but they know we’re here to watch them. We’re here to help them. We’re here to guide them. And I think they appreciate that part of what PCG brings to them.

Contact PCG Today

John: All right. Well that’s really great information, Dave. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dave: My pleasure.

John: For more information, you can visit the PCG website at pcgit.com or call (603) 431-4121.