Cloud Providers Business Continuity Capabilities “under fire”

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SSP Worldwide has come under fire from disgruntled brokers, with many still struggling to access the insurance software house’s cloud platform nearly two weeks after a datacentre power outage knocked it offline

The downtime since 26 August 2016 has severely hampered the day-to-day operations of insurance brokers across the UK who rely on the SSP Pure Broking software-as-a-service (SaaS) system to trade.

The system is used, according to SSP, by 40% of the UK’s brokers to track insurance renewals and remind customers to reinsure their vehicles, as well as source quotes and purchase products from third-party insurance providers.

Several brokers told Computer Weekly the downtime has limited the amount of work they can do and is costing them business, while SSP has allegedly offered little indication as to when the situation is likely to be resolved.

“After today [8 September 2016] it will be two complete weeks that we have not been able to operate properly as an insurance broker because we cannot issue quotations and our ability to service renewals is limited,” Chris Howell, managing director of Torquay-based Seaway Insurance Consultants (GI) Ltd, told Computer Weekly.

“In general, our clients are very understanding and loyal, but we have lost several who were not willing to wait until we could get their renewal sorted out.”

Another broker, who spoke to Computer Weekly on condition of anonymity, said the situation has reached crisis point for their company.

“We have no idea when we are likely to get our system back,” they said. “It’s getting to the point now where it is costing us money and the longer this saga drags on, the more worrying it gets.”

Alexandra Jewett, company director at Isle of Wight-based Black Rock Express Insurance and Financial Services, said the problems are likely to be worse for brokers who rely on the system to run their entire business, as SSP Pure Broking also offers email and productivity services too.

“We are lucky that we have paper files, [but] I feel sorry for those brokers who are paperless as they cannot do anything. With the amount of backlog we are going to have to pay staff to work overtime to catch up and get us back on track,” she added.

Unprecedented problems

Matt Hodges-Long, managing director of business continuity provider Continuity Partner, said he has never seen anything like the problems SSP is experiencing before: “This is probably the worst platform outage I’ve ever seen, just in terms of its duration and impact.”

Aside from the incovenience and stress this is causing to the broker community, Hodges-Long said the customers they sell car insurance to could also be at risk, because they may not have been notified their policies have expired.

The information in SSP is used to update the Motor Insurance Database (MID), he added. This is used by police forces to ascertain the insurance status of cars on British roads, and if the information on it is out of data as a result of the downtime, this could see drivers being pulled over unnecessarily.

Root cause analysis

The SSP Pure Broking downtime began on 26 August 2016, when a power outage caused an HP Storage Area Network (SAN) in the company’s Solihull-based datacentre to malfunction.