The SSP outage: two weeks on

What happened and where do insurance brokers stand as they look to return to business?

Insurance News

By Paul Lucas

When insurers reflect on 2016, most will see it as a watershed year whether because of the implication of the Insurance Act or the fall-out of Brexit. However, for brokers, there has been an event that has hit them in a much more direct manner – and in some cases has even put their businesses in jeopardy.

That event is the SSP outage. Two weeks on from the first downtime that occurred on August 26 and it appears there is still no clear idea as to when all brokers will be able to return to doing business via the SaaS platform.

According to SSP data, 40% of UK brokers use its system to track insurance renewals as well as to remind customers to reinsure. In addition, it can be used to source quotes and purchase products from third party providers. The downtime therefore, has had a huge impact – limiting the work brokers can do and potentially costing them business. What has made it worse is that SSP has allegedly offered little indication as to when the situation will be completely resolved.

“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,” Chris Howell, managing director of Torquay-based Seaway Insurance Consultants (GI) Ltd, told Computer Weekly.

Another broker who spoke to the publication said that his situation had reached crisis point saying “it is costing us money and the longer this saga drags on, the more worrying it gets.”

The problems are particularly bad for brokers who are completely reliant on SSP for their services as the company offers email and productivity services too.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Matt Hodges-Long, the managing director of business continuity provider Continuity Partner, commented that “this is probably the worst platform outage I’ve ever seen, just in terms of its duration and impact.”

Of course, it’s not only brokers that are affected – customers could be hit too if they are not notified when their car insurance policies expire.

In a statement issued to Insurance Business UK, SSP Group CEO Laurence Walker outlined the reasons for the outage and what the company has been doing to put things right.

“The power outage that affected our Solihull Data Centre on 26th August led to damage to our storage system,” he said. “This damage was repaired, but following further hardware complications on September 01, we took the decision to restore service to our customers from one of our alternate sites, to avoid any potential recurrence causing further disruption.  The service is being restored from our site in West London.  All of our new customer implementations were already being installed into this site, rather than Solihull. 

“At the time of the power outage we were in the process of migrating the brokers still hosted within our Solihull data centre to one of our new Tier 3 centres. For our customers hosted in our strategic data centres we have the capability to undertake real-time data replication across the two centres, enabling us to offer a 15 minute recovery point objective for data restoration. Our Solihull data centre has a more traditional daily back-up, so to restore services to these customers we are working through a process of ‘unpacking’ data from back-up discs, re-coupling it with application data and then reconfiguring systems for individual customers. 

“In light of this incident we have accelerated the migration from, and decommissioning of Solihull. Once this is complete, data and services for all customers will be provided from our two Tier 3 Data Centres.”

In addition, Walker issued an apology to the brokers affected.

“We would like to express our disappointment about the delay, disruption and frustration experienced by our customers, for which we sincerely apologise,” he said.

For brokers those words are unlikely to be enough and harsh lessons are being learned about the idea that entrusting data to the cloud means there is no need to back-up that information elsewhere.

“Time and time and time again we see people say they don’t need to do that because it’s a SaaS platform,” Hodges-Long told Computer Weekly. “We work with a number of brokers that use this and other platforms and there are ways to mitigate this. Even if it’s just a case of doing a regular download of upcoming renewals and contact details and storing that somewhere else but the SaaS platform.

“Anyone who relies on a SaaS platform for their business processes should really plan for the eventuality that it may not be available to them, and need to do the proper due diligence on the providers of those SaaS platforms to see what protection they can offer.”

Are you a broker that has been affected by the SSP outage? We’d appreciate it if you can find time in these difficult circumstances to share your story and thoughts with us – either by leaving a comment below or by reaching out to us directly at [email protected].

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