By Traver Gruen-Kennedy
The business world is on the move, and the insurance industry is no exception. Conducting business away from the officewhether at home, a customer site, or a hotel roomis more and more commonplace.
Mobile workers such as claims adjusters and independent agents need secure, fast, instant and continuous access to business applications and data (the same information that is available back at the office) to remain productive and responsive to customers.
For mobility to reach its full potential, however, access to information and applications must break free from its wires.
Enterprises that fail to support mobile workers access needs incur a big loss in productivity, while wireless access to the on-demand enterprise can measurably increase it. A wide range of industries already supports wireless access to some degree to capitalize on this strategic productivity advantage. Going wireless also increases the value of their existing IT investments by increasing their utility and availability.
Increasingly, wireless local area network (WLAN) hotspotspublic, wireless access in places like airports and hotelsare becoming a popular option for business users to log on to the company network. However, limitations with broadcast range and issues with security and eavesdropping arise from the “lowest common denominator” approach to security implementation for these hotspots.
Wireless technologies also broadcast in all directions, therefore causing inherent security risks. As a result, attackers might conceivably intercept data being sent to authorized users, or hackers could anonymously act as participants on the wireless network.
The right solution must provide intrinsic security that delivers a solid infrastructure for enhancing network, device and individual security for an organizations data and mobile workforce.
Companies stand to reap substantial benefits from their mobility strategy if they can effectively deliver real-time remote access to business-critical applications and data. This would enable employees to access these with any device and provide bulletproof security for sensitive data with secure sockets layer/transport layer security (SSL/TLS) support.
To take full advantage of wireless technologies, it is critical that mobile users have access to rich, full applications and data in their original, familiar formatnot “skimmed” versions with limited functionality. There should be no need for costly and time-consuming application re-writes, mobile middleware or infrastructure upgrades.
An effective wireless solution needs to allow the mobile user to just select an access network and go wireless, whether someone is tracking a customer policy in the companys accounts or claims processing system, retrieving and sending e-mail, or accessing digital photos or records.
There are flaws in todays wireless security protocols. What is needed is a multi-layered access infrastructure with security built in at every level to safeguard access to applications, regardless of how the user connects.
An access infrastructure that leverages a server-based computing model addresses the challenge of keeping data safely on the corporate network by executing applications on the server. Only screen refreshes, mouse clicks and keystrokes are transmitted across the wireless network between the server and the mobile workers computing device. As a result, if data were intercepted, it would be of little or no value to the interceptor.
A comprehensive mobility strategy must include the secure delivery of the right information and applications to the right people at the right time, regardless of their location, device or network connection. To boost productivity, an effective solution should provide mobile users with access to role-based information via their own personalized, customizable Web interface, which makes it easy to navigate the complex maze of corporate intranets, directories and database interfaces.
Customization is another big hurdle for wireless adoption, as most customized, wireless user interfaces (UIs) require months of costly design, development and implementation. This can be overcome by streamlining implementation so that applications and content can be easily aggregated using a single Web-browser interface.
As a result, a companys IT staff can more quickly and easily define worker roles, assign users to roles, and associate roles to content without any complex programming or long-term consulting required.
A strength of a Web-based mobility solution is that it brings disparate information sources together, enabling quick and easy aggregation of a wide range of content from sources such as multiple internal Web sites, external and syndicated content, and disparate databases.
The solution should also leverage industry standards that can plug news and information feeds, collaboration tools and numerous other useful elements into the user interface.
Most wireless solutions force users, IT professionals and organizations to settle because they simply do not provide sufficient functionality, flexibility, security or performance. Or they cost too much to justify from an ROI standpoint. As wireless adoption increases in the insurance industry, organizations should ultimately look for a solution that delivers the on-demand enterprise to mobile usersall the same full-function applications that wired users enjoy from their desktop PCs, when they want it, how they want it. Doing so is critical to ensuring the efficiency and productivity required from todays mobile workforce.
Traver Gruen-Kennedy is vice-president and chief evangelist at Citrix Systems, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He can be reached at [email protected].
Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, July 14, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.