New Technology Drives Agency Efficiency

By Ara C. Trembly

Technology vendors continue to work overtime to come up with new devices and software to make life in the agency office easier and, most importantly, more productive and efficient.

For this special issue on Technology in the Agency, weve culled out some notable products that should help agents and brokers run their operations better.

Executive Software, Burbank, Calif., has introduced a new product to deal with a task that burns both staff time and computer time–defragmenting hard disks and other storage sources.

When a computer copies information to its hard drive, it tends to put that information wherever space exists on the disk, without regard to keeping related data together. Over time, that can mean that a large file can be broken into literally thousands of fragments. To retrieve such a file, drive head readers must skip around to all the places the fragments exist on the disk in order to produce the entire file. As more fragmentation occurs, files take longer to access.

Defragmenting is the process of reorganizing the disk to put the fragments into an order that allows faster retrieval. Microsoft Windows provides a utility program to do defragmenting, but it requires the user to initiate the process, and defragmenting can take considerable time and computer resources.

“Disk fragmentation is the hidden bottleneck that chokes the speed of Windows servers and workstations,” says Executive. “The only way to maximize the system is to eliminate fragmentation entirely–something that a manual defragmenter simply cant do.”

Executive says its new software product, Diskeeper 8.0, “keeps systems working at maximum speed automatically. No administrator intervention is required–just set it and forget it.”

The company claims that systems administrators who implement Diskeeper across their networks “consistently report an increase in system speed and a decrease in help desk calls. Furthermore, the added speed allows them to extend the life of workstations and servers by as much as 2 years.”

According to Executive, the new software provides faster, more efficient defragmenting engines designed specifically for the users operating system. It also provides rapid defragmentation of “volumes with millions of files and from 100GB [gigabytes] to 4 terabytes each.”

A new user interface has been designed to allow fast and easy scheduling and access to features, the company says. “Quick tabs graphically display performance gains achieved with defragmentation,” Executive notes. The software also evaluates the condition of a users disk against documented factors known to affect disk reliability and stability.

Networked and stand-alone editions of Diskeeper 8.0 are available, says Executive. Pricing for the Professional Edition begins at $49.95 (street price), while the server standard edition pricing begins at $259, said a spokesperson for the company.

A free 30-day trialware edition is available at the companys Web site, www.executive.com.

SurfControl, Scotts Valley, Calif., has just announced the launch of SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2003, which it says is the only e-mail filtering product that can be easily integrated with Microsofts Exchange 2003 mail server platform.

According to Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, Exchange 2003 enables information workers to gain access to critical business communications almost whenever and wherever they need to and is designed to deliver greater security, availability and reliability. Exchange 2003 offers low total cost of ownership by helping information technology (IT) staff to do more with less through improved management tools, the company notes.

“SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2003 provides a simple, plug-in installation and allows enterprises to quickly deploy a powerful e-mail content management tool to control e-mail risks such as confidential information leaks, blended threat attacks, spam and overburdened network resources,” states SurfControl.

“Today we are seeing that e-mail risks such as the disclosure of confidential information or offensive language can be extremely damaging to an organization,” says Paris Trudeau, product manager for SurfControl. He notes that the product “helps companies manage all unwanted e-mail content and keeps networks and corporate reputations protected.”

SurfControl adds that federal regulations such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley “have put financial, health care and insurance organizations under increased pressure to secure confidential customer information, or face legal liability issues and major fines for noncompliance.”

The new product filters internal e-mail as well as incoming and outgoing e-mail communications, the company adds. “Using a combination of artificial intelligence, lexical analysis and technology that can recognize patterns much like the human brain, e-mail is reviewed for selected words and word combinations, protecting companies from harmful disclosures.”

SurfControl E-mail Filter for Exchange 2003 is priced at $18 per user, based on an installation of 500 users, the company says. Further information is available at www.surfcontrol.com.

Brother International Corporation, Bridgewater, N.J., recently introduced its new HL-5100 Series Laser Printers, offering faster print speeds and more standard memory than its previous models, along with standard duplex printing on 3 of the 4 models, and optional wireless printing.

The new line of monochrome laser printers offers a print speed of up to 21 pages per minute, 4 pages per minute faster than previous models, says Brother. All the units have a first-page-out speed of less than 10 seconds.

The company adds that 3 of the 4 new units offer automatic built-in duplex printing, enabling users to print on both sides of the paper to produce booklets, manuals and other printed materials from their desktops.

Brother says the new printers also will utilize new, larger capacity standard-yield and high-yield toner cartridges. The new standard cartridge offers a page capacity of up to 3,500, and the high-yield cartridge delivers up to 6,700–representing a 200-page increase for each of the cartridges.

The new printers come with drivers for Windows 95/98/NT4.0/Me/2000/XP, the company notes. The printers use standard USB 2.0 and parallel interfaces. In addition, Brother says it has an optional 802.11b wireless print server to enable wireless connectivity.

Estimated street prices on the units range from $229 to $499, says Brother. More information is available at www.brother.com.

Belkin, Compton, Calif., recently introduced its Bluetooth Hands-Free Headset, which allows users to talk on their cell phones without “the messy tangle of headset wires.”

Bluetooth is a technology that crosses the telecommunications and computing industries. It is the specification for low-cost, short-range radio links between mobile PCs, mobile phones and other portable devices.

“Even if your cell phone is not already Bluetooth-enabled, Belkin offers a headset version that includes a Bluetooth audio adapter, adding Bluetooth capabilities to your phone,” the company says.

Using the Bluetooth technology, users can make and receive calls “at the touch of a button, even while your phone is stowed away in your pocket, briefcase or purse,” states Belkin. The headset allows users to activate calls with the answer/end button on the earpiece, supports voice-dialing and works up to 30 feet from the users cell phone.

The headset is available at an estimated street price of $79.99 ($99.99 for the version with the Bluetooth adapter), the company says. More information is available at www.belkin.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, March 5, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.