Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a type of technology that allow businesses like yours to secure and encrypt connections to corporate networks and resources from remote locations. If you think back to the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion of remote work, then it becomes easy to understand why VPNs have surged in popularity in recent years. If you’re considering taking the plunge and purchasing a VPN solution for your agency, you’ll want to read on for some best practices and tips.
VPNs are used across industry verticals and are particularly common in finance, healthcare and, yes, insurance. These fields routinely deal with large amounts of highly sensitive information. Ensuring data security and cyber resilience is integral to business longevity, making selecting a VPN provider a strategic business decision.
Focus on top features and industry compliance
As you explore the market, you will quickly see there are many VPN providers to choose between. Cut through the noise by focusing on key priorities and features like:
- Robust encryption: Look for a VPN provider that offers 256-bit encryption, which is the industry standard for ensuring that data sent over your network is unreadable to unauthorized parties.
- Secure cybersecurity protocols: Verify that your provider offers tunneling protocols like OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec or IKEv2/IPsec.
- No logging: Unprotected online activity is logged by a variety of sources – including internet service providers,cookies, search engines and third-party services.A VPN service will protect you from this type of surveillance and tracking.
Any VPN you choose must also be compliant. Before implementing a service, stay apprised of all regulations that your title agency may be subject to and verify that your VPN will meet and exceed any requirements.
User management and ease of use
Ease of use and intuitive management are critical factors when considering VPNs. This goes double if you are working with a team that is heavily dispersed. Inquire with vendors about the learning curve involved with adding this tool to your security stack. Any worthwhile provider will walk you through how to set up or remove users, add permission levels or implement two-factor authentication.
Scalability and flexibility
Your business is always evolving. Therefore, you need to work with a VPN provider whose product is flexible and scalable enough to support your team as it continues to grow. Some factors to consider include:
- Network capacity: You will want to inquire into any provider’s network and carrying capacity. Remind yourself to ask about how they handle fluctuations in network traffic and how they prevent service quality from degrading during periods of high use.
- Remote work: Your VPN provider should also support remote work – regardless of whether your agency currently has a telecommuting policy. You need to know that your provider’s solution can handle simultaneous, dispersed connections.
- Load balancing: Another critical point to investigate is load balancing and redundancy. A VPN that can scale effectively along with your business should come with strong measures in place for distributing network traffic in a way that avoids failures and downtime.
Stay safe and productive online
When your team is armed with a good VPN, they can stay productive and secure regardless of whether they are in the office or working at home. Following these tips can help you gain this additional level of protection, allowing you to then do what you do best: continuing to meet the needs of your customers.
How can you decrease your IT stack’s carbon footprint?
In a time of increasing focus on sustainable business practices, companies are rightfully looking to improve their technology suite’s energy efficiency. “Green IT” refers to environmentally friendly processes for building and maintaining an IT stack. Here, we will talk through this concept and the benefits it can deliver to your entire organization.
Devise a green IT strategy
As we’ve discussed before on this blog, making significant changes to your IT setup and infrastructure requires planning ahead of time. Green IT initiatives are no different. Begin by establishing a baseline for your energy usage and consumption. You will gain clear data that you can then use to establish green IT goals. Next, create a project plan that lists out each step you will take to achieve your objectives. A green IT project plan could include points like:
- Upgrading hardware with more energy efficient models or versions. Pay close attention to where you are sourcing your IT equipment. Look for energy star-certified devices. Try to build a stack that includes upgradable design components, which will allow you to extend its total lifecycle. You can also look into buying hardware certified exclusively under the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) program.
- Collaborating with hosting providers that adhere to green principles. When searching for a provider, look at things like PUE ratings, carbon offsets and more. This article offers other helpful pointers.
- Ensuring your devices manage power usage effectively. The first step to maximizing how your devices use power is to create a universal policy for your agency. Then, implement it by configuring systems and enabling power-saving processes like device sleep and hibernation modes.
- Considering cloud migration. Moving your IT ecosystems to the cloud offers some energy advantages over on-prem setups. These are on top of a host of other benefits cloud can bring to your business.
- Creating a comprehensive e-waste disposal program for your agency that adheres to best practices for responsible data disposal.
With any organizational initiative, your strategy and project plan should be organized around a timeline and have a clear budget attached. This will ensure that your green IT efforts continue to move forward and that your resources remain properly allocated.
Going green brings the benefits
Embracing green IT is not just about being environmentally conscious; there are other tangible benefits for businesses as well. For one thing, green IT can potentially lower your energy bills, reduce server needs and even enhance cyber resilience – lowering costly downtime in the process.
But that’s not all. Green IT usually enhances a business’s brand reputation. Customers increasingly desire to support green businesses over less environmentally friendly competitors. Data shows this is particularly true with younger consumers, as 80 percent of young U.S. adults say that they are willing to pay more for sustainable products.[i]
What’s more, green IT can help your agency become nimbler and more future-ready. Cloud computing is often part of green IT and a key technology driver behind the rise of remote work. With workers now ranking flexibility as one of their top considerations when choosing a workplace, offering telecommuting can dramatically improve recruitment and retention efforts.
Employee experience and overall satisfaction can also be impacted by creating an environmentally friendly IT suite. Green IT solutions are typically more modern and deliver a smoother working experience to employees as an auxiliary benefit. Also, being more environmentally conscious may boost employee morale. Workers often rank sustainability highly, and 80 percent claim they want to help their company reach climate or ESG goals.[ii]
Toward a greener future
Businesses are always wrestling with competing priorities – one being the need to embrace sustainability while growing productivity and profitability. The good news? With your IT suite, you can do both simultaneously. Taking a sustainable approach to your technology solutions, systems and setups will bring you tangible benefits. That makes it a goal well worth pursuing.
[i] Majority of US Consumers Say They Will Pay More for Sustainable Products | Sustainable Brands
[ii] Workers want companies that care about ESG—how to leverage their passion (qz.com)
To obtain the greatest return from your solutions, make sure they are connected and cohesive.
When it comes to a modern tech stack, remember these words: integrations and interoperability. Why are these terms so important? Well, a connected tech stack holds undeniable advantages over segmented point solutions. In this blog, we will touch on the biggest advantages for end users, as well as how you can ensure you gain the interoperability necessary for your business to succeed.
The first advantage a connected tech stack offers is access to better data. The truth is data makes the business world go round. Without it, making strategic decisions about your company becomes much more difficult. An interoperable tech stack solves this problem. When your solutions are integrated, decision-makers within your organization gain real time insight from multiple sources simultaneously. This leads to quicker, more efficient, and better-informed choices on how to operate your business.
It can be tempting to think that implementing point solutions over time is the best approach for a growing business, but the reality is much more complicated. Interoperability allows you to add components or applications without disrupting the entire system, meaning you can adapt more quickly to increased workloads and larger volumes of data.
Prioritizing interoperability from the get-go also makes sense from a fiscal perspective. When you purchase multiple point solutions, integrating and maintaining them after the fact can quickly get pricey. With an integrated approach, you can consolidate your efforts and expedite any patches, updates or fixes much more seamlessly and at a lower cost.
For title companies, effective and reliable data governance is a must. Yet diligently protecting sensitive customer information can be challenging without a tightly integrated tech stack. Centralizing your data allows for you to easily apply uniform data governance policies across every aspect of your organization, which, in turn, can reduce your exposure to data breaches.
How to ensure proper integration
When you embark upon a tech stack modernization project, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to maximize connectivity.
- First, take a rigorous inventory of your existing systems, solutions and data pipelines so you can answer critical questions about what you need to integrate. Then, prioritize what you will tackle first by mapping them onto your respective business’s goals and needs.
- Once you have the lay of the land, you can start putting together a tangible plan that describes your modernization and integration efforts in full detail. This will give you a better understanding of your timelines, resources and potential risks.
- Next, work with a technology implementation partner that deploys open APIs. These interfaces promote interoperability and allow for different systems to communicate with each other and easily exchange data.
- After that, collaborate with your technology vendor to develop a data-migration plan. Having a robust and well-thought-out plan is integral to mixing old and new system data and ensuring that everything synchronizes correctly.
- As with any technology project, following the initial implementation period, you will want to work with your provider to test and validate your systems. This is an ideal moment to double-check that all integrations, APIs and data flows are operating as they should and that you will be able to gain maximum benefit once you go live.
- In the post-go-live period, take the time to develop proper documentation and training for your staff so they can use your connected tech stack correctly and efficiently. While this step may feel cumbersome, it helps your business not only onboard existing staff but also guarantees that you can bring new hires up to speed as quickly as possible.
A connected world demands a connected tech stack
Over the last few years, the world has grown increasingly connected and complex, and the economy has certainly not been immune from this period of rapid changes. Today, both internal and external stakeholders expect that businesses will not only have the right technology infrastructure in place but that it will be cohesive and integrated in a way that allows for better service and higher levels of personalization, security and support. Prioritizing integration and interoperability at every step offers a company the best way to meet and exceed those expectations. And I can assure you: Those that do will reap the benefits.
Keep an eye on this data to gain a competitive advantage.
For businesses today, customer relationship management (CRM) systems play a central role in collecting, organizing and leveraging information. Simply having a CRM system though is no guarantee of success. It’s only when we’re familiar with key CRM analytics that we can utilize these systems to their full potential.
For those who are unfamiliar with CRMs, trying to extract valuable insights can sometimes feel like wading through alphabet soup. CACs. NPSs. CLTVs. These are all common metrics that businesses use every day to drive productivity and profitability. But let’s face it, they aren’t the most comprehensible of figures – especially when lacking appropriate context. Never fear though. We will break them down one at a time.
Top CRM metrics
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): First up is customer acquisition cost, which relates to the associated costs with bringing on new business. CAC is essential information for any business for a host of reasons. Without it, making accurate and objective assessments about your sales and marketing efforts is much more difficult. And optimizing your strategies? Next to impossible!
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV): Another must-have metric is customer lifetime value or CLTV, which is important for long-term planning and determining the potential profitability of your customer base. By gaining this deep knowledge, you can better focus on customer retention.
- Conversion Rate: Unsurprisingly, being aware of the conversion rate of your sales and marketing activities is very important. Referring to the percentage of leads or prospects that you convert into paying customers, conversion rates allow you to better understand your overall ROI. Use this figure to optimize your sales processes, bolster your leads’ experience and ultimately make more sales.
- Customer Churn Rate: Just as important as understanding how many customers you are gaining over time is discovering the exact opposite. “Customer churn rate” is the metric that provides this information, reflecting the percentage of your client base that stops doing business with you over a given amount of time. When your churn rate is low, that means something is going right in how you are delivering your services. When it is high, you need to delve into what might be going wrong and ask some hard questions as to why.
- Length of Sales Cycle: The next metric we want to cover is “length of sales cycle,” which tracks the time from when you create a prospect in your system and when you close new business. A business needs to have visibility into this process to know when to engage with a partner and when they can afford to leave them alone. As any marketing expert will tell you, the way a prospect responds to a piece of content will depend heavily on where they are in the sales cycle. Sending a conversion asset when a prospect is in the awareness stage, for instance, is one of the last things you want to do. Monitoring the length of the sales cycle can help you avoid this problem.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS): Net promoter score is another way to understand how your customers are feeling about you in the long term. Collecting and tracking this data through a survey can provide you with incredible insight into whether your customers would recommend your agency to others. Since word of mouth is one of the most compelling ways that people find services to trust and do business with, the value of learning your NPS speaks for itself.
Relationships make the business world go-round
Strong customer relationships are a cornerstone of long-term business sustainability. By utilizing your CRM’s metrics to their fullest, you can gain a much deeper understanding of your agency’s costs and ROI, while finding tangible ways to improve your marketing and sales and deepen your customer base’s loyalty. In a competitive business environment like ours, these are advantages you just can’t pass up.
Take the next step. Learn how to select a CRM system that will compliment your business.
What can edge computing offer us?
In recent years, cloud computing has exploded into the mainstream, with companies across different verticals moving swiftly to transition to cloud networks. However, there is another technology called edge computing that is not as well-known. This is unfortunate because edge computing can also bring benefits to companies that want to accelerate their growth and increase efficiency. In this blog, we will look at this form of technology, how it differs from something like cloud computing, and whether you should consider incorporating it into your IT stack in the future.
What exactly is edge computing?
As its name suggests, edge computing occurs at the edge of your business’s network. More specifically, it refers to computing adjacent to end users or data sources – such as sensors, mobile phones or other connected devices.
Edge versus cloud computing
Edge computing is related to cloud computing in that edge resources can be shared across a distributed cloud network, but they can also be separate entities or processes. Another way to conceptualize the difference is to think about edge computing in terms of time and volume. Typically, businesses deploy edge solutions when they need to deal with data quickly and efficiently, and where accessing the data over the cloud is not practical.
The edge can offer big benefits
Smaller businesses can gain from making edge computing part of their IT business stack. Edge computing helps businesses process data and applications faster. By not relying on the cloud, companies can also improve efficiencies, while enjoying peace of mind through enhanced security. In addition, edge-powered businesses can keep operating and serving their customers even when internet connectivity is limited. And these advantages can translate to sizable cost savings.
What about for title agents?
For those working in the real estate and title insurance industries, edge computing has a lot of potential benefit. The real estate industry is notoriously document-heavy, dealing with contracts, deeds and other legal documents. Edge computing speeds up document processing significantly, allowing agents to deal with certain workflows locally rather than relying on cloud computing.
Given the sensitive nature of the information title professionals routinely deal with, having robust security measures in place is an absolute necessity. By keeping data closer to its source and not having to run it through the cloud, agencies can reduce their ecosystem’s potential attack surface and minimize their vulnerability to cyberattacks or breaches.
For agents who operate in the field, having the right mobile solutions can make a real difference in productivity and customer experience they provide. Edge computing is a catalyst for enabling mobile efficiency and linking employees to the data, applications and information they need to unlock anywhere, anytime connectivity.
Last but certainly not least, edge computing has been associated with sizable cost savings by reducing storage, networking and downtime costs.
Take things to the edge
Edge computing can help agencies overcome some of the cloud’s limitations. By bringing computing closer to its source, the edge often results in higher efficiency, lower costs and greater productivity. And in doing so, it helps forward-thinking agencies become more innovative and obtain additional market share.
Bryan Johnson is Alliant National’s IT Director and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org