NAS ensures fast access

First American Title Insurance turned to NAS when it needed an easy way to store and access policies online.

NAS ensures fast access
Insurance firm stores policies with NAS

First American Title Insurance turned to NAS when it needed an easy way to store and access policies online.

by Stewart Deck

When you buy a house there's a small but crucial piece of paper that can save you one giant headache. That piece of paper is the title insurance, and it helps buyers be certain that they will actually own what they buy. Up until late last year those pieces of paper were causing Eddie Oddo fits.

Oddo, the Fairfax, Va.-based regional IT director for First American Title Insurance Co., had more than 800,000 TIF images of past paper policies stored in data banks. He needed to provide access to them for hundreds of title-searching agents spread out in regional offices up and down the East Coast.

"We badly needed an easy access retrieval system to replace what we had," Oddo says.

What First American had were two different jukebox repositories: one made up of optical disks and one made up of CD-ROMs. This cumbersome system didn't fit the needs of title-searching agents who had to e-mail or fax title search requests to the main office and then wait for someone else to look in the system and see if they could turn up a previous policy. Finding a previous or existing policy can save hours of legwork in courthouses and tax offices.

Oddo began looking for a way to provide agents with the ability to access the TIF images in near real-time using an Internet browser. Instead of building on its managed array of jukeboxes, First American researched the possible alternatives and decided that Network Attached Storage (NAS) could answer its needs. It could house all of the file images in one place, it was scalable, it could be managed easily and it didn't cost a fortune. By going with NAS, Oddo could serve both application programming and files faster. NAS removes storage access and its management from the department server and therefore frees up processor resources.

After building the retrieval system called Title Archive Library Online (TALON), which is accessed through a link on the company's regional Web site, Oddo says, "we needed a fast, reliable, high-performance way to consolidate and store all of the policy images."

After a short jaunt from Fairfax over to the test labs at Network Storage Solutions Inc. (NSS) in Chantilly, Va., Oddo observed how the company's Thunderbolt NAS system could fit his situation. "It was very straightforward," recalls Tom Coyle, a regional sales manager for NSS. "They needed a large amount of storage behind a Web server that was fast, reliable, scalable and inexpensive."

Oddo purchased Thunderbolt and set up his new system. He configured one RAID storage module with ten 73 GB drives providing over 650 GB of storage. Within an hour the system was up and running. Now that the system has been in place for several months, Oddo has increased its storage capacity to 1.2 terabytes by adding additional drives.

Now nearly 300 users can tap into First American's database of title images using an Internet browser and a password. In the past, many agents found the title search process so time-consuming and so inexact they would order up a full (and costly) property back history report. Using the system, some offices have found that half of their requests have an easily found previous title insurance form on file.

Finding such a form online cuts "almost 90%" of the search and detective work, Oddo says. First American also saves between $40 and $50 per successful search when it doesn't have to request full background reports on properties. System usage has climbed steadily, too. This month the TALON system received an average of 175 requests per day, a 40% increase from March when it was handling 125 policy searches per day.

For more information on Network Storage Solutions, visit its Web site.

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This was first published in August 2001

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