SureWest Communications, a leading integrated communications provider offering bundled residential and commercial services in the greater Sacramento and Kansas City regions, competes to a large extent on its ability to deliver superior customer service. To do that, it needs reliable, high performance access to accurate customer data. For over a decade, the company has relied on Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise to power its mission-critical applications. As they deploy real-time self-service abilities to enhance their customer’s experience, they are using the Sybase’s Security and Directory Services Option for ASE.
A Sure Thing for Database Performance, Reliability and Security
SureWest Communications is a leading integrated communications provider and the bandwidth leader in the markets it serves. Headquartered in Northern California for more than 95 years, SureWest offers bundled residential and commercial services in the greater Sacramento and Kansas City regions that include IP-based digital and high-definition television, high-speed Internet, Voice over IP, and local and long distance telephone. SureWest was the nation’s first provider to launch residential HDTV over an IP network and offers one of the nation’s fastest symmetrical Internet services with speeds of up to 50 Mbps in each direction on its fiber-to-the-home network.
With residential and business customers and fierce competition in the industry, superior customer service is critical to the company’s ability to thrive. Therefore, it was essential for the company to develop extremely effective and reliable applications to provide its staff with the accurate and up-to-date information required to deliver that level of service. Knowing its unique business requirements, it developed those applications using PowerBuilder and chose Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) as the database to power those applications, which are used by some 400 employees.
ASE is Sybase’s high-performance relational database management system for mission-critical, data-intensive transactional environments. It ensures highest operational efficiency and throughput on a broad range of platforms. PowerBuilder is Sybase’s award-winning development tool that simplifies the building of data driven, business applications. It is a favorite tool among developers for building, maintaining and modernizing business-critical applications.
“We’ve Been Running on ASE Forever”
“When I arrived at SureWest about nine years ago,” says Kim Prince, database infrastructure manager, “ASE was already deployed and performing quite well, running some of our mission critical applications. So I never had to evaluate databases; that decision had already been made. We’ve been running on ASE forever,” she says in a playful bit of hyperbole. The company has also deployed a second ASE for failover, if needed, to ensure business continuity.
ASE Security and Directory Services Option Selected to Ensure Data Privacy
To facilitate customer service while protecting its data, SureWest purchased the ASE Security and Directory Services Option. This ASE option ensures data privacy through row-based access controls and the encryption of in-transit data. Prince explains, “We selected the ASE Security Option because we believe the security starts with the database. With the ASE Security & Directory Services option we get greater efficiency with less overhead.” Row-level access control is a flexible and unique approach to information filtering. Administrators can define security parameters that are applied to individual data elements or records in a database. Encryption of in-transit data keeps sensitive data private during transmission.
Because ASE is so robust and delivers such high performance and scalability even in the most high data volume and high concurrent user environments, providing direct customer access to the SureWest operational data will not affect performance or reliability in any way. However, before exposing that data to external users, the company knew that it must protect the data first. Prince’s team purchased the ASE Security and Directory Services Option to provide this protection.
“Once we had the proper security in place,” she explains, “customers can access the data in real-time, just as our internal customer service representatives do. The benefit to customers is that they can make changes to their service in real-time and schedule service appointments in real-time, and then see those changes reflected in the operational databases immediately. Provisioning of new services occurs more quickly. Previously, as they’ve input their requests into the replicated database, there was a delay as their orders and requests were batch loaded into the production database, and in some cases, our customer service representatives had to call customers to confirm and execute the changes.”
As far as the choice of the ASE Security and Directory Services Option to protect its sensitive customer data as it rolls out more customer self-service functionality, Prince says “We rely on Sybase as a key part of our security strategy to provide both database level security and data encryption. We have relied on ASE for over a decade to manage our data and it’s done a great job for us. So, it makes perfect sense for us to use the ASE security option to help protect our sensitive data as we begin to open up our enterprise to our customers.”