HawkSoft 6 FAQ
- What's the point of this project? Why are we moving to HawkSoft Cloud or What is the HawkSoft 6 project?
- Does HawkSoft 6 mean a version of HawkSoft CMS I can use in a web browser?
- My agency uses HawkSoft Online. Am I already on HawkSoft 6? (Or, how is HawkSoft Online different from HawkSoft 6?)
- Once HawkSoft 6 is available for all HawkSoft customers, will I be able to stay on HawkSoft Online?
- Learn more about how HawkSoft 6 is different from HawkSoft Online
- My agency uses the Local installation of HawkSoft CMS and Data Sync enabled. Am I already on HawkSoft 6?
- Once HawkSoft 6 is available for all HawkSoft customers, are you going to take the Local installation away?
- Once I'm on HawkSoft 6, will we need our own on-premise server inside our agency?
- Learn more about how HawkSoft 6 is different from local installation
- Will my monthly bill change with HawkSoft 6?
- Will HawkSoft 6 look different from how HawkSoft CMS looks today?
- Who owns my data if I use HawkSoft 6?
- Where will my agency data be stored if I use HawkSoft 6?
- With all our data living in HawkSoft Cloud once an agency is on HawkSoft 6, will we still need to do our own backups?
- Will HawkSoft 6 require an internet connection?
- Will HawkSoft 6 be available from any device (computer, tablet, smartphone) like HawkSoft Online is today?
- When will HawkSoft 6 be available?
- Why did HawkSoft choose a phased release for Hawksoft 6?
- Why did HawkSoft choose Microsoft Azure?
- When it is time to move existing HawkSoft agencies to HawkSoft 6, is there going to be downtime to make the move?
- Will we need training on HawkSoft 6?
- Why doesn't HawkSoft simply add more resources in order to move all agencies to HawkSoft 6 more quickly?
This is a long, comprehensive FAQ. The following terms are used often and are presented here to ensure clarity on their meaning.
- “HawkSoft”: in this FAQ, HawkSoft (by itself) refers to the company.
- “HawkSoft CMS”: when we are talking about the agency management system made by HawkSoft (the company), we will write out HawkSoft CMS.
- “Local Installation”: the on-premise version of HawkSoft CMS that is installed on a PC or network owned and operated by the agency.
- “HawkSoft Online”: a newer installation method where HawkSoft CMS is installed on a remote Windows environment hosted by a third-party online hosting partner, and accessed by the agency through Remote Application Server (RAS) technology. Important – HawkSoft Online is not the same as HawkSoft Cloud and the terms are not interchangeable.
- “HawkSoft Platform”: as HawkSoft CMS grows to work with more third-party integrations and add-on services, it is evolving into a platform of interconnected systems instead of a single software system. The HawkSoft Platform encompasses all services and software under this umbrella, including HawkSoft CMS, HawkSoft Text Messaging, HawkSoft E-Signature, Agent Portal, HawkLink for Google Chrome, and third-party integrations.
- “Marketplace”: our centralized “app store” for add-on features (that are no additional cost, like Agent Portal), add-on services (like HawkSoft E-Signature that do carry an additional cost), and for third-party integrations powered by HawkSoft’s Partner API. License management has also been moved to Marketplace.
- “Microsoft Azure”: one of the leading cloud service providers in the world, Microsoft offers a robust, secure, and powerful environment for running cloud-based services. This will be the backbone for HawkSoft’s future development, where all agency data will ultimately be stored and delivered.
- “HawkSoft Cloud”: a data storage and delivery platform, and a cornerstone of HawkSoft’s future. We have chosen Microsoft Azure as our cloud service provider. HawkSoft Cloud stores your agency’s client and policy data, settings, and attachments for use in the HawkSoft Platform and ecosystem of integrated partners.
- “Data Sync”: a utility that facilitates moving data from your desktop HawkSoft CMS app to HawkSoft Cloud. This utility is currently an opt-in feature in HawkSoft CMS, allowing an agency to choose if they want to send data to HawkSoft Cloud or not. Data Sync is required to enable certain features like HawkSoft Text Messaging and API integrations that require your data to be stored in HawkSoft Cloud.
Frequently Asked Questions
Big Picture Questions
- Move to a modern cloud platform where data can be delivered any time to any device. This flexibility will allow us to deliver customized experiences that are optimized for desktop, laptop, mobile devices, and other form factors that may be in use in the future. Essentially, we are untethering the HawkSoft Platform from being just a desktop PC experience.
- A modern cloud platform allows faster innovation of capabilities and features. This will result in more innovation being delivered to you at a faster pace.
- Eliminate the need for a middleware service provider to facilitate use of HawkSoft CMS online. We currently use Parallels RAS and our third-party online hosting providers serve the HawkSoft CMS desktop experience online. With HawkSoft 6, you will not need Parallels nor our third-party hosting partners because your data will be delivered from HawkSoft’s cloud servers.
OK, but what’s in it for my agency?
- Improved latency (how quickly you can access data and run reports)
- Increased uptime (fewer service disruptions)
- Faster pace of feature updates and enhancements
- Updates delivered automatically with relying on every user to update software
This may be the most important question answered in the FAQ. Please read the following closely.
No – HawkSoft 6 is not a 100% web-based management system.
HawkSoft 6 is not a management system in a web browser. The purpose of HawkSoft 6 is to store data in the cloud, which will in turn allow you to access certain data and use features in a web browser in the future. Many aspects of HawkSoft 6, such as Cloud Accounting, Cloud Reporting, Text Messaging, and User Management are already being redesigned to run in a web browser in the future.
Yes – HawkSoft 6 will include some features accessible in a web browser.
To explain this, let’s use an analogy that many people using Microsoft Office will understand. HawkSoft 6 behaves similarly to Microsoft Outlook. The desktop app that you use on your PC is called Microsoft Outlook. It receives data from an email server in the cloud (Office 365, Exchange, Gmail, etc). The Outlook desktop app’s role is to display your email that it received from the cloud. Microsoft has made Outlook available as a desktop app, a mobile app on iOS and Android, and a version that can be accessed via a web browser. Each of those apps are called “native apps” because they are designed to be run on those devices – PCs, mobile devices, and web browsers, respectively. Each of those native apps uses the same data source (the cloud email server) to retrieve data. Functionality varies depending on which native app is being used. For example, the Outlook desktop app has more features while the mobile app may have only the 70% of the features of the desktop app that mobile device users really need when they are on the go.
Similar to the Microsoft Outlook model, HawkSoft 6 is a desktop app that will run on your office PC. HawkSoft 6 receives data stored in HawkSoft Cloud (in the analogy above, HawkSoft Cloud is like the email server feeding data to Microsoft Outlook). HawkSoft Cloud, however, is not tethered to just delivering data to the HawkSoft 6 desktop app. Data stored in HawkSoft Cloud will also be accessible in a variety of native apps across desktop, mobile, and web browsers. For example, Agent Portal is a browser-based version of HawkSoft optimized for mobile devices. Agent Portal allows you to access limited but key client and policy information on a mobile device. It is not a full replacement for the desktop app, but a complementary experience designed for those people on the go. Its features overlap with HawkSoft desktop app (HawkSoft 6), but Agent Portal doesn’t do everything the desktop app does and also does some things the desktop app can’t do (such as offering click-to-dial on a smart phone or launching your preferred map app to route directions at a client’s address).
The big idea to understand is that HawkSoft 6 is a desktop app and a true successor to the HawkSoft CMS desktop app that you are currently using. Along with the desktop app, you will have mobile experiences and browser-based access to key features. This access will be read-only initially, but HawkSoft will continue releasing more browser-based features in the future and expand that functionality to eventually reading and writing back data to HawkSoft Cloud. As HawkSoft continues to evolve in the future, the differences between what’s available in the HawkSoft 6 desktop app, mobile apps, and browser-based experiences will shrink and the user experiences will become more alike. You will get more parity between the different experiences as HawkSoft continues to evolve.
When HawkSoft will be ready to introduce a 100% web browser-based management system is still undetermined. We are headed in that direction, but we feel there are strong advantages to having customized experiences that take advantage of the benefits of each device you are using to access HawkSoft – desktop/laptop PCs, phone and tablets, and a browser. We think our hybrid approach, similar to how Microsoft delivers Microsoft Outlook, will be a successful route to addressing user needs without abandoning the full power of a desktop PC that most agency staff use for the majority of their workweek.
For HawkSoft Online Agencies
No, HawkSoft Online and HawkSoft 6 are not the same. Agencies that currently use HawkSoft Online are using Parallels and our third-party online hosting partners to log in to Windows PCs that are running the desktop HawkSoft CMS app. With HawkSoft 6, you will only need your local office PC with an internet connection. You will not need Parallels or our third-party online hosting partners. We wrote a detailed blog article about this and encourage you to read it here.
HawkSoft Online offers a convenient solution for agencies that are looking to reduce how much of their own IT they manage. With HawkSoft Online, an agency can get a hosted Windows desktop environment and simplify the computer hardware and software needed to run their business. HawkSoft is aware of the value this brings and plans to continue offering a form of HawkSoft Online after the release of HawkSoft 6. HawkSoft is still working to determine what HawkSoft Online will look like after the launch of HawkSoft 6. We are confident that a hosted Windows desktop solution is still a key part of our product offering.
Each agency on HawkSoft Online today will be offered the option to move off of HawkSoft Online and onto HawkSoft 6 when it is made available to all customers. Most agencies using HawkSoft Online are doing so because it offers access to their HawkSoft data (and HawkSoft CMS) from any computer or mobile device setup to connect to their account. HawkSoft 6 will offer similar benefits without the need for middleware like Parallels or third-party hosting providers. HawkSoft expects to transition most HawkSoft Online customers to HawkSoft 6.
For Local HawkSoft Agencies
No, HawkSoft CMS with Data Sync and HawkSoft 6 are not the same. Agencies with a Local installation of HawkSoft CMS that use Data Sync are only sending a copy of some HawkSoft data to HawkSoft Cloud (specifically: agency information like offices and users, and client and policy information). Agencies that use HawkSoft 6 will sync all HawkSoft data to HawkSoft Cloud. Data Sync is not optional for HawkSoft 6 – it is active and built into the entire system.
HawkSoft 6 will also eliminate the need for a local server within an agency for running HawkSoft. While an agency may wish to retain a simple file sharing server for storing or sharing documents, all the data necessary for running the HawkSoft agency management system will be stored in HawkSoft Cloud. This will save many agencies the cost of storing terabytes of data.
When HawkSoft 6 is made available to all HawkSoft customers, HawkSoft will allow agencies to remain on their current HawkSoft deployment while they evaluate whether or not they should transition to HawkSoft 6. HawkSoft will also continue to support those deployment options for a period of time after the full release of HawkSoft 6.
It is important to note, however, that all new “marquee” (read: major) features (think features like HawkSoft Text Messaging or Agent Portal or Cloud Reporting) will only be released to HawkSoft 6. HawkSoft 6 is the future of HawkSoft and will be our sole management system focus. Agencies who elect to stay on an older version of HawkSoft CMS will eventually reach a final version of HawkSoft CMS to which no future updates will be released. Some features may also require using the latest or a newer version of HawkSoft, such as Data Sync and HawkSoft Cloud which have minimum required versions. It is our plan to ensure HawkSoft 6 is exciting and useful enough to motivate everyone to use it.
(This is a good time to remind everyone to read our blog on why it is important to keep your management system up to data here).
An agency on HawkSoft 6 will not need a server or networked computers to run the HawkSoft CMS desktop app. All data and attachments used in HawkSoft CMS will be stored and accessible on HawkSoft Cloud.
That said, an agency may still want their own server for other purposes or software. An agency should consult with their IT personnel to determine if they still need an in-house server for other business needs. This also presents the opportunity to consider transitioning to hosted solutions like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Drive for Business. These are options that allow an agency to discontinue an internal server in favor of a cloud-based solution for other business outside of HawkSoft.
Changes Coming With HawkSoft 6
Our intent is for the pricing to be comparable to our current retail price for HawkSoft Online. We are evaluating transition plans that will align your monthly or annual cost for the new HawkSoft Platform to match our current HawkSoft Online pricing.
Agencies currently on HawkSoft Online can expect to not see a change in their HawkSoft costs. Agencies using a local installation of HawkSoft may see an increase, depending on their current rate.
We expect most agencies will see either no change in their IT expenses or even a slight decrease in annual IT expenses. HawkSoft 6 will empower agencies to transition away from maintaining a powerful in-house server. Annual upgrades to equipment can be focused on individual workstations or technology as opposed to ensuring the server in the closet is keeping pace with ever changing requirements.
While there will be some updates to the user interface (UI) and visual assets in HawkSoft 6, most of the UI will look similar to the current version of HawkSoft CMS. More sweeping changes to UI will come in future updates after HawkSoft 6 is launched.
HawkSoft has always taken a function over form approach when it comes to HawkSoft CMS. We have been rewarded with feedback from customers that HawkSoft is one of the most intuitive systems they’ve used and important data is always accessible within a few clicks. We want a system that works well more than it looks pretty. Efficiency of workflows matter when your staff is in the trenches servicing a client or answering their questions.
HawkSoft 6 leverages cutting edge web development programming languages and a much more visibly flexible front-end user interface (UI). Evidence of our changing UI design approach can be seen today in features that already use HawkSoft Cloud. HawkSoft Text Messaging and Agent Portal, for example, both show off where HawkSoft is heading with HawkSoft 6 from both a programming and a UI point.
IMPORTANT: HawkSoft is taking great care to maintain a continuity of workflows between HawkSoft CMS and HawkSoft 6. The way HawkSoft CMS works today has a certain beauty in its function. It is effective and efficient. We are improving processes (like our Accounting workflows) and functionality, but the aim is to minimize the need to re-learn the system once an agency transitions from HawkSoft CMS to HawkSoft 6. In our redesign of features or workflows for HawkSoft 6, our development team will continue to prioritize function over form. It does not matter how good a system may look if it is doesn’t work efficiently.
HawkSoft remains firm on our stance that the agency always owns their data. HawkSoft is a custodian for your data while it is in our system. Learn more about our stance on data ownership here.
For agencies using HawkSoft 6, data will be stored in HawkSoft Cloud. HawkSoft Cloud runs on Microsoft Azure, meaning that the agency, client, policy data, and attachments will be stored in one of the world’s most secure and robust cloud environments powered by Microsoft.
Program files necessary for running the HawkSoft 6 desktop app and related services will be installed on each user’s PC workstation or laptop. This will eliminate the need for a third-party online hosting provider that runs Parallels RAS (currently called HawkSoft Online) or an on-premise server (Local Installation).
HawkSoft Cloud and HawkSoft 6 will introduce a more robust means for HawkSoft to process regular backups for our customers. Microsoft Azure has built in data redundancy and backup features that we intend to fully utilize to safeguard an agency’s data. It is our intention to introduce automatic backups for all agencies using HawkSoft 6 – these will likely cover slices in time ranging from the prior few hours and days, in addition to larger time periods such as a weekly backup and monthly backup. As our capacity to offer this service crystalized, HawkSoft will share further details.
IMPORTANT: It is the responsibility of an agency to understand and comply with their state’s regulations regarding the long-term storage of insurance documentation. Often a state will require keeping documents and data for several years. HawkSoft currently offers features to facilitate archiving the necessary data and we plan to continue offering these features in HawkSoft 6.
We wrote a detailed answer to this in our blog on Answering Questions on HawkSoft Cloud. You can find it here, and here is a summary with added context for HawkSoft 6:.
- As most agency, client, and policy data powering HawkSoft 6 (including attachments) will live in HawkSoft Cloud, HawkSoft 6 will require an internet connect to work at full power / functionality.
- Please note two points about this fact: 1) The bandwidth (internet speed and data capacity) requirements for HawkSoft Cloud and HawkSoft 6 will be lower than HawkSoft Online’s are today; 2) You will not be tethered to your in-house workstation for accessing HawkSoft 6 (see more on this below).
The future of HawkSoft will require the ability to access the internet. The internet is also required to do most insurance-related business today.
HawkSoft 6 will be available for computers running supported Windows operating systems. Certain features in HawkSoft 6 are designed to be mobile-responsive and accessible through a web browser (such as Cloud Accounting), with more and more web-accessible features coming as we update HawkSoft 6. While the entirety of HawkSoft 6 may not be available at launch for any device, key features will be.
HawkSoft 6 marks a key moment for HawkSoft and our grand plans for HawkSoft Cloud. The overall goal for HawkSoft Cloud is to free agency data so that it can be used in the right place and at the right time. Most insurance professionals using HawkSoft 6 will do so from the agency office or their home office, seated in front of a computer. They will need and be able to leverage the full range of features in the desktop HawkSoft 6 to accomplish their tasks. For outside sales staff or a contract accountant, they may be outside of the office and/or have little need for all that HawkSoft 6 can do. Those roles need specific tools or specific information. For the sales staff, they can access client and policy data from the field using Agent Portal. For that accountant, they can use Cloud Accounting tools within a web browser (completely independent of HawkSoft 6).
Your agency data will be accessible when and where you need it. Eventually, the “where” might be entirely in a web browser. But HawkSoft 6 isn’t quite that version of HawkSoft.
Moving to HawkSoft 6
HawkSoft 6 is estimated to be available to agencies in the first half of 2022. We aim to make the first version of HawkSoft 6 available to new agencies signing up with our service. For agencies that already use HawkSoft, HawkSoft 6 will be available after the launch of Phase 1 and an observation period to ensure migration will not cause major business disruptions.
The reason existing agencies will get HawkSoft 6 later than new agencies is because there are systems and procedures we need to design in order to handle the volume of data that will be migrated for existing agencies to HawkSoft 6. The migration will be moving thousands of terabytes of data! We want to ensure your complete database is moved in a safe manner and in a way that doesn’t overburden our cloud services, leading to a poor user experience.
A full platform change like the move from HawkSoft CMS to HawkSoft 6 calls for rigorous stages of testing. HawkSoft 6 will be tested extensively internally before any real agency is put on the new system. HawkSoft will then deploy to new agencies that meet size requirements (number of users and number of clients) for the initial public release of HawkSoft 6. At each stage of testing, HawkSoft will monitor the performance of HawkSoft 6 and HawkSoft Cloud and make necessary adjustments. Once we are satisfied and certain that HawkSoft 6 is ready for existing customers, we will start to onboard existing HawkSoft agencies. By being mindful of the approach, we hope to deliver a stable HawkSoft 6 product to all agencies in an efficient timeline.
HawkSoft 6 is different from previous versions of HawkSoft in that it will require the conversion of agency data into a new database format in order to support HawkSoft Cloud. With thousands of existing agencies running HawkSoft CMS and terabytes of data that must be converted under finite resources at our disposal, it’s a task that must be done gradually rather than all at once. We cannot afford to lose data or overburden our systems, which would bring everyone’s technology experience to a crawl.
Think of all that data as passengers and luggage that need to be moved from the ground into the air. Building an aircraft large enough to carry everyone at once would take a long time, and we’d have no idea how well the aircraft would work until the whole thing was constructed.
Instead, we plan to build smaller prototypes that will allow us to get a few passengers with lighter luggage (new agencies) into the air quickly. This approach lets us learn as much as possible about the cloud environment so that we can understand how to develop a larger aircraft in a way that can transport more passengers and their luggage safely, comfortably, and perhaps faster.
Microsoft Azure is one of the leading cloud infrastructures in the world. Using Azure as our backbone also gives HawkSoft direct control over the digital cloud HawkSoft 6 and HawkSoft Cloud lives on. If something goes wrong, HawkSoft’s Product Support and Development teams will have direct access to repair or correct the issue without having to rely on outside parties. It lets us be in control and responsible of our own platform if something goes wrong.
HawkSoft also gravitated towards Microsoft Azure because of our familiarity and affinity for the Microsoft ecosystem. HawkSoft CMS has been built on a Microsoft stack (programming languages and tools ideal for the Windows operating systems) since our last major platform change from DOS to Windows.
HawkSoft is developing a full game plan for transitioning existing customers to HawkSoft 6 when that time comes. Our intention is to execute a data conversion (transfer really) similar to how we would convert a new agency from another management system: collect the necessary data and, at an arranged time, make a swift transition over one business day. If we follow the database conversion model, this will likely happen over a weekend or on a non-business day as well.
We expect the most time-consuming process to be removing HawkSoft CMS and installing HawkSoft 6. As with prior migrations and big changes, HawkSoft’s Product Support department will proactively assist agencies in planning for and (likely) executing the changeover. You will not be alone in this process and we will communicate it clearly to all once it is ready.
HawkSoft is taking great care to maintain a familiarity and continuity in workflows in HawkSoft 6. You should be able to sit down at HawkSoft 6 and use the same knowledge of HawkSoft CMS to be immediately comfortable in HawkSoft 6.
HawkSoft will create new training videos and help articles to cover HawkSoft 6, in addition to training webinars or feature spotlight webinars that cover key enhancements made to HawkSoft 6. For example, the Cloud Accounting team took great care to fix a lot of the pain points in HawkSoft’s Trust Accounting workflows – and they definitely want to share it with our customers. HawkSoft will email our customers when it is time to register for these HawkSoft 6 webinars.
We have. HawkSoft has doubled our development team, specifically our cloud-focused team, over the last four years. However, applying money to solve a problem leads to diminishing returns beyond a certain threshold. Also, HawkSoft is proud to be a privately owned business. Consequently, we don’t have resources from outside investors to draw upon. This is a conscious decision made by HawkSoft’s leadership team to allow the company the freedom to be answerable only to our customers and employees, not stakeholders looking to make a quick profit. Learn more about our commitment to private ownership here.