Techniques: Microcases


Problem: Sending confidential data over the Internet
Solution: Contracting with an online courier service that transmits encrypted files
Payoff: A secure network is established quickly and inexpensively

Kris Wilson and Chris Casto were almost ready to launch their company's new transcription service when they realized it was missing a crucial element.

For years, the CEO and vice-president of Dolbey Systems Inc. (DSI), based in Mentor, Ohio, had sold transcription equipment, building their business to $10 million in sales. Last year Wilson and Casto developed a way for doctors to send dictation to far-flung transcriptionists by shipping files over the Internet. Doctors could dial an 800 number and record their notes regarding consultations with patients, diagnoses, and so forth on DSI's system. The service, called Idigital, would convert the notes into voice files and send them to a transcriptionist, who would then download the files, transcribe the dictation, and send the files back to the doctors.

Unfortunately, files that are sent by E-mail make numerous stops on different servers, which reroute the files along the way to their final destination. After a doctor dictated a report and the voice file left Idigital's server, prying eyes could access the sensitive medical information before it reached the intended recipient. Unless Wilson and Casto could find a secure way to send the files, their clients might not use the service.

In fact, their clients already needed security for their digital documents. The federal government had proposed new regulations that would require high-level encryption for the electronic transmission of health-care information. Even though the proposed laws wouldn't go into effect until 2002, some hospitals had already started putting new electronic-security regulations into their contracts with transcriptionists.

DSI's technical team investigated the cost of buying the servers they would need to build their own secure network. When they came back with an estimate of $48,000 for the servers alone, Wilson and Casto decided to look for some outside help. The technical staff had heard about Hilgraeve Inc.'s security products in the past, and after checking out the company's Web site, they thought that Hilgraeve might have a solution for DSI: an encryption service called HyperSend. "Utilizing their encryption allowed us to get the product to market faster," Wilson says. "Otherwise we would have had to go back and build that capability from scratch."

The service works like this: When a voice file full of confidential medical information leaves Idigital's server, HyperSend's software encrypts it. The file then travels directly to HyperSend's server, which stores it until the transcriptionist downloads it, decoding the file with software provided for Idigital. Wilson says the process works just like sending an E-mail message, except that Idigital uses secure HTTP files. Without stopping at other servers along the way, the files travel directly from Idigital's server to HyperSend's server in an encrypted form.

Wilson and Casto paid Hilgraeve about $7,000 for the toolkit they used to integrate HyperSend's code into Idigital. They also pay 8¢ to 10¢ for each megabyte of data they direct through HyperSend, but that price will drop as Idigital's user base grows and increases its usage.

The people at DSI expect that their investment in security will pay off. Not only did using HyperSend help Wilson and Casto launch Idigital a month ahead of schedule, but they expect that their new service will generate $1.8 million in revenues this year. And they project that their business will grow 20% to 25% annually as more transcriptionists seek secure and convenient ways to ship their digital documents.

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