Innovation is embedded in TIH Investment Holdings’ DNA. From launching Auto & General Insurance in 1985, to launching an initiative to assist Black-owned Exempted Micro Enterprises in taking their business to the next level in 2019, TIH is constantly looking for, and finding better ways to give peace of mind to South Africans.
We had the pleasure to sit down (virtually) with Maela Matlapu, Service Monitoring Administrator, to learn what this means for TIH’s IT team, and how Instana has helped them along the way.
Q: Tell us a little about TIH
A: TIH Investment Holdings is a South African based financial service provider, with a portfolio of short-term and long-term insurers, health insurance, and provides an insurance and personal finance comparison platform.
Q: How does your team operate?
A: I work mainly on the infrastructure team. Being in IT, every team relies on us to make sure systems and applications operate the way they’re supposed to operate. We look over the entire infrastructure of the organization, and I focus on the monitoring aspect of it – applications, systems and network monitoring. It’s a big role, and it’s really fascinating!
TIH is a very large organization. On the development side, we have 7 teams focusing on various projects and technologies. For example, one team focuses on .NET, another on Nginx, and so forth. Our business is built in a way so that every team owns a process that depends on another team’s process. Everything is integrated, but each team is a system or process owner for the applications that they build.
Q: What does your tech stack look like, and how often do you deploy?
A: Our main technologies are .NET, SQL, Microsoft SQL, and AWS.
We deploy bi-weekly for minor releases, and once a month for major deployments. We’re always looking into new ways to improve our applications, but also improve on the way we support the business.
That means bringing forth the best technologies, preventing downtime, etc. That’s why we have monthly deployments for our major releases.
Q: What does that mean for your customers?
A: We have both internal and external customers. That means for us in IT, we have our end users who use these technologies to support the external customers. Since it’s a huge organization, we have to follow a change process to ensure that we don’t impact the internal and external customers. That ensures a seamless experience for everyone.
Q: How important is application performance to the FinTech industry?
A: Because we have over a million customers, application performance is very important! Since we are an insurance company, we want to make sure our customers are always taken care of. On the business side, without application performance monitoring, if an application fails and isn’t detected on time, we would lose a lot of revenue, and obviously those customers. That’s not what we want.
Q: Have you experienced any application performance challenges?
A: We used to monitor our systems with a tool called Foglight. But what I had found was that most things had to be customized to get to where we wanted the experience to be. Specifically, monitoring at the code level, or understanding specific services and processes. Monitoring used to require a lot of coding and a lot of time.
In addition to that, we couldn’t integrate our systems that talk to each other. These systems would have to be monitored separately. And after all of that, we still found ourselves wasting time trying to figure out where the actual issue was.
Q: So why choose Instana for Application Performance Monitoring?
A: Everything is automated. You install the agent, and it does what it does in the background. That is amazing!
That means I don’t have to spend a lot of time focusing on one machine and having to configure all these things in the background. Instana does that for you.
The automation doesn’t stop there. Instana automatically creates a dependency map, where you can actually pinpoint where performance issues are. For example, you can quickly figure out whether an issue is occurring on a database, or been caused a process.
On top of that, we have preconfigured automated alerts. If we want to customize them, we can do that too.
Overall, it’s really perfect, and it’s also very reasonable when it comes to paying for it.
Q: Do you have any favorite Instana features?
A: With Instana, we’re proactively minimizing downtime on our applications and systems.
One of my favorite features is Application Perspectives, which allows me to create a custom view of specific services and how they are performing. We use those for our mid-morning and daily checks.
We can also build Custom Dashboards and look at them without having to go through emails or alerting channels. The dashboards are kept open so anybody can see how the business or applications are performing throughout the day. There have been so many instances where we check in with Instana, and quickly say, “Okay, this is where the problem is,” and go back and permanently fix that problem.
We weren’t able to do this before without having to spend hours or days investigating the root cause. No one wants to wake up at 3 AM to do manual testing for 4 hours. Using Instana has been a relief, and our developers enjoy using it as well.
Q: Speaking of productivity, how many hours has Instana saved you?
A: Let me put it this way. With Instana, the work that I used to accomplish in a week, I can actually do it in a day.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: The support team is really amazing, and the product is very reasonably priced. Instana makes my job easier, and actually gives me what I’m looking for!