Designing for the Cloud – Challenge #6 – Mitigating Failure

March, 2021

The universal law of communications is that things go wrong. Every formal signalling protocol has this fact built into its design. But all too often, this doesn’t extend to the rest of the infrastructure that runs the contact center. So... what happens when things break?

In the 6th and final blog in our Designing for The Cloud series, we take a look at the sources of downtime and how to mitigate failure to protect your CCaaS business.

The universal law of communications is that things go wrong. Every formal signalling protocol has this fact built into its design. But all too often, this doesn’t extend to the rest of the infrastructure that runs the contact center.

Of course, if you take a service from a cloud provider, they (in theory) have infrastructure, redundancy and so on that prevents outage. Some of them make great virtues of this, claiming 99.999% uptime, etc.

While a ‘high availability’ solution with redundancy is of course important, this will only prevent ‘lights-out’ outages, caused by server/OS failure.

But this is not a major source of agent downtime in any contact center operating at scale. If everything else in your solution is reliable, this makes only a tiny practical difference to reliability – perhaps the difference between 99.99% and 99.999% uptime.

The sources of downtime

In real life, the sources of downtime are a bit more mundane:

  1. misconfiguration leading to unexpected system behaviour.
  2. poorly-designed integrations creating bottlenecks and leading to Denial of Service (DoS).
  3. database logjam, created by somebody running a ‘get me everything from everywhere’ report.
  4. and last but not least, software defects.

These issues cause considerably more downtime than server and OS outage, so avoiding these problems is crucial to delivering a true ‘high availability’ system.

Sources of Downtime Pie Chart

Mitigating failure

Key to this is design, starting with the APIs exposed by the platform.

  1. Misconfiguration – Having robust API processing involves not just reporting errors but also reporting on, and mitigating the effects of, misconfiguration.
  2. Integration design – The shape of the APIs also determine the shape of any integration with third-party software. Clear separation of concerns and having resource failure mitigation as part of the API contract are necessary to deliver system availability in the face of resource problems.
  3. Database logjam – Again design is the solution. Failsafe mechanisms can be built by having clear separation of concerns, and software that proxies database communication on behalf of other components in the platform.
  4. Software defects – The elephant in the room. All manufacturers attest to their great software quality – it is a mantra which sadly has no bearing on reality. The next time you’re looking to refresh your contact center platform, maybe the question you should ask is ‘What does your platform do to mitigate the effects of software defects?’ The first key element of this is to implement guard code as protection from ‘nonsense’ logic. The second is having systems to alert the service provider about potential problems.

Even in a well-designed and tested platform, integration of third-party technology and user configuration can have unintended consequences; for example agent scripts that run SQL queries that, when run for many agents in parallel, cause contention.

Being able to capture problems like this before they become an operational problem helps keep your clients happy, and your business rolling along.

For more information about how our products are designed for the cloud, just talk to us.

What We Offer

Sytel Limited develops and supplies Softdial Contact Center® (SCC), offering multimedia, multichannel, fully blended cloud contact center solutions, for quick and easy deployment by partners offering CCaaS or enterprise users. All Sytel cloud components are secure, resilient and scale seamlessly from 10 agents to 10,000+, whether local, mobile or remote.

  • Flexible Contact Center Platform

    Softdial Contact Center™ - tightly integrated modules, designed to deliver at scale

  • Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)

    Partners can run a functionally rich and flexible contact center stack in the cloud

  • Blended Media Desktop

    Fully customisable, multi-channel, multi-session workspace

  • Work Anywhere

    Browser-based tools, no software installation required

  • Cloud Or On-Premise, Multi-Tenant

    Scalable, resilient, secure, proven

  • Customise, Localise, White Label

    Design all user interfaces to individual requirements

  • Integration Via APIs

    'Swap out' components and integrate with 3rd party apps

  • World Class Development

    Continuous evolution pushing technical boundaries

Capabilities

Softdial Contact Center™ (SCC) is designed to be flexible, extensible and scalable, integrating with any legacy equipment, and meeting the most complex of requirements.

  • All Media Types

    Voice, chat, email, social, etc - fully integrated and blended

  • Agent Multi-Tasking

    Work with multiple live contact sessions of any media type
  • Dynamic Workforce Management

    Automated, ‘best available’ decisions to manage agents & balance work load, across all media types

  • Predictive Dialing

    Best-of-breed performance under compliance

  • Optimised Inbound Routing

    Smart rules and 'best-available' decisions to drive great customer service

  • Agent Scripts

    Help agents achieve and maintain excellence

  • Voice and Screen Recording

    See and hear exactly how agents are interacting

  • Analytics and Data Feeds

    Measure and evaluate performance at every level

  • IVR, Bots & Conversational AI

    Design effective automated flows or integrate with 3rd party providers

  • Customer Journey Tracking

    Stored customer contact history, to aid routing and add context to conversations

Modules

A complete suite of tools, with unique flexibility to extend and swap out modules to deliver a tailored contact center solution for any environment
  • Softdial One™

    Highly flexible unified web UI for agents, supervisors and administrators
  • Softdial Scripter™

    Create complex process flow scripts for agents, IVR, chatbots and other applications

  • Sytel AI Dialer™

    Best-of-breed predictive dialer; maximum performance under any compliance rules

  • Softdial Pathfinder™

    Precise routing rules for 'best available' connection
  • Softdial Media Server™

    Core telephony functions to manage all inbound/ outbound SIP calls

  • Softdial Reporter™ 5

    Fully customisable performance stats, charts and reports, across all channels

  • Softdial Publisher™

    Comprehensive data output to build your own reports

  • Softdial Recording Monitor™

    Audio and screen recording of agent activity to ensure the highest standards
  • Softdial Campaign Manager™

    Automation to optimise any outreach strategy
  • Softdial Repository™

    Central storage and configuration of common resources
  • Sytel Global Compliance™

    Flexible 'no contact' rules to protect contact center and consumer

Markets

Performance and efficiency for a wide range of business applications

  • Customer Service

    Connect quickly to well equipped agents

  • Sales & Telemarketing

    Maximise agent productivity with best-of-breed predictive dialing

  • Healthcare

    Secure, highly-configurable multichannel communications for excellence in patient care

  • Market Research

    Best-of-breed predictive dialing with CATI integration

  • Collections

    Automated inbound/ outbound blending integrated with any debt management app