High Availability – Seeing The Bigger Picture

August, 2012

Some vendors' claims for very high uptime - maybe 99.999% - refer to software only. But for cloud-based contact centers, the vast majority of downtime is caused by hardware and network failure. This blog looks at the real areas of risk.

For the large scale, distributed call center, or hosted/ cloud based service provider, every minute of unscheduled outage costs money in agent wages and missed opportunities. This drives a search for the Holy Grail of software that delivers very high uptime – maybe 99.999%.

Even if we believe the hype of some vendors, if we look at the bigger picture, we see that any such claims refer to software only. But in the new world of virtual, hosted and cloud-based contact centers, the vast majority of downtime is caused by hardware and network failure. And in real-life (i.e. outside of the Marketing Dept.) no-one is interested in separating out the causes of failure. Downtime is downtime, whatever the cause. So the question end users should be asking software vendors is not “How many 9’s?” but “How well does your software cope with the inevitable infrastructure failures?”

Let’s look at the areas of risk and how call center software vendors can (and should) respond to them.

Risk 1 – software failure

Yes, software sometimes fails. Call center software does not operate in a sealed, air-tight, proprietary environment as it once did; IP-based technology is open to the elements, and subject to all the outages and problems that come with distributed components and high-volume network usage.

But software vendors can employ several methods to minimise the impact of software failure:

  • Auto failover – if for some reason the software meets a condition with which it cannot cope, it should restart automatically and carry on where it left off, with minimal impact, and no manual intervention.
  • Segmentation – dividing the product into smaller and smaller discrete chunks so that the impact of any failure can be minimised.
  • Clustering – spreading the processing load between many instances, with automatic load balancing. This allows for the failure of one unit with minimal impact on the system

Risk 2 – hardware/ network failure

Hold on. Why should software vendors like Sytel be concerned about conditions beyond their control? Because any responsible vendor aims to make life as productive and trouble-free as possible for the end-user. This means providing backup and redundancy capabilities to mitigate against failures outside of the software.

As with back-up generators that take the strain after a power outage, so each component in the chain – from servers and power supplies, to voice and data networks – should have a back-up ready to take over in the event of hardware or network outage. In the case of servers/ virtual machines, this doesn’t necessarily mean ‘1 for 1’ redundancy. As it is unlikely that more than one would fail at one time, a single back-up could be configured to take over for a number of different primaries.

In order to take over automatically, any back-up must be constantly maintained to mirror the state of the primary server. This is where good software design comes in, providing a mechanism which will notice when the primary is no longer in service, and immediately kick-start the back-up.

Be prepared to ask hard questions of your supplier, like “What happens if an earthquake hits?” If the answer is “Not our problem!” you might look for a vendor that is willing to try harder and consider the bigger picture.

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

  • 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 Media Blending

    Automated, ‘best available’ decisions to blend and balance work load across all media types

  • Predictive Dialing

    Best-of-breed performance under compliance

  • Intelligent 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 dialing 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™

    Comprehensive configuration and control for outbound campaigns

  • 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