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A detailed disaster recovery plan, which is practiced on a regular basis, will limit the interruption to your business when you have to deal with a real disruption. Like a finely tuned symphony, the success of complex contact center operations depends upon the flawless performance of many moving parts – from the way calls are routed through your ACD, to the way each agent interacts with your customers.
In a given year, businesses may be susceptible to the impact of natural disasters or other events that threaten their operations. Agents who work from a data center or telephony site that experiences a disaster event may not be able to relocate to one of the remaining data centers or telephony sites due to distance constraints or safety concerns (such as impassable roads where the agents live).
With Hurricane Irene still fresh in our minds, it’s time to continue my series on disaster recovery for the contact center. Since the topic of disaster recovery seems to resonate with many of you I am extending the series. While the terms reliability and high availability are sometimes used interchangeably, the difference between a so-called reliable system and one that meets high-availability standards is its ability to maintain operations and quickly recover normal functioning following a failure – limiting downtime to hours, or even minutes, over the course of a year. The tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, in May 2011, reinforced the need for thorough disaster planning and recovery, and contact center operations are a critical function in such situations. Business continuity also takes on added importance: if the contact center platform isn’t robust enough to be dependable in all settings, the company is at risk of alienating customers at critical times.
When one data center becomes unavailable, all the telephony resources can be devoted to the remaining data center. John’s Regional Medical Center, with buildings completely destroyed in the event, needed to resume services to patients as quickly as possible. While the pictures show both data centers in an active state, the design works equally well for a deployment where one data center is active and the other is standby. If you’re maintaining a data center, maintain an off-site failover device to monitor your system health and reroute traffic in real-time, to another data center if your data center experiences failure.ConclusionIn the end, businesses are far safer implementing disaster recovery plans in their operations. The benefit of a investing either in infrastructure or a monthly subscription – in the case of SME-oriented cloud services – to protect yourself from disaster is definitely worth the investment compared to the potential loss of revenue and the damage to your reputation as a result of downtime or online security issues. Just like you, I choose where to live, a company chooses where to locate their data center with some emphasis placed on the odds of a natural disaster occurring.
Inevitably data centers will be built in locations that seasonally face the wrath of mother nature and because of this disaster recovery plans (DRP) – sometimes referred to as a business continuity plans (BCP) or business process contingency plans (BPCP) – have to be put in place, in order for organizations to have a plan describing how to deal with potential disasters. Just as a disaster is an event that makes the continuation of normal functions impossible, a disaster recovery plan consists of the precautions taken so that the effects of a disaster will be minimized and the organization will be able to either maintain or quickly resume mission-critical functions. These sites are suitable for applications and services which are very critical in nature and cannot risk any downtime during a disaster.
Cold DR sites have offsite backup to main datacenter servers and services and in the chance of disaster, backup will be restored on newly acquired and installed servers.
Those with on-premises infrastructure will often invest in additional disaster-recovery tools, such as remote backups, archives, etc.
We’ve talked in-depth before about how high availability is virtually synonymous with disaster recovery from an operational perspective, as well as a customer experience perspective. Aspect has long understood the importance of business continuity to contact center operations, and our commitment to providing dependable solutions informs every phase of our development process. Disaster recovery planning involves many facets of your business, only a few of which have been presented in this series.

In most contact centers, the primary communication channel for contact transactions is voice. The answers to these questions should enable you to assess the importance of your contact center operations and apply a cost-benefit analysis to the various disaster recovery solutions. Without the right tools and functionality, the contact center is at a distinct disadvantage in addressing customer issues. Experts from Miercom and Aspect will share their insights on meeting evolving customer expectations, with advice to help you limit or eliminate the experience of downtime for customers interacting with your contact center.
This configuration is cost effective when the data centers are located close to the contact population.
This installment focuses on the use of multiple data centers, typically located hundreds of miles from each other.
This enables the same number of contact transactions to be processed even in the event of a data center outage. It ensures synchronization of data and backups across distributed infrastructure to keep your business continually running smoothly in the event of hard drive failure, or any other number of IT disasters. And just like you and I, these companies may choose, or be forced, to build or relocate somewhere that has a higher likelihood for disaster. Typically, disaster recovery planning involves an analysis of business processes and continuity needs; it may also include a significant focus on disaster prevention, even data center migration.
Only some applications are considered for Disaster Recovery due to cost constraints or application dependency. However, for small businesses, disaster recovery may be deemed costly or an unnecessary expense.Disaster recovery is an important aspect of business continuity. On March 27, experts from Aspect and Miercom will be hosting an informational webinar on High Availability for the Contact Center: Ensuring Customer Service Continuity to share their insights on meeting evolving customer expectations, with advice to help you limit or eliminate the experience of downtime for customers interacting with your contact center. In figure 2, the telephony infrastructure resides in one or more locations separate from the data centers. While agents and contacts are processed through a main data center, a second data center contains the infrastructure necessary to run the contact center application should the main data center become unavailable. Using more work from home agents reduces the percentage of the agent population impacted by a disaster event. Through manual backup processes or automatic Storage Area Network (SAN) replication technology, the application is periodically copied from the main data center to this second data center.
Fortunately, a recent disaster recovery project had been completed, preserving critical applications and patient records in another data center 250 miles from Joplin. The planning involved in these particular sites is minimal and only require that a space be identified for the DR move and a basic infrastructure be built. As reaching out to the contact center becomes a last resort for customers, the stakes grow higher. Using server virtualization for the infrastructure of the second data center allows the physical servers in the second data center to be used for other functions (such as development or other less critical applications) until needed for your contact center applications.
While part 1 focused on a couple of high-level deployment options for disaster recovery solutions, part 2 concentrates on the location of telephony infrastructure. Depending on the nature of the disaster, agents may be in a location where they cannot access the available data center(s). After a loss of the main data center, the backup of the contact center application must be brought online at the second data center.

In case of Disaster, the DR site will initiate connections and business will be back in action in minimal time.  This approach, however, is extremely costly and requires huge investments due to the fact that the datacenter is mirrored at the DR Datacenter location.
If the incident does however exceed the MTO, data center management will then invoke the DR plan, theoretically lessening the impact felt by the business.
Likewise, using the cloud for this second data center is another low-cost deployment option, as the pay-as-you-use cloud model would only be employed should the main data center be inaccessible. Consequently, understanding how the location of the devices in the telephony infrastructure contributes to business continuity for the contact center is crucial.
Hospital services were restored within a week, in part through a temporary facility in Joplin and access to patient information in the remote data center. To control the cost, only mission critical applications are considered for Hot DR and other are either moved to DR site or rebuilt in the chance of disaster. In this design, two or more data centers actively process a subset of the agent and contact transactions.
Typically, the amount of telephony resources would be overprovisioned at each data center so that the same number of contact transactions is processed regardless of whether both data centers are available or not. Naturally, from a fiscal standpoint, it makes sense to build disaster recovery into your organization's budget, and with monthly subscriptions that range from less than $100 to a few hundred dollars for a cloud-based DR solution, it’s more affordable than you may realize.Disaster Recovery Concepts to Implement in Your BusinessOne reason why many small businesses skip over disaster recovery is a lack of understanding of its basic concepts. Here again, the costs of multiple data center locations may be mitigated by hosting a contact center application instance in the cloud, especially if you don’t need full capacity in the event a disaster occurs.
Next week, I’ll discuss agent location, which can severely affect how much contact processing your business can handle after a disaster event. The concepts of disaster recovery may have a technical nature, but aren’t as complex as one may believe.The recovery time objective, or RTO, is the maximum desired length of time between an unexpected failure or disaster and the resumption of normal operations and service levels. In part 2, I’ll share some ideas on disaster-planning considerations for your telephony infrastructure and self-service applications. This solution enables your business to continue, albeit at a reduced capacity, until additional agent resources can be directed to the available data center(s).
The RTO defines the length of time that is allowed to pass between system failure and repair before the consequences of the service interruption become unacceptable.The recovery point objective, or RPO, is the maximum amount of data allowed to be lost, measured in time. Aspect's blogs share and comment on technology news, trends, real-life customer experiences, tips, techniques and best practices for organizations embracing the power of unified communications to enhance customer experience and bottom-line business results across the contact center, the enterprise and beyond. A reduced capacity contact center application would need fewer compute resources, thus making it a cost-effective solution. It will outline several disaster scenarios, define the detailed responses to each while aiming to keep impact to a minimum. It refers to the age of the files or data in backup storage required to resume normal operations if a computer system or network failure occurs.
If you have an RPO of 30 minutes, system backups must be performed every half hour to keep the data current.Failovers are designed to allow the system to seamlessly switch to a backup.

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