How to Prevent the 5 Most Common Communication Outages

While Governor Jerry Brown calls for water conservation in drought-stricken California, Oklahoma and Texas face record rainfalls, and Tropical Storm Ana hits South Carolina almost a month before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season (Ruining the Cherry Grove beaches, the unpredictable storm defied government experts who said that the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season would not be until June 1.).

In light of all these weather-related events, how can organizations protect their engagement/communication solutions from disasters? Weather cannot be scheduled. Nor can costly communications system outages be predicted. However, we can learn from the past to prepare for the unexpected. Now is a great time to refresh ourselves on the 5 most common causes of network outages.

To help clients manage network-related problems, Avaya emergency recovery expert Joey Fister analyzed client emergency recovery service requests in the white paper “The Essential Guide to Avoiding Network Outages.” He discovered that the top five causes of communications outages are:

  1. Power outage: 81 percent
  2. Lack of routine maintenance: 78 percent
  3. Hardware failure: 52 percent
  4. Software bug or corruption: 34 percent
  5. Network issue or outage: 27 percent

Can these problems be avoided?

“Nearly two-thirds of outages resulting from the top five causes and more than a third of all outages Avaya is involved with could have been avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices,” Fister writes. “These practices, simple to implement and sustain, can dramatically reduce costly downtime and potential impact on business results and customer confidence.”

Ensuring that your company’s network system is covered by a support organization with access to the latest issue/optimization solutions and performing routine maintenance can help you predict possible outage sources, lessening system and operator stress while saving money.

According to a 2013 Ponemon Institute study, the average cost per minute of unplanned downtime now exceeds $8,000 per minute, and the average total cost per incident is more than $625,000.

How can your organization avoid the heavy cost of an engagement/communications solution outage? The following offers industry-leading suggestions to help you reduce potential outages caused by the top five problems:

#1: Power Outages

As organizations grow, so does the mix of gear relying on uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units, which are essential to keeping systems operating through lightning strikes, storms and other power disruptions.

Solutions:

  • Conduct an audit to determine if facilities can meet power demands and ward off problems.
  • Prepare a framework for periodic reviews.
  • Pay particular attention to hardware that is approaching the end of manufacturer support (EoMS).
  • Ensure proper grounding of UPS systems and sensitive equipment.

#2: Lack of Routine Maintenance

Most organizations know that poorly tended systems are a source of downtime, but why do so few maintain their systems properly?

Solutions:

  • Manage upkeep to avoid service disruptions.
  • Run a proactive health check.
  • Monitor systems in real time 24/7.
  • Observe and follow a maintenance schedule.

#3: Hardware Failures

Extending the life of equipment may seem like an economical use of resources, but it comes with considerable risk. ”Sweating the assets” can also be an increasingly risky gamble with significant consequences if the replacement parts or equipment are not available immediately.

Solutions:

  • Manage proactive upgrades of equipment approaching EoMS.
  • Verify system redundancy.
  • Update failover strategies for critical systems that can help reduce hardware-based outages.

#4: Software Bugs or Corruption

Software vendors may be constantly releasing fixes and upgrades into the marketplace, but organizations are not necessarily eager to apply them. Some choose to let others occupy the upgrade frontlines and endure potential rollout hiccups, then follow along at a safe interval. This strategy breaks down disastrously when an organization suffers an outage that would have been avoided with a fix that it voluntarily chose to postpone.

Solution:

  • Adopt a regular patch management strategy that proactively eliminates known issues to maintain software performance and avoid software-related outages while ensuring all systems are properly updated at a time that will least impact business flow. Many managed service providers offer release management services that are simple options to implement a proactive patch management plan.

#5: Network Issues or Outages

Jitter, delay and latency can be warnings of a possible network outage.

Solutions:

  • Conduct a simple audit of your organization’s underlying network to identify where such conditions exist.
  • Prepare a network diagram to isolate an outage and speed resolution by illustrating the relationships among pieces of equipment.
  • Implement rigorous configuration control processes to ensure that system changes and refinements do not inadvertently trigger outages and other problems.

Outage recovery can be painful, but if you are prepared ahead of time, the solution can be simple and damages mitigated. For instance, IT experts say the average downtime from an outage requiring a software reinstall–when backups are available–is 2.4 hours. When backups are not available, average recovery time is 38 hours (more than 15x longer), potentially adding millions more dollars to outage-related revenue losses.

Many of the issues above can be mitigated or avoided completely by leveraging a cloud solution as a backup or failover option. With older solutions being more likely to fail and limited physical access to some sites, business continuity may require hosted redundant or paired systems that can quickly come online when access to an active system is limited.

There are many different ways to weather a storm, but all require planning before the clouds arrive. Take the necessary steps so that you too can avoid weather-related communications outages.

Are you ready to weather the storm? What was your worst IT disaster and how long did it take for you to recover? How old is your network and the UPS?

Follow me on Twitter at @Pat_Patterson_V

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2017 Avaya Customer Innovation Awards Honor Five Companies Leading the Way in Digital Transformation

Every year, Avaya and IAUG recognize a handful of customers who are innovators. These customers are recognized with Customer Innovation Awards. Last year’s award winners included a number of technology firms. This year’s five award winners, recognized on stage at Avaya Engage in Las Vegas, include three customers in the financial services sector, a leading global retailer, and a leader in the film production industry.

Each of these customers is benefiting from the latest Avaya solutions to meet business goals—whether the goals are growth, customer experience, cost management, or risk mitigation.

BECU

BECU, which began life 80 years ago as the Boeing Employee Credit Union, today is the fourth largest credit union in the US, with over $12 billion in assets and over a million credit union members. In 2016, BECU embarked on a digital transformation journey focused on the customer experience. BECU relies on Avaya Elite Multichannel running on an Avaya Pod Fx™ infrastructure.

BECU engineer Rick Webb says, “BECU is rapidly expanding and needed a technology partner that could support that expansion and keep our members happy. The Avaya Elite Multichannel infrastructure does just that, while providing increased flexibility and allowing BECU to better meet the expectations of our more than 1 million members.”

Green Shield Canada (GSC)

Green Shield Canada (GSC) is a one of the leading health and dental benefit carriers in Canada, with over 850 employees across seven locations. Starting last year, GSC is deploying the Avaya Equinox™ Experience and seeing strong results. Competing with larger players in its industry, GSC sees strong collaboration among its workforce as a key ingredient for success.

Jim Mastronardi, GSC Director for Enterprise Infrastructure says, “Green Shield Canada has over 850 employees across seven offices in Canada—from Montreal to Vancouver. We saw an opportunity to explore technology upgrades that would enhance company-wide communications and bring our teams across Canada closer together. With just a single training session, employees have hit the ground running with the Avaya Equinox tools. The video conferencing option has provided a solution to overbooked meeting rooms, and the instant messaging feature is already cutting down on the number of emails being sent.”

Scotiabank

Scotiabank prides itself on “being a technology company providing financial services.” As a long-time Avaya customer—and a beta customer for Avaya Oceana™ and Avaya Oceanalytics™—Scotiabank is on a digital transformation journey to better serve bank customers worldwide. Scotiabank contact centers located in Canada and the Caribbean & Latin America region have benefited from a next-gen centralized architecture leveraging the latest Avaya solutions to better serve customers.

Scotiabank has already developed and deployed Avaya Oceana and Avaya Breeze™ apps, and continues to innovate in an ongoing drive to improve customer service and meet customer needs in a competitive market. The success of Scotiabank’s transformation program has enabled the bank to move with greater agility, improved reliability, and speed to market. This has changed the framework for deployment from months/years to days/weeks while improving the overall ROI/TCO.

The Crossing Studios

The Crossing Studios is one of Vancouver’s largest and fastest growing full-service studios and production facilities for film. The firm caters to companies like Fox, Nickelodeon, Showtime, and Netflix. The Crossing Studios were unhappy with the stability and quality of the disparate systems previously in place across their seven studio locations. In 2016, The Crossing Studios deployed a Powered by Avaya IP Office solution offered by local provider Unity Connected Solutions.

Powered by Avaya IP Office has improved stability, reduced TCO and provided the advanced features that the business needs to serve a very demanding film industry client base, including high scale audio conferencing, extensive web collaboration, and rich multi-vendor HD video conferencing. CTO Mark Herrman says, “We needed something that would support our rapid growth, support our clients, and support our bottom line. Thanks to IP Office and the hosted cloud model, we’re able to keep pace with dynamic, fast-moving film productions, staying as flexible as our clients need us to be.” Estimated savings are in the six figures for the first year alone.

Walgreens

Walgreens is using custom Avaya Snap-ins to bring centralized contact center reporting capabilities to local branch sites, for compliance purposes and to help improve the overall customer experience. Avaya Professional Services were instrumental with the deployment, which relies on an Avaya Pod Fx infrastructure.

These companies are each leaders in their respective industries. As part of their digital transformation journeys, they recognize that when it comes to selecting a trusted technology advisor, “experience is everything.” #ExperienceAvaya.

Avaya Predictions for 2017 Services Trends: Top Focus is on Smart Customer-Centric Engagement

Recently, we asked six Avaya services experts to help us reflect on the past year and to peer ahead into 2017. Our panel:

  • Richard English, Managing Director, Avaya Professional Services
  • Camille Lewis, Product Management Director, Avaya Client Services
  • Barbara Sidari, Customer Engagement and Executive Cadence, Avaya Client Services
  • Thomas Brennan, Vice President of global support services, private cloud and managed services delivery
  • Michael Sale, Director Online Engagement, Avaya Client Services
  • Dan Pratt, Senior Director, Business Transformation and Strategy, Avaya Client Services

According to our six experts, our predictions for these 2016 trends proved to be spot on—and they will continue to be a force in 2017:

  • Use of hybrid/private cloud

    will continue to dominate for large enterprises until public cloud providers can demonstrate that compliance to privacy/security regulations such as HIPAA can be achieved. However, Public Cloud is quickly becoming a flexible and effective delivery model for the midmarket.

  • A flexible delivery model

    to achieve growth in modular steps that helps IT maximize ROI and support rapid business scaling has been, and will continue to be, extremely successful. Taking some of the burden off the enterprise enables IT managers to focus on more strategic corporate initiatives.

  • The need for person-to-person human touch

    will continue to rise. It will become critical in 2017 as unassisted support and self-healing systems grow smarter in identifying trends and problems before they happen and engage in machine-to-machine maintenance for resolution. The use of video will be more widely used, providing personalization and higher customer satisfaction.

The panel thinks that 2017 will mean an increasing focus on smart customer centric engagement when it comes to service. In 2017, it’s all about using analytics and even smarter technology to increase customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, loyalty and revenue—and to achieve a better return on investment.

The Avaya panel sees these three trends emerging in 2017:

  • Transforming legacy systems and increased customer use of omnichannel will streamline the customer journey to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.

    For example, many retailers will transform their Contact Centers into profit centers. The shopping experience for their customers starts on the mobile device or web-based applications—retailers want it to end with an order placed. The customer will experience a seamless transition from mobile to voice (or to web chat or video) without having to repeat who they are and what they want to purchase. The agent will already know the value of the customer to their company and will provide a personalized shopping experience.

  • Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data will enhance the experience of the Customer Journey.

    The predictive and preemptive active workflow will match people to people, machine to machine, as preferred by the customer for maximum satisfaction and profit. For instance, service vendors will use data captured from customer service requests, alarms, outage history, and project volume to identify risks and take appropriate actions to proactively mitigate issues. Utility companies can leverage web-based applications to proactively communicate to customers the status of affected service areas via maps on smart phones, reducing the burden of customers calling the service center to report an outage. Similarly alarm companies will analyze alarms and preemptively fix them before the consumer arrives home.

  • Demand for holistic application service management will grow as siloed and disparate cloud applications shift focus from managing assets in the field to delivering on business processes.

    Enterprises will need a dashboard that provides a single pane view by business process vs CPU performance. The workforce needs to be trained to leverage all the data in a way that includes human touch.

The year 2017 promises to be very exciting as service transforms and demonstrates its value by preemptively fixing issues before they become problems. It is imperative that knowing the customer and providing what they want, as well as the human touch, will become ever more critical in a big data world. After all, it’s all about the customer experience!

What do you see emerging in 2017? Drop me a note at sithomso@avaya.com

Avaya Aura® Platform—The Original Pragmatic Hybrid Cloud

In a recent InfoWorld post David Linthicum wrote of “an organic movement driven by rank-and-file enterprise IT people who simply want to solve their issues using the best technology and approach.” Linthicum called this the “pragmatic hybrid cloud.” Reading this from the perspective of someone with decades of experience in the enterprise communications market, my immediate reactions was, “Aha, he’s talking about the Avaya Aura® Platform.” He isn’t, but here I’ll explain why this thought struck me.

Linthicum writes, “What this movement has discovered is that you can combine the public cloud and modernize some of your legacy systems to be more cloudlike.” That is exactly what Avaya customers have been achieving in an evolutionary process spanning almost two decades. Long before the term cloud came into vogue, Avaya customers have been able to gain the benefits of the cloud paradigm while avoiding the need to comprehensively lift workloads to a public cloud provider and the need to wholesale forklift and abandon existing investments.

Today, many Avaya customers—including a large swath of the globe’s most notable organizations in industries ranging from financial services, to healthcare, to government, and many small and medium businesses—process their mission-critical workloads using a combination of premise-based solutions and both public and private cloud-served applications. It is a “pragmatic hybrid” approach that since the mid-2000s has provided these Avaya customers with unparalleled reliability, cost savings, and business agility.

The Avaya Aura Platform is the reason why. Avaya Aura had its genesis in a time tested methodology for allowing geographically distributed organizations to link islands of resources to gain economies of scale. Back in the day, to create either a contact center that followed the sun or a single enterprise communications solution that served the needs of a worldwide workface, expensive dedicated circuits were required. As IP Telephony evolved, companies began to use packet-switched technologies to more cost-effectively link together distant resources into single holistic systems. Rather than centralized in isolated locations, communications applications could now be seamlessly and cost-effectively shared across distances. This made new ways to organize communication assets and the work that depended upon those resources possible.

Avaya’s great insight was to take advantage of the session initiation protocol (SIP). Over time Avaya’s customers have “pragmatically” converted the networking connections of their existing standalone investments to create fabrics of SIP internetworked appliances. The Avaya Aura® Session Manager lets companies treat their owned assets as part of a private cloud and combine those resources with public cloud capabilities both from Avaya and from a growing ecosystem of additional providers. It is a strategy that has resulted in significant cost savings while unleashing new innovation.

Today the Avaya Aura Platform has moved far beyond simply a “pragmatic hybrid” for sharing resources. It has become a strategic tool for many organizations. It gives companies a flexibility and agility to adapt and reconfigure at the speed of business. Avaya Aura has also opened the doors to both internal Avaya inventions and new external development.

Avaya Breeze™ Platform is but the latest application development platform that takes advantage of Avaya Aura. Avaya, Avaya’s customers, and an industry of third-party companies are leveraging Breeze with their own creativity for solving business problems. Breeze allows the creation of unique ways to leverage the inherent capabilities of Avaya products in combination with cloud and third-party capabilities. Whether those assets reside in a private data center, on premises-based servers, or in public clouds, because of the Avaya Aura Platform, the only barriers to progress are the limits of human ingenuity.

Linthicum concluded that, the “pragmatic approach is very sensible. It makes the most of what you have, reducing the need for new resources and letting you transition to the cloud at a pace you can handle, both in terms of cost and time.” Your Path, Your Pace, Your Choice, where have I heard that before? Avaya circa 2004 maybe? Nice to see the industry finally following Avaya’s lead.