Four Factors Help a Major Railway’s IT Team Stay on Track
For IT managers in one of the United States’ major railroads—an industry that has grown to $68 billion in annual revenue—keeping up with the latest technology poses the greatest challenge.
The Need for Fast Troubleshooting in Far-Flung Locations
Our Railroad Company, remaining anonymous here, employs thousands, including its IT team, across 115 offices, some of which are in very remote areas. “The railroad has a lot of places that are hard to get to,” says the company’s senior voice engineer. “They’re just dots on a map, without addresses.” When hardware fails in a far-flung location, getting there rapidly is paramount—or it can seriously affect operations.
To avoid costly outages, any company must keep its network current and perform regular maintenance. Sound familiar? We all must do routine work to keep our devices, appliances, and cars up to date. For short periods, we can live without our phones or we can rent a car. But unlike us, for a railroad performing routine maintenance and keeping the network current can mean the difference between a profitable year and a financial loss.
True Cost of an Outage
According to a 2013 Ponemon Institute study, the average total cost per data center outage is more than $625,000. The cost associated with business disruption, which includes reputation damage and customer churn, represents the most expensive cost category. For railroads—tasked with moving time-sensitive containers of product to hundreds of locations on thousands of miles of track—the costs of an outage are even higher and more challenging.
The Support Services Solution
To help ensure they’ll have reliable unified communications and contact center solutions, the Railroad Company’s IT team looked for a partner that could provide maintenance to keep their infrastructure current and operating smoothly. Avaya was the selected Partner because it delivers four factors that keep the Railroad Company’s network on track:
Proven 24/7 alarm monitoring systems
with more than 1,000 algorithms to proactively auto-resolve issues without human intervention, reducing the need to staff around the clock.
A support service for software release management,
freeing up the IT staff to work on higher priority IT projects that will advance the company’s business goals.
Customer-controlled tools that provide secure remote access, advanced endpoint diagnostics and network monitoring
at no additional licensing cost and from the comfort of the IT Manager’s desk
Teams that are familiar with the rail company’s environment and can reach remote locations faster
than the railroad’s centralized IT team, cutting downtime.
Great Support Services
At the Railroad Company, technology now keeps trains and those supporting them running efficiently and on schedule. By relying on a managed services partner as an extension of its in-house team, the Railroad Company’s IT group gained proactive, automated diagnostics and restoration capabilities, and fast resolution that prevents and minimizes downtime.
Solutions are monitored around the clock, freeing the Railroad Company from having to staff during off hours. Most of the time, alarms proactively catch issues before end customers even notice. When a lightning strike took out a phone switch, the Railroad Company’s IT staffers were hundreds of miles away. Fortunately, the Partner team arrived on site to resolve the problem at least a day sooner than the internal team could.
The same goes for outages of network cards, which the Partner replaced within a few hours. Without such onsite support, the Railroad Company would likely suffer from longer downtime on phones—a critical lifeline. The Company additionally engages the Partner to implement relevant software updates and upgrades. A subscription to all upgrades frees the IT team from having to watch for notices and from the hassle of seeking approvals from Finance for every update or upgrade, which means updates are deployed in a timely manner and at the most convenient times.
The Railroad Company benefits from a close relationship with its Partner, which provides a single point of contact for global alarm receipt and trouble reporting. Additionally, a Partner manager oversees escalations across all locations, delivers reports and organizes regular meetings. Each month, key members of the Railroad Company meet with the Partner team to discuss any alarms and ways to reduce such instances in the future.
So, next time you get an alert in the middle of the night from a distant location, consider your options—even if you’re not working on the railroad.
How costly was your last outage? How quickly can you resolve software and hardware issues? Who supports your remote location? What does your alarm resolution system look like? Let me know your thoughts. Follow me @SandraSithomso