Hurricanes: Preparation, Response, and Free Emergency Communications

Once again, we’re reminded of nature’s catastrophic force. Over 30,000 people have fled Houston due to Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to make landfall in Texas in nearly 60 years. Thousands still have not been able to return to their homes and businesses. The region experienced over 50 inches of rainfall in one week alone, the equivalent of 33 trillion gallons of water. An estimated $190 billion in damage has been caused, making Harvey the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. In its wake is Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, set to blow through the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico and potentially the U.S. southeast coast and Gulf Coast in the coming days.

These back-to-back tragedies are indescribable, yet they illustrate the relentless bravery and compassion of countless individuals. These unsung heroes prove that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, no matter the level of distress. We’ve seen people come together to form human chains to rescue residents from homes and cars. Business owners are turning storefronts into secure shelters for hundreds. Thousands of volunteers continue to wade through high waters to save abandoned pets and livestock. These are leaders, advocates and change-makers. These are the people who stand up, show up and make a difference. We’re proud to say that these are the people of Avaya.

The effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are devastating, but there’s endless heart behind the hurt. As we have so many times before, Avaya stands in solidarity with all of those affected by these events. Not only do we extend our deepest thoughts and condolences, but we’ve got countless boots on the ground to help lighten the burden of those who have been impacted.

Stepping up and Stepping Out

Avaya team members nationwide are proactively responding to Harvey and its continuing aftermath in Texas and Louisiana. And now with the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irma, this same team has picked up even more members to prepare our customers and partners with the best information available. This team consists of leads for communications, field response, customer offers, philanthropy, parts readiness, and tiger teams focused on customers and partners.

We’d be remiss to not acknowledge the incredible work of Avaya employees who have been volunteering as part of rescue efforts. These are just a few of those making an impact:

  • Roger Mitchell of channel sales is currently acting as part of the Cajun Navy, a Louisiana-based army of volunteer rescuers with over 100 boats and pickups, helping thousands of displaced Texans. Along with Cajun Navy Captain Lee Mouk, Mitchell has helped rescue children and parents stranded in their apartments for days. Survivors were ferried down Westheimer Parkway, a thoroughfare being used as a staging area for emergency operations. “People need help, and we have the resources and ability to assist them,” Mitchell said. “It’s about coming together and doing what we can. We all have a responsibility to reach out.”
  • Greg Emerson, Account Manager for Avaya Government Solutions, is working with FEMA to quickly provide additional software licenses and conference bridges so the disaster agency can efficiently respond to those impacted.
  • Abhishek Bansal of services also played an instrumental role in restoring communications for National Flood Services, the insurance company supporting the intake of claims for Hurricane Harvey.

Protect Yourself and Your Business

As a hurricane’s path may change, we encourage you to stay informed of the forecast and to follow recommendations issued by local authorities. This important preparedness information that may be helpful:

As Hurricane Irma approaches, we want you to know that the Avaya team is by your side and available to help now and after the storm passes. Avaya Global Support Services Center representatives are highly experienced and standing by to help answer questions about your systems architecture, back-up service, and data protection, or to help you order parts for immediate delivery.

Visit Support.Avaya.comfor preparedness information pertaining to your Avaya systems, including step-by-step instructions. For recovery information or post-hurricane service/support, contact us at 1-800-242-2121.

For the most current information on the status of Hurricane Irma and information on precautions you and your family can take in advance, please refer to the FEMA website and tune into local weather and news channels.

We recommend reviewing these six steps, available on Avaya’s support website, as a helpful reminder for final preparations:

  1. Save translations before the emergency event impacts the site. This will protect recent changes from being lost and ensure speed restoration in the event of system damage.
  2. Review safety procedures with all employees prior to the emergency event if possible, and ensure an updated contact list for keeping in touch.
  3. Secure back-up media so that translations won’t become lost or damaged (thus, delaying service restoration). Take a copy of back-ups and any other information off-site.
  4. Print and store a current list configuration of key solutions. If a new system is necessary, this simple precaution will save time in starting the process.
  5. Consider powering your system down before the emergency event impacts the site. Electrical power surges both before and after an emergency event can pose the greatest threat to your system.
  6. Contemplate moving switches/applications if the site is located in an area that may be exposed to damage from the emergency.

Additional Information

Here are more resources for protecting your communications investment and sustaining connectivity throughout the hurricane. We recommend that you print this information, as well as phone numbers.

Free Offer for Emergency Communications via the Cloud

Continued communications are essential to the lifeblood of a company. But many companies and their employees have had their service interrupted or cannot come to the office to work. Avaya and Zang would like to help by offering to provide both Zang™ Spaces and Zang™ Office free for 90 days to affected individuals and companies. This offer is available for all residents and businesses in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. (A billing address within these U.S. states is required. The offer is not available in the Caribbean at this time.)

Zang Office is a complete cloud-based phone service that’s reliable and very simple to set up. It includes every feature you need to continue your business communications. Your business communications aren’t tethered to your physical office.

Zang Spaces is a cloud-based team collaboration and meeting app that lets you conduct team or customer meetings just like everyone was face to face in the office. Just open a web browser and go to the Zang site to sign up now before Irma impacts your communications.

From the Avaya family to yours, stay safe and take all necessary precautions to maximize protection now and during any emergency event. We stand with you.

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Transforming Online Meetings for Team Collaboration

I find it interesting how companies choose to measure team collaboration. Most use surveys, some productivity data, and others standard review processes. Yet team collaboration is about so much more than all of this. If you ask us, it’s about putting people first.

We mean this quite literally. It’s important to provide employees with a suite of face-to-face collaboration capabilities that enable dynamic, real-time team collaboration. Communication staples like voice and chat are surely important, along with the endless other tools teams use to connect and share information. Meeting via video, however, is arguably the best way to collaborate, build relationships, create momentum and build morale. Face-to-face collaboration may not always be needed, but companies will want to make sure they have the best tools in place for when it is.

When done right, online meetings enhance team collaboration in several ways. Consider the most basic of them all: a good part of communication is non-verbal. Being able to observe team members’ body language can help prevent miscommunication and connect across languages and cultures. The technology has also evolved to the point where teams can flexibly share data, documents and other project details via screen sharing or virtual whiteboards. All the while, there’s the opportunity to initiate private chat sessions between team members to discuss simultaneously.

The bottom line: online meetings enable authentic human interaction that delivers real value, time and cost savings, and better business outcomes.

Now, imagine being able to quickly implement an easy-to-use, cost-effective service that skips the capital investment and technical hassle of a traditional video solution. This is exactly what Avaya Equinox Meetings Online offers: a cloud-delivered application that allows users—both employees and outside contacts—to connect with their browsers (no plug-ins required) or mobile apps to effortlessly initiate and/or participate in online meetings. The service places priority back on people, which is where it belongs. Simple as that.

Don’t believe us? Read Nemertes Q4 2017 Enterprise Business Value Matrix for Unified Communications and Collaboration to see what they had to say. If you like what you see, or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our team for more information via our webchat.

The Easy Button for IoT

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you how the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing our world. Stop by any electronics retailer and you will find smart TVs, smart lights, smart refrigerators, and smart thermostats. Open up the brochure for a new car and you will find more space dedicated to intelligent sensors than horsepower. Tour a modern manufacturing plant and you will quickly discover that nearly every machine used in production has been equipped with an IP address. From the consumer to the enterprise, IoT is the driving force of innovation.

Of course, there is a dark side to this revolutionary technology: It’s not all that easy. As a consumer, it’s not a big deal to have one smart dryer that sends a text message when your clothes are dry. It’s also pretty simple to have your refrigerator email you a photo of its contents. In these cases, it’s just you and your machine.

However, what if you had a thousand dryers and ten thousand refrigerators. Let’s take it further. What if you were American Airlines and your fleet of airplanes had five hundred thousand different sensors reporting information every second. Now, imagine that some devices reported data using Bluetooth while others used Zigbee, WiMAX, LTE, WiFi, and NFC. Want to make it even more challenging? These different sensors report data reading using SOAP, REST, WebSockets, and a myriad of proprietary protocols. It quickly becomes an engineering nightmare to collect, store, and take the appropriate actions on this constant stream of data.

One Bite at a Time

Question. How do you eat an elephant? Answer. One bite at a time.

As with an elephant, the best way to conquer the IoT problem is to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Instead of trying to directly deal with all those different sensors and their unique forms of communication, have those sensors talk to gateways that understand multiple IoT dialects. Those gateways could then normalize the data before sending it off to a central cloud repository. Next, wrap the IoT cloud with web services that allow for a consistent and uniform way to access IoT data. Finally, use those web services to create a suite of applications for data visualization, event processing, analytics, etc.

Now, instead of being inundated with terabytes of data that may or may not be important, you only see what you need to see and only when you need to see it. You also have a scalable platform that allows you to add new sensors without having to constantly redesign and redeploy your business applications.

At Arrow Systems Integration (ASI), an Avaya A.I.Connect partner, we call this distributed architecture of sensors, gateways, and cloud services Arrow Connect™.

Arrow Connect

Arrow Connect is a software architecture that connects any device over any protocol to any cloud. Designed and developed by Arrow with security, scale, flexibility, device management, multi-tenancy, hierarchy, open APIs, and extensibility as its core principles, Arrow Connect is helping customers across multiple industries bring their products to market faster.

The Arrow Connect software development kit (SDK) helps enterprises leverage the full capabilities of any device while an extensible software gateway allows developers to add support for protocols and sensors not currently supported by Arrow Connect.

The Arrow Connect cloud platform enables secure provisioning and management of all its devices. It runs on multiple public cloud platforms and seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Azure, IBM Watson Bluemix/Softlayer, Amazon Web Services, and private data center solutions.

Breeze and Zang Workflows

While support for RESTful web services is essential to being an open and secure cloud solution, this comes with a price and that price is complexity. Despite being an open standard understood by most software developers, the fact that you must be a developer to use web services confines them to a very select group of people.

In our quest to find every possible way to simplify IoT, ASI has partnered with Avaya to add support for Arrow Connect IoT devices, sensors, and gateways into Avaya Breeze and the Zang Workflow Designer. With both of these platforms, access to IoT data and Arrow Connect services becomes as simple as drag and drop and non-developers can create powerful IoT solutions in a matter of minutes. Better still, this simplification does not come at the cost of accuracy, reliability, speed, security, or scalability. The visual tasks embedded in these workflow tools employ the same Arrow Connect web services a skilled software developer would use. The difference is that there is no need to learn Java, .Net, Python, or any other programming language.

 

The Easy Button for IoT

With integrated workflow technology, you can quickly turn an idea on a whiteboard into a fully functional and easily deployable solution.

Next Steps

McKinsey recently said that “Any business that fails to invest heavily in the IoT in the next 10 years is unlikely to be able to remain competitive.” While these may seem like strong words, industry after industry has taken them to heart and the IoT revolution is everywhere. As I stated at the beginning of this article, IoT is becoming pervasive for both consumers and businesses.

The simplification, scalability, and security of IoT offered by Avaya and Arrow Systems Integration helps an enterprise to create the solutions it needs to enhance its business, grow its customer base, and stay competitive.

Andrew Prokop is the Director of Emerging Technologies at Arrow Systems Integration. Andrew is an active blogger and his widely-read blog, SIP Adventures, discusses every imaginable topic in the world of unified communications. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ajprokop, and read his blog, SIP Adventures.

News & Solutions at ENGAGE 2018 Show Avaya is Back in the Fight!

Now back from last week’s Avaya ENGAGE 2018, our annual customer and partner event, we’re finding the energy of the conference continues to drive the cadence at Avaya. What a show! In my last blog I wrote about taking time for a bit of introspection—thoughts echoed by our CEO Jim Chirico during his ENGAGE keynote. One of his points really resonated with me: how you get up off the mat. All of us face challenges everyday—most of them are manageable but occasionally an event comes along that can really take the wind out of your sails. Jim pointed out that while we all get knocked down from time to time, what really matters is how you get up. How you carry yourself and how you get ready for the next challenge.

In 2018 Avaya is back up. We’ve got our gloves on and we’ve come out swinging! ENGAGE 2018 was a great opportunity for us to thank our customers and partners for their outstanding support over the past year and give them a taste of the new Avaya: poised, fit, and ready to win.

Our commitment to win was reflected in a number of key announcements from last week, but the headliner was the acquisition of Spoken Communications, a leading innovator in the Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) market. The Spoken platform is based on the Avaya Aura® Platform and Avaya Aura® Call Center Elite, making it a perfect architecture for both Avaya omnichannel offerings, such as Avaya Oceana®, and its Unified Communications as a Service solution. But Spoken brings much more than a proven xCaaS capability to Avaya—the really exciting news is Spoken’s transformative real-time customer experience management applications built on conversational artificial intelligence (AI). A true innovator in AI, Spoken will be accelerating our “Think Avaya, Think Cloud” strategy with solutions that not only provide a clear path for customer migration, but offer improved efficiency, drive more intelligent responses, and gain deeper insight into customer sentiment and experience.

And there was more news at Avaya ENGAGE on the AI front: Avaya introduced Avaya AvaTM , a cloud, messaging-agnostic solution that offers new AI capabilities for social messaging integration and automation of digital interactions. An evolution from our Ava technologies offered for over eight years, Avaya AvaTM delivers AI 2.0 architecture including natural language processing and machine learning. And innovative analytics enables effortless customer engagement through social media and messaging platforms.

Last year we introduced the Avaya Oceana® Solution—our omnichannel context-driven contact center solution. Now we are thrilled to bring the Workspaces environment to our existing customers later this year. This modern agent desktop will take advantage of key elements such as context and customer journey and be made available to our existing customer base, enabling them to transform their CXs.

Avaya also unveiled compelling enhancements to its signature unified communications user experience, Avaya Equinox®. These include:

  • Enhancements to Avaya Equinox Meetings Online, a cloud-based meeting and conferencing service that can be deployed with or without an Avaya infrastructure. The economical, pay-as-you-go cloud model offers the same capabilities as an on-premises deployment, making it easy to take a hybrid approach and mix and match between the two.
  • The new Avaya Equinox Attendant, which enhances customer service and brings the power of unified communications to front-desk operators. We will extend Avaya Equinox to the IP Office platform—providing a single UC platform for all our customers.

Devices remain a key part of Avaya’s strategy to deliver a unique UC Experience Everywhere. Avaya has shipped over 100M phones to date and currently ships almost 10,000 new devices every day. For 2018, Avaya is expanding customer options for UC devices like never before. The Avaya Experience has evolved to be more modern, connected and personalized, and tailored to vertical specific needs such as hospitality and retail. Key additions include:

  • Launching Avaya’s new Essential Experience portfolio of industry leading phones for a state-of-the-art user experience that includes Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
  • Extending the Avaya Vantage Experience to include support for IP Office.
  • Announcing the new Avaya CU-360 Collaboration Unit, which provides easy set up and collaboration in huddle room spaces.

Providing our customers a bridge to the future is a key focus for Avaya this year—and this goal will drive a great deal of our activity. To start, Avaya has launched a number of new promotions:

  • Loyalty2gether: This exciting and bold offer provides all our loyal Communication Server 1000 customers with a path forward to either IP Office or Avaya Aura with full support for the surrounding applications like customer contact and messaging. It’s an opportunity to reinvent what communications, customer experience, and collaboration can mean to your business and to do so with an unprecedented level of experience and investment protection.
  • Oceana NOW: This program focuses on helping organizations evolve and transform their CXs.
  • Automate CC NOW: Through the use of automation capabilities, Avaya is helping organizations modernize for less.

These programs are a prime example of our focus to ensure no customer gets left behind.

ENGAGE 2018 was a very busy week of announcements, meetings and demonstrations, and the energy and enthusiasm of our customers kept us going and underlined our confidence that Avaya is back and ready to do battle. Continue to watch for updates and details on Avaya.com and let us know how the new Avaya can support your plans in 2018.