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Is the Cloud Safe for Call Centers?

The recent crash of Google's cloud-based Blogger service, leaving it's customers locked out of their accounts, begs the question "Is the Cloud safe for call centers?" As we see more and more integrations of hosted solutions – from IVR to workforce management – reliability will be a growing issue.

When the Google Blogger article appeared on ZDnet, ICMI reached out to its call center cognoscenti for the word on cloud reliability.

Brent Haferkamp, ICMI Certified Associate
Of course, we’ve all  seen sites with limited IT support (as many currently are) or support that can’t be an expert in every hardware/software combination that the company owns that have had servers down for this amount of time – and longer, especially in what is deemed by non-call center IT as “non-critical” (like QA servers, WFM servers, etc.). 
For example, a very large outsourcer recently did an upgrade of its WFM solution (they are – or at least are for the time being—the number one client for this vendor) and was down over a week. The vendor, including the president of the vendor company, was on site for the issue. 

Once, in my own contact center, I had a two-week-old IVR down for almost two weeks (until the vendor finally admitted it was a bad box and replaced it)…luckily it was off season and the other seven were enough to handle the load without issue.

These outages happen all the time in house…they just don’t get published.

Brad Cleveland, Senior Advisor, Co-Founder of ICMI
The challenge is that when you put enough cloud in the recipe, there are vulnerabilities any way you slice it.  But we're all deciding it's worth it. This is all a part of transition from the fading circuit telecom days (.99999 percent uptime – not flexible, not cool, and not going to fail) to the emerging data/cloud world.  I think we're past the point of no return. It presents amazing new opportunities with new interdependent vulnerabilities not just for individuals and companies, but for our entire economic ecosystem. 

Jean Bave-Kerwin, ICMI Certified Associate
This has been a very interesting discussion.  I agree that we're probably past the point of no return, but I sure wouldn't want to risk a week's worth of revenue or customer interaction in any case.  I think we should be running dual systems at least for a while.  We've all had Internet outage situations that have impacted us; I guess I'm just risk averse!

What we’re seeing now is growth for cloud/hosted solutions in the call center – and a good amount of success. According to our experts, there’s a lot of value in them. But it seems that redundancy might be the key to success, both with your own operations and those of hosted solutions vendors (they can also carry some of the burden, and if they can’t, keep looking).