Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to achieve less than 1 minute downtime (99.9999% uptime) a year?

If you have a minute, I'd like to invite your to thinks about this:

If a cloud vendor offers 99.9% uptime, it would be about 9 hours of downtime in a year, business continuity would be affected. How does a 24x7 call center using (does not offer SLA) log cases when it goes down for 9 hours?

What if we have another independent Standby Cloud application that can cover the 9 hours at 99.9% uptime, or whenever the primary system goes down?
If my math is correct, it goes like this:
  • The downtime for the primary system: 0.1% x 365 days x 24 (hours) = 8.76 hours.
  • If the Standby Cloud application has 99.9% uptime, or 0.1% down time, during the 8.76 hours of coverage, it would be 8.76 hours x 0.1% = 0.0876 hours =31.5 seconds
  • The 31.5 seconds downtime translates into 99.9999% up time.

A Standby Cloud application can dramatically enhancement your SLA to a level that you might have never heard of.
If you think this subject is interesting, you should definitely check out our 24x7 Standby application.

Ray Zhu
Founder, Hubcase

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Deficiency in IT redundancy

Recently, an IT friend told me that the whole Oracle/Siebel system used by his company's hundreds of 24/7 call center agents has come to a standstill one week after a software upgrade. There was no going back because the amount of new transactions happened after the upgrade that has change data structure. Unfortunately, with sympathy to the situation, I am not here to solve the application problem itself. However,  I do have a solution for the business, allowing business activitiy to continue without waiting for the software problem to be solved.

What I am trying to address: the deficiency in traditional redundancy, fail-over, disaster recovery, standby and fault tolerance, and additionally, how to address the deficiency to prevent massive BUSINESS downtime.

To minimize application downtime or outages, businesses invested heavily in disaster recovery, including redundancy and fail-over infrastructure and technology. The redundant or fail-over solutions often replicate the identical application over identical hardware, then spread them geographically. While good at covering hardware, power and network failures, such redundant replica are still highly correlated because they are running the same application ,therefore the replicate will go down with the master software application if the cause of a problem is the software application. It could be as simple as a bad version upgrade like the one mentioned above.

It's actually pretty simple if you separate software from hardware

  1. Businesses run on software applications.
  2. Software applications run on hardware.
  3. Failed hardware can be replaced with an identical piece of hardware to fix the problem
  4. Failed software CANNOT be replaced with an identical piece of code to fix the problem
Deficiency: today's redundancy and fail-over systems use the same copies hardware and software, it covers hardware failure only. When software fails, redundancy is meaningless.

The answer to true redundancy is an independent app in and independent cloud, such as Hubcase cloud-based 24x7 Standby

Ray Zhu
Founder, Hubcase

Standby Service Cloud

1. What is a Standby Service Cloud?

A standby service cloud is a multi-tenancy Service Desk application in an independent cloud, providing standby, failover, and redundancy for different Service Desk, Help Desk and CRM applications used by different businesses. It allows organizations to continue conduct business when a primary application is out of service, and have the information transacted in the standby application queued and transmitted to the primary application when the primary application is recovered. In essence, it uses independent hardware and application to create redundancy to other application.

2. Why?

Where does your 24x7 call center staff log tickets or cases when Salesforce (NetSuite, Dynamics CRM online, etc) goes down?

In recently years, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings in the “Cloud” by vendors such as Microsoft, and NetSuite have dramatically changed how organizations use information technology. However, one of the problems with the cloud and SaaS offering is the dependency of customers on the cloud vendors, including scheduled and unscheduled downtime and outages. Another problem is that traditional in-house disaster recovery methods don’t apply to those cloud based applications, because organizations don’t have a way to create redundant instances of cloud applications in house, resulting the fail-over to pen, paper, and spreadsheets.

For organizations, the ability to have an independent standby solution is critical. The lack of control and the lack of redundancy are impacting the top line, bottom line, and even survival of businesses.

Hubcase created 24x7 Standby to allow 24/7 call centers using Salesforce, NetSuite, and even in house solutions to continue to log cases, and have the cases automatically sent to your primary system when it comes back.

Ray Zhu
Founder, Hubcase

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hard to believe: Your CRM is a liability to your customer satisfaction

Your CRM or service desk is a liability to your customer satisfaction. You don’t believe it, but it’s true and simple: your CRM or service desk is ISOLATED, but service delivery often requires vendors or partners to help address issues (vendor escalation). Those partners have their own systems that are not connected to your system. As a results, you make a lot of phone calls to your partners, and keep many sticker notes around your computer monitor.

Let me give you an example to illustrate this: you use a third pary SaaS (hosted, cloud) service desk to support your customers, one of your customers complains “system logs me out in 5 minutes” and files a ticket in your hosted service desk system. After researching, you realized this is not a limit set within your org, you will have escalate this issue to the SaaS provider by calling them,  they will record a ticket in their system, and then you save the information told by the vendor on the sticker note on the monitor as seen in this picture:

The problem with the example above: there is 1 issue, but we have 3 "systems" tracking it: your service desk, your vendor’s service desk, and the third system is the sticker system around the monitor.

This manual escalation is costing organizations in two ways.

        Customer Satisfaction. Manual escalation means delay, inaccuracy, lack of responsibility and ownership of the problem. As we all know, customer satisfaction will ultimately impact your future sales and even determine the fate of an enterprise.

        Cost of manual escalation. One study estimates that a case required vendor escalation costs 20 times of a case that’s resolved by the first call. As a results, nearly half of the resource is consumed to manual vendor escalation.

Nevertheless, an estimated 25% of SaaS application issues require escalation to vendor (the SaaS provider)

A new startup Hubcase is launched to change all this. Hubcase Exchange is effectively the “postal office” for an existing CRM or Service Desk systems to “mail” (escalate) an issue to another system used by a partner organization. Hubcase pioneers also offers free SaaS Service Desk.

Ray Zhu
Founder, Hubcase

"The customer is god", only when or before the customer pays?

In business, we often talk about "The customer is god". Lately, I realized that there is a bit of hypocrisy, because it's only true when the customer pays or before the customer pays.

Here are some observations:

When you dial a company and want to talk to customer support, you often hear: "For sales, press 1". Have you ever heard: "For customer support, press 1"? You'd lucky if there is an option for support.

You most likely get to talk to a live SALES person soon after pressing 1, how ofter you get to talk to a live support person without listening to other options (e.g. contact /support on the web, check the knowledge base)?

There are many EDI document types defining sales transactions in supply chain as seen here, but none of address customer support? Where is the support chain and support chain automation?

It appears to me that customer support and service is grossly overlooked in the past. That will cost organizations dearly in this social media age, when customers are gaining more and more access and leverage in the relationship with vendors.

Hubcase pioneers SUPPORT Chain, it automates issue escalation and interaction between you and your vendors or partners, and also offers free SaaS Service Desk.

Ray Zhu
Founder, Hubcase

Be aware, your cloud vendor is a liability to your customer satisfaction

One thing that I learned over the years working in IT environment: As far as providing excellent services to your customers, you can try to be perfect, but you are limited by the products and services you are getting from your vendors.

For example: your users complain desktop system crashes after overnight automatic OS update. Obviously it's the vendor's problem, but you are responsible for it as far as your users are concerned. In other words, it impacts your SLA and customer satisfaction. Some of the limitations can be overcome and risks can be mitigated via redundancy, disaster recovery, backup, testing etc, while others are not as simple.

An area of particular interesting is cloud computing. If you use a 3rd party cloud app serving your customers, and the provider's SLA is basically the best you can achieve if you are perfect, and your brand, customer satisfaction, loyalty can be damaged as a result of the vendor's inability. One would argue that even if the app is in house, you are subject to down time. It is true if we are talking about hardware issue, but there are a lot of human delays that don't even account in SLA. For instance, you use a 3rd party cloud based customer service software, your users are complaining to you the app does not recognize correct passwords, you will need to contact the vendor. The provider may take days to resolve the problem depending on the skill level of the support personnel at the vendor, yet the vendor may not violate SLA at all so long as they keep interacting with you. Imaging the app is your e-commerce app.

Be aware, your cloud vendor is liability to your customer satisfaction.

Ray Zhu
Founder, Hubcase

Hubcase automates issue escalation and interaction between you and your vendors or partners, and also offers free SaaS Service Desk.