The Thriving Enterprise

A call centre is a centralised workcentre, of a business enterprise engaged in telemarketing services, that answers incoming telephone calls from customers or that makes outgoing telephone calls to customers. Call centres are generally set up with [powerful computer systems that most typically include a computer, a telephone set (or headset) hooked into a large telecom switch and one or more supervisor stations. It has been proved beyond doubt that a single large call centre is more effective at answering calls than several smaller centres. The issues in a call centre are generally statistical in nature and is centred around the probability that an arriving call will be answered by an available and appropriately trained person. The real challenge here is the task of forecasting the call arrival rates and then scheduling the number of staff required on duty at particular times of the day. The centralised office concept attempts to rationalise the company’s operations and reduce costs, while at the same time a unified, glossy front office is presented to the outside world. The call centre option works beautifully for large companies with a large, distributed customer base.

Apart from providing vital infrastructures, the main challenge of the Call Centres , is handling the large numbers of workers. Generally the staff work in shifts to suit the time-zone of the countries like UK,USA etc. The entire team can be managed and controlled by a relatively small number of managers and support staff. They are often supported by computer technology that manages, measures and monitors the performance and activities of the workers.Establishment costs are the most significant expense of a call centre operation and even minor deviations from the budgeted path can have significant cost overruns. Here the level of computer and software support are critical in that any time-lag in the monitoring could result in major losses to the company by way of low staff productivity and mishandling of calls.

Call centres are today benefited by new revolutionary technology tools like automatic call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), computer telephony integration (CTI) etc which allow the actions of the computer to be synchronised with what is happening on the phone. In addition, early customer relationship management (CRM) technologies have been heavily deployed in call centres. The latest internet technologies allow virtual call centres to be established across a company’s telecommunications network without physically putting all the people in one office. Similarly telecommunication technologies like Call switching, call monitoring, recording and evaluation of staff response time to customer calls etc are available off-the-shelf for call centre operations.

Typically at a Call Center, the calls are often divided into outbound and inbound. Inbound calls are calls that are initiated by the customer to obtain information, report a malfunction or ask for help. This is substantially different from outbound calls where the agent initiates the call to a customer mostly with the aim to sell a product or a service to that customer. Owing to the highly technological nature of the operations in such offices, the close monitoring of staff activities is easy and widespread.

It is heartening to note that a recent survey by an UK consultancy firm has found that call centres in India are much professionally managed than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. This is possible due to the fact that the typical employee in an Indian call centre is a graduate. Call Centre training centres have mushroomed and professional training is today available for the career option of a call centre executive. The staff of the call center is often organized in tiers, with the first tier being largely unskilled workers who are trained to resolve issues using a simple script. If the first tier is unable to resolve an issue the issue is escalated to a more highly skilled second tier. In some cases, there may be third or higher tiers of support. It is often argued that the kind of close monitoring of Call Centre staff and the measurement of performance can lead to deficient customer service, apart from infringing on the privacy of the call centre staff.

Benefits of Data Centre Co-Location

Introduction

Data centres fall strictly in the business to business arena so the term data centre is therefore alien to the majority of the general public. Data centres are effectively large computer rooms or facilities dedicated to the accommodation of computer and networking hardware and associated telecommunications equipment. Data centres provide guaranteed regulated power supplies, hardware and network security and internet connectivity. They are usually located separately from the main business headquarters and can be owned by the business itself or by a 3rd party specialist service provider. Co-location and co-location hosting are terms used to describe the location of equipment for multiple clients within the same data centre. The huge growth in the demand for co-location services over the last couple of decades has been fuelled by the increasing reliance of businesses on mission critical IT systems.

Here are eight of the most compelling reasons for a business to outsource the housing and management of its computing facilities.

1. Cost savings
In house computer hardware often occupies precious space in prime office locations with rents at £50 per square foot per annum being commonplace in London. Locating computing facilities remotely allows this prime space to be better used. If office space is a constraint, then re-locating computer facilities may even allow the deferment of a whole office relocation. The cost of computing facilities extends far beyond the cost of the rent of course and may include a substantial energy bill for air conditioning, additional staffing to maintain the facilities and so on. Access to 3rd party data centre expertise may also provide the catalyst for server consolidation, enabling a reduction in the overall investment in computing hardware. It may also be possible to negotiate lower insurance premiums for business interruption policies as insurers encourage and treat favourably those businesses that take more responsibility for managing their own risk.

2. Budgeting and planning
Closely related to the benefit of cost reductions, yet a distinct benefit, is the advantage of predictability of costs that automatically ensues from contracting fixed cost 3rd party services over a period lasting typically several years. This removes all the risks of having to meet unforeseen costs and removes the headache of financial planning for the IT department.

3. Resilience
Data centres have redundancy built-in to their hardware and telecommunications infrastructure so, in the event of failure of any component of hardware or service such as power failure, back up systems can provide virtually a 100% up time guarantee. Examples of resources increasing resilience are uninterruptible power supplies, dual power feeds, virtual server hosting and automated back up procedures. Many service providers have contractual arrangements with other data centres, so under extreme circumstances, data centres can be switched which is another example of built-in redundancy.

4. Performance
As with any specialist service, data centres are very narrowly focussed on their service and are likely to have invested far more in their facilities, hardware and expertise (or intellectual capital) than most small and medium-sized businesses could afford and therefore are able to provide a higher capability than businesses could develop themselves. Service arrangements with data centres are invariably also governed by an SLA (service level agreement) which binds the co-location service provider to maintain minimum standards of service on pain of penalties.

5. Scalability and flexibility
As the requirements of a business change, so too can the resources used to satisfy those requirements, without the client having to reinvest every time either to keep up with the latest technology or to satisfy the demands of an expanding business.

6. Support
Data centres have help desks manned, in accordance with the SLA, by experts available at all times which means that you will not find yourself without support every time your IT manager is on leave.

7. Enable management to focus on core competencies
For any business to success in today’s fiercely competitive world, resources must be managed and directed so they are used most effectively in the pursuit of the organisation’s goals. This means that as much of the organisation’s management and human resources should be directed at the core business activities. Outsourcing the management of the IT infrastructure removes one more unnecessary distraction.

8. Business continuity planning
Data centres mean not having all your business eggs in one basket and therefore are an inherently effective component of any risk management strategy and disaster recovery plan. Physical advantages of co-location include higher protection in the form of air-conditioning systems in the server rooms, individually lockable server racks, fire suppression systems, surveillance cameras, anti-intruder systems and back up hardware. Network security should be addressed by the latest firewall technology and back up procedures.

History of the Data Centre

The Beginning of the Computer Era – A Dedicated Room

While the data centre as we know it was perfected during the dot com boom of the late 1990s, data centres actually have their roots in the earliest beginnings of the computer era. Early computer systems, which were huge, room-sized machines, required a lot of space and a controlled environment. The complexity of operating and maintaining these machines also led to the practice of secluding them in dedicated rooms.

Computer security became a consideration during this era. These early computers were incredibly expensive, and many of them were used for military purposes or important civilian business ventures. A dedicated room allowed businesses and organizations to control access to the machine.

Another factor influencing the trend toward separate computer rooms was the need to keep systems cool. Early computer systems used a great deal of power and were prone to overheating. Dedicated rooms could be climate controlled to compensate for the tendency to overheat.

These early computers required a multitude of component-connecting cables, and these cables needed to be organized. This led to the creation of some of the data center standards we know today. Racks were devised to mount equipment, and cable trays were created. Also, floors were elevated to accommodate these early computers.

The Advent of Microcomputers

During the 1980s, the computer industry experienced the boom of the microcomputer era. In the excitement accompanying this boom, computers were installed everywhere, and little thought was given to the specific environmental and operating requirements of the machines.

Organization of information was difficult to achieve, and lost data became a major concern. Information technology teams were developed to maintain and install these early microcomputers, but clearly, the industry needed a solution.

The “Data Center” is Created

Soon the complexity of information technology systems demanded a more controlled environment for IT systems. In the 1990s, client-server networking became an established standard. The servers for these systems began to find a home in the old dedicated computer rooms left from the early computers.

In addition to putting servers in a dedicated room, this time period saw the invention of the hierarchical design. This design came about through the easy accessibility of inexpensive networking equipment and industry standards for network cabling.

The term “data center” first gained popularity during this era. Data centres referenced rooms which were specially designed to house computers and were dedicated to that purpose.

The Internet Data Centre

As the dot com bubble grew, companies began to understand the importance of having an Internet presence. Establishing this presence required that companies have fast and reliable Internet connectivity. They also had to have the capability to operate 24 hours a day in order to deploy new systems.

Soon, these new requirements resulted in the construction of extremely large data facilities. These facilities, called “Internet data centres” were responsible for the operation of computer systems within a company and the deployment of new systems. These large data centres revolutionized technologies and operating practices within the industry.

However, not all companies could afford to operate a huge Internet data centre. The physical space, equipment requirements, and highly-trained staff made these large data centres extremely expensive and sometimes impractical.

Now – Private Data Centres, Improved Standards

Private data centres were born out of this need for an affordable Internet data centre solution. Today’s private data centres allow small businesses to have access to the benefits of the large Internet data centres without the expense of upkeep and the sacrifice of valuable physical space.

These days, operating and constructing data centres is a widely-recognized industry. New standards for documentation and system requirements add a high level of consistency to data centre design. Disaster recovery plans and operational availability metrics ensure the reliability of today’s data centre systems.

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How the Cloud Is Fundamental to Smart Mobile Computing

A large number of the apps that we all use on our mobile phones and tablets incorporate a variation of cloud computing in some sense, because many of them fundamentally rely on the idea that they are providing us with a packaged-up experience of what are essentially web applications. This approach to mobile apps allows the user to access an array of content and functions which they could not physically store on their mobile device. Therefore, cloud computing on mobile devices has fairly specific benefits for mobile users in comparison to users of PCs to the extent that cloud computing is core to the development of computing itself on such ‘smart’ devices, particularly since the launch of 3G networks and the ability to transfer data that that offers. What’s more, with the advent of the higher bandwidths of 4G upon us, the concept of maximising mobile data and processes within the cloud – and minimising the amount stored on individual devices – is only set to carry on expanding.

The list of the categories and types of applications that use and/or rely on cloud computing is extensive to say the least but the following looks at some of the primary examples of how the cloud has revolutionised our mobile lives.

Email

Beyond business use, the vast majority of email users access their email from webmail services – that is, email services where the information (the emails and contacts etc) is stored on the remote servers of the email provider. Most users simply log on to this service; others synchronise a desktop client with it whilst a few may opt to download their data fully to their desktop. However, the data essentially originates, and for the most part is stored, in the cloud. Therefore, such services are primed for use across multiple devices and locations, including mobile use. Mobile operating systems come with built in email clients which allow users to synchronise their email so that they can work with it on their mobile/tablet and any changes they make will be synchronised with the service provider’s servers and, consequently, any other devices that access that email account (and vice versa). In other words, users can for example draft an email on their phone on the way in to work then finish and send it from their desktop once they are in work.

Contacts/Address Books

With the use of email becoming so popular on mobile devices many email services allow users to synchronise their email contacts with their mobile too so that their email and phone and social contacts can be unified in one place with the underlying data being stored in the cloud. If they update the details on one contact record the update will appear on all of their other synced devices when they view that record.

Unified Communications & Social Networking

Mobile computing is at the forefront of both the social networking revolution and a communications revolution called unified communications (UC) – the idea that multiple channels of internet based communication such as email, voice over the internet (VoIP) and video conferencing, are integrated into one service. Both social networking and UC fundamentally rely on the use of the cloud to store data and communications and the internet to transfer them so that they are accessible across devices and locations.

Instant messaging (IM) is an integral facet of both and in many cases can be purely cloud based so that conversations can be continued across different devices and on the move as an alternative to more traditional mediums such as email and text messaging – the latter of which is particularly restricted to individual devices. Apple, for example have even integrated instant messaging into their default text messaging app so that messages are sent as IMs when sent between two iPhones. On the other hand, a prime example of UC within the personal space is Skype, a multi channel communications service which provides access to your account from any device and will sync conversations across each.

Social networking services such as Facebook, Google + and Twitter are an often overlooked but powerful example of cloud computing as all of the information you share on them is stored and accessed via the cloud including communications, recommendations and shared media (photos, videos etc). As such, they have become one of the primary communication platforms for users of mobile devices as they are able to share their experiences with their friends and see what they are up to whilst they are on the move. For many people, mobiles have, thanks to cloud computing become the primary way of accessing their social networks because of the ease and flexibility with which they can be used.