In this series we discuss the process of acquiring new technology for your contact centre, and provide some suggestions to ensure a successful project.
This article is the third in the series.
Types of Solution Available
Along with choosing a solution and a vendor that will meet your needs, choosing the appropriate technical architecture is also critical.
You need to assess various considerations, including:
- Would you prefer the solution to be financed by capital or operational expense?
- Do you require flexibility in the size of the solution – do you experience significant peaks and troughs?
- What is the architecture of your existing IT solutions?
- What are the capabilities of your current IT staff?
- What are your business continuity or disaster recovery requirements?
- Are your requirements likely to change in the short to medium term?
- Are you anticipating significant growth?
- How many sites do you have?
The answers to these questions will go some of the way to determining which solution architecture will best suit your needs. There are three main architectures available (plus various combinations of all three).
The first is the traditional Customer Premise-based Equipment (CPE). In this case you buy the solution you require (capital expense) and install the physical hardware and software on your premises. You are entirely responsible for the provision of the physical environment, security, arranging maintenance and upgrades as well as the day-to-day operation and management. The size is relatively fixed and limited by the licences you purchase. If you require redundancy you need to provision a second system for business continuity and disaster recovery.
The second is a hosted solution. Very similar to the CPE solution, but in a facilities-managed data centre. The difference here is that the data centre provider is responsible for the physical environment. The cost can also be an operational expense, but is still largely a fixed cost.
The third alternative is a cloud-based solution. This solution is also physically located away from the customer premises, but whereas the hosted solution is installed in a single data centre, the cloud-based solution is often located in multiple data centres and the load is shared across the centres. This provides an additional level of redundancy because if one data centre fails the load should be distributed across the remaining data centres. It is also very easy to scale up and down because the hardware and software resources are shared amongst all customers – there is no concept of licensing individual users or ports. It is purely operational expense and you only pay for what you use – on a per-call, per agent, per agent/hour, per IVR second or similar basis. While you gain additional elasticity to handle peaks, and the system is always maintained at the latest version, you do lose some control over when upgrades and changes are made as the timing has to suit all users of the system.
A managed service (sometimes referred to as a private cloud) is more a management option than a technical option. While there are a number of different definitions, the most common is fully premise-based equipment (same as the first option above) that is owned and managed by the technology vendor and charged on a monthly operational expense basis.
Some companies also deploy hybrid solutions to reduce the size of the links from premise to the data centre. In this case the components that handle the voice paths (and the carrier trunks) are located on the client premises, but the application servers (the “brains” of the system) are located in a remote data centre.
The best design for you will depend on many factors, so ensure the vendor’s solution architects work with your IT team to design the most appropriate solution.
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