Phone System Redundancy at the Service Desk

Telephone off the hook

Despite the availability of multimedia channels such as email, text, chat, and web forms, when it comes to contacting the service desk, a vast majority of end users still prefer to pick up the phone and speak to a live agent. For that reason, keeping phone lines active and on redundant, high availability telecom systems is essential. These days, technology allows for any service desk agent to log into the telecommunications system from any location with high-speed Internet access. This enables personnel to receive VoIP calls from their home offices which is especially important in the event, for example, of a severe weather disturbance.

From an infrastructure standpoint, the best way to ensure high-availability typically starts with establishing a level of redundancy at all mission critical points either with automatic failover or preconfigured hardware with manual failover. Key elements of a DR response at the service desk often start with the following:

  • ISP redundancy through multiple carriers
  • A mobile force properly trained to work from secure home offices in the event of site failure at the call center
  • Automated scripts to streamline and expedite the recovery process
  • Automatic failover redundancy at the firewall/VPN layers
  • Alternate power source (UPS, etc.)
  • Disaster procedures defined and documented with specific roles and responsibilities to key players

VoIP telecommunications and data interaction occur via private line or web access to the data center. All service desk agents have the capability to answer calls from remote locations, using web browsers to communicate. Personnel supporting clients from the call center communicate via redundant, bonded T1 service supplied by multiple carriers. Long distance calls via 800 numbers are typically dedicated to service desk clients and managed by a telecom provider who can redirect the failed 800 number’s inbound contacts to the call center’s internal PBX.

Even if service desk clients are using their own phone system, calls are still redirected via a dedicated 800 number to ABS service desk agents identifying themselves as members as an operational wing of the client’s IT team. That way, if the client experiences an internal phone outage or if their phone system is inaccessible due to scheduled maintenance, end users can be instructed to call that dedicated 800 number directly. Since service desk agents verify authorized end users via employee ID, a published number getting into the wrong hands is a non-issue.

Also, in the event of a phone outage, the telecommunications provider has the ability to re-route incoming calls to another PRI line at an alternate location or to a traditional land-line system, a process that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. And of course, wireless phone communication to all engineers and key managers adds an additional layer of redundancy where voice communication is preferred. But in those rare events that telecom redundancy is not an option, end users can be notified of phone outages, both planned and unplanned, and status updates via scrolling alerts at the top of the ITSM platform’s end user portal, assuming those capabilities are available. Email notifications can also be sent to all impacted groups and individuals until phone service is resumed; however significant emphasis should be placed on those alternate forms of communication with the service desk that are still available.

Says ABS’s Director of Operations, Hector Gonzalez, “Since the number one priority at the service desk is to make technology work for our clients, leveraging alternate communication tools such as text, chat, email, and web forms will remain part of that Level 1 support formula. So long as one of these multimedia channels is fully functional, our agents will deliver the resolution even when the phones aren’t ringing.”