Within any BPO facility, technical experts are required to keep the engine running from behind the scenes. Contact centers, especially, are completely dependent on their communications and network infrastructure, so ensuring business continuity is a never-ending, essential task.
But how exactly do the technical wizards keep things running so smoothly?
Recipe for a Successful Operation
“There are three major elements to designing a network for the BPO industry: availability, confidentiality, and integrity,” said Peter Fischer, Director of Network Infrastructure at Transparent BPO.
When Fischer first joined the company, he noticed that it was reliant on Belize’s local internet infrastructure, which he found to be unreliable. His first move was to overhaul this setup by moving all mission critical infrastructure, such as servers and core routers, into Miami, providing a much higher uptime rate.
“We also have a fully redundant network infrastructure in place, not only on private lines, but on all equipment too, so if a switch fails there is a redundant system to take over,” said Fischer. “Internally, we have achieved a 99.999% uptime rate on our core network, which translates into only 120 seconds of downtime per year.”
Mexican contact center provider Beliveo first analyses client needs prior to selecting network technologies. “Once we understand what our clients require from our service, we can implement the right tech,” said Ivan Pedraza, Technology Manager at the firm. “In every case, it has to be simple, scalable, flexible, redundant, and reliable.”
Day-to-day Challenges of Business Continutity
The main responsibility of IT and network managers is to continuously supervise the health of the infrastructure, essentially keeping the lights on while working proactively to prepare for a blackout. Oftentimes, communications and internet providers experience unavoidable service failures, so BPOs need business continuity contingencies in place to be prepared for this inevitable downtime.
“Every month, we test all infrastructure with simulated outages,” said Pedraza. “We need redundancy in place that will respond immediately and automatically in order to prevent downtime. We have two carriers for internet services and two for Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) services, so that if one goes down we can switch immediately to the other. We chose Verizon as our main provider and Level 3 as the backup, because both have different paths from Guadalajara into the US.”
Besides relying on multiple network providers for business continuity, BPOs also install duplicate servers, routers, and firewalls as instant backups if any of them should fail, but it doesn’t stop there.
For a company with multiple locations in the region, the challenge is not to just deal with daily incidents, but to also be aware of consumption fluctuations and cyber events, requiring constant collaboration with client technical teams to maintain interoperability at peak efficiency.
“In keeping downtime to a minimum, the biggest toolset we leverage is within our monitoring systems,” said Corey Fraser, Head of IT North America at HGS. “We’re a virtual extension of our clients’ networks, so uptime by itself is not enough, you also have to consider external factors that increase consumption in real time, so capacity management is key for business continuity, along with ensuring PCI and HIPAA compliance, equipment, and security measures are up to date.”
Finding the Right Technical Talent
Transparent BPO operates two buildings in Belize with a combined seat total of 1,000. Fischer himself manages a team of eight people, from system administrators and network administrators, to programmers and technicians, all of which hail from universities in Belize and are being trained in house.
“It’s hard to find IT staff outside of the US as you don’t have the same pool of talent to choose from,” said Fischer. “The people we have chosen for our network infrastructure team are extremely loyal and very dedicated, and they see the impact that the company has on Belize, so there is more of a team-building spirit. Our in-house training is comprised of courses to advance their careers, mitigating the lack of experience that is sometimes an issue in countries like Belize.”
The company’s internal IT team is now focusing on PCI compliance and security awareness training, bringing the company in line with the confidentiality side of network management, while application firewalls and intrusion detection solutions handle the integrity factor.
At Beliveo, the networking and IT team in Guadalajara and Monterrey is comprised of 23 people, each with qualifications in IT, expertise in specific brands (HP, Windows, Cisco, etc.), or certifications and experience with networking. “Each of them have a career path to follow, so we give them access to an IT training platform that allows them to continue acquiring new certifications,” said Pedraza.
For HGS, with its team of around 70 people in the Americas region, the hunt for talent starts with product knowledge, followed by enterprise grade network knowledge, so the company focuses on finding a good fit and then developing them with learning tools.
“While we work with local colleges to find qualified graduates, we also have a number of contractors on hand, as well as global pool of talent in other facilities that we can leverage for remote support,” said Fraser. “There’s a lot of emphasis on the ability to apply deductive reasoning and understand the network conditions, as well as being able to react quickly to avoid disruption. Furthermore, within the technology sector there are always new practices and tools to be aware of, so the real challenge for the whole team is staying ahead of the curve.”