Who's Minding the Data Store?
A responsible babysitter is worth her weight in gold. The opportunity to enjoy a night away is a rare treat for most parents. That relaxation is only possible if the person they entrust to care for their kids has proven her trustworthiness with their precious children.
For call centers, data is the most precious commodity. How, then, do you entrust your "child" to a vendor in a hosted call center arrangement? You start by getting the right information about data security and ownership.
The onus of ownership
Management at many companies have concerns about who owns the data if it is turned over to a hosting vendor. They understand that a hosted solution may save them money, but they never want to lose control of their data.
The most critical step in protecting your data is to go with a trustworthy vendor with a solid history of hosting. Quite simply, in any reputable partnership, your company retains ownership of your data. While the vendor may host your data on its physical equipment, the intellectual property remains firmly in your hands.
Also ask about data access. Your contract should stipulate regular access to your data for purposes outside your call center applications (such as sales or marketing queries).
Another question to ask is how the vendor returns data to you at the end of the hosting agreement. Planning for this separation ahead of time guarantees secure data when the vendor returns it to you.
Before you select a vendor, also closely scrutinize the day-to-day operations at the potential vendor's facility. Most vendors require that techs not only use some sort of key to gain entry to the server room, but also sign a log stating their reason for entering that room. Only those people involved in data maintenance should have access to the server room where your data is stored.
Data storage security levels
Many company leaders also worry about data storage, specifically how the vendor separates your data from other clients' data. In their worst nightmares, call center executives picture an unwieldy, oversized database with their customer information mixed willy-nilly with data from hundreds of clients.
When you ask the vendor about this, you'll find the reality of a hosted solution is far more secure. How the vendor stores your data depends on the level of security your industry requires and how much money you wish to save. There are four levels of data separation to consider.
At the first level of data separation, the minimum level, your data resides in the same database, and the vendor stores it on the same server as other clients' data. The vendor separates your data from other client data with a unique client ID. When your call center agents log in to that database, your client ID grants them access to only your customer information. The same goes for other clients on the same database. That unique key creates a virtual wall between your data and neighboring data in the database.
The second level of separation is a dedicated database instance. Your data resides on the same server as other data, but the vendor holds your data in its own protected database.
A dedicated server is the next step up in data separation. Your data has its own database and separate physical home on a server. However, when companies reach this level, they start to realize less cost savings. A dedicated server means IT staff must maintain and secure that server just for your company.
Some industries like healthcare and financial services require a separate, dedicated environment, the highest level of data separation. That company's data is stored in its own database, on its own server, using its own network connection.
Data security versus cost-effectiveness
How can companies that require higher levels of separation still achieve cost savings? For many companies the infrastructure and IT staff necessary to obtain these levels of security require more resources and financing than is justified or feasible. For those organizations that put a high value on enhanced security yet do not have the necessary resources, a hosted solution is still a cost-effective and wise investment.
Unleash your potential with a hosted solution
The IT expertise a hosted call center vendor provides is invaluable for many companies. Growing companies--or even established ones--sometimes can't keep up with the rapid pace of technology. Instead of letting technology requirements limit your potential, partner with a hosted solution vendor to facilitate your success.
Ensure that the vendor has gained experience in all aspects of data maintenance by working with clients in a variety of industries. That experience should include:
Risk-sensitive disaster recovery systems and processes
Redundancy of data in dual locations
Fault-tolerant system components
A tiered software quality assurance process
24x7 application monitoring and technical support
Hosted solutions enable companies to adopt sophisticated contact center functionality without the complexities and investments required to implement the solution on site. While the highly qualified and trustworthy "babysitter" keeps a close eye on your data, you can focus on the big picture of your company's limitless future.
About the Author
Theresa Van Laeken is product director for Cincom Systems's Synchrony Customer Experience Management suite. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit www.cincom.com.