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Contact centre fire underlines disaster recovery importance

A recent fire at a South African contact centre has underlined the importance of a disaster recovery and backup plan, reports Jasco.

The fire caused significant damage to Blake’s call centre building in Durban, South Africa. However, a fast, efficient recovery saw 90% of agents back at work by the next Monday morning, albeit at different locations, thanks to quick action by every one of Blake’s team, including founder Howard Blake; Blake’s Interactive team; and partners like Jasco ICT.

Says Paul Fick, Divisional MD at Jasco Enterprise: “Blake is an important client with whom we have developed a close relationship in the 10 years that we have provided the organisation with their call centre infrastructure including an Avaya contact centre platform, a dialler, and a voice recording solution.

As Blake’s Durban call centre building housed call centre agents for Blake and the JD Group, a significant shareholder in Blake, as well as all the contact centre servers, diallers and recorders for Blake and the entire JD Group Financial Services contact centre, the fire was a potentially debilitating disaster for the organisation. We reacted quickly, mobilising all staff at our Durban branch as well as others at our head office to help with disaster recovery.”

When the fire started in the offices of another company in the building, sprinklers and water from the fire fighting teams quickly doused the flames. However, this caused significant water damage, with Blake’s offices under five or six inches of water. Smoke from the fire added to the challenge and, in addition, the gas-based fire suppression system in the data centre triggered, leaving the data centre saturated, and uninhabitable.

While Blake’s interactive team worked fast to remotely get servers back up and running, it was determined by Sunday morning that no-one would be able to enter the offices. Staff had to be relocated to keep the call centre support services for Blake’s clients and the JD Group working.

“The Jasco Enterprise team set to work to order headsets and telephone instruments from our suppliers, couriering everything from Johannesburg to Durban. These were deployed to the alternative sites and our technology teams were onsite to install them and get them working. It was a considerable feat. No production time was lost and by the following Friday, all 180 JD Group staff were also up and running,” says Fick.

A key success factor, stresses Fick, was that Blake had its disaster recovery and business continuity plans in place, staff roles were clearly defined and everyone, including trusted partners, knew how to respond to get the business back up and running quickly and efficiently.

There was an element of luck on our side, but mostly the fast recovery was thanks to the extremely professional way that this disaster was managed. Says Fick: The diesel generators started up when electricity was cut, giving the Blake team time to close down the servers in an orderly fashion, while the CCTV system fed real-time information on the status in the data server room throughout. In addition, the call centre operations and management teams could act on the information, putting in action the disaster recovery plan to deal with the physical and consequential damage.”

Howard Blake and the management team at Blake were on the scene from Saturday evening until the late hours of Sunday evening. On the following Monday it was work as usual at Blake. The call centres were back online, working and functioning as usual.

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