Travel Agency, Inc. Essay
Travel Agency, Inc.
I. Executive Summary
Travel Agency, Inc. is a large travel firm that was founded in 1999. They pride themselves on personal relationships along with fast and accurate customer service. Travel Agency, Inc. currently has five locations in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago. Travel Agency, Inc. is looking to cut down on operating costs and focus on expanding their business. Part of this growth process is to switch to a telecommuting business model. The original business model consisted of workers in dedicated call centers. This is costly due to other travel agencies having lower overhead through utilization of self-service websites. By eliminating the overhead cost of a building rental, Travel Agency, Inc. will create flexibility, better customer service, and increased productivity. This also creates a home-based virtual office environment. This will help with employee retention, especially those that are experienced and skilled.
Travel Agency, Inc. ultimately wants to move to a leaner and smaller footprint to save costs and to help service their customer base. However, Travel Agency, Inc. will need to overhaul their network to meet the requirements of a telecommuting business model. This new business model ultimately serves to help Travel Agency, Inc. grow and thrive in this highly aggressive and competitive market. By moving to the “Cloud,” travel and accommodation companies gain access to more flexible technologies, which improve uptime and effectiveness of IT assets and employees productivity. This means greater agility, reduced costs, and increased efficiency. More and more travel businesses of all sizes are realizing the major benefits of using cloud computing technologies and desire to implement them in their daily activities.
II. Background Definition
Before the days of the Internet, if a family wanted to travel to some exotic place, they would use a local travel agent or call a travel agency. During the Internet explosion in the 1990’s, the Internet became more of a ubiquitous tool for people as it began entering U.S. homes (as dial-up systems). As the accessibility of the Internet increased, so did the on-line services to customers. The travel industry is faced with many revolutionizing technological changes, such as new applications for mobile and tablet devices to social networks, which are collaborating with each other to allow customers to introduce their services.
All of the tools once solely available to travel agents have now become readily available to anyone with access to the Internet and a search engine. Websites were quickly designed around the idea of providing consumers with quick vacation planning ideas at lower costs. To see some examples of the first websites, go to https://archive.org/web/web.php. With a better web design, Travel Agency Inc. will provide customers with an improved user experience, thus gaining customer loyalty. Websites such as Expedia.com and Travelocity.com are making huge strides into the market and away from travel agency business types like Travel Agency, Inc.
a) Trends and Projections
Today’s on-line travel market is succeeding because the companies are using a more software-centric, online business model termed “E-commerce.” This has become the popular avenue for businesses as it mirrors the ideas of mobility. The sheer amount of data available, coupled with the advanced operating systems and social media platforms, have created new possibilities for E-commerce organizations. The infrastructure of E-commerce has expanded into platforms such as peer-to-peer networking, crowd-sourcing, social websites, and mobile devices and media. E-commerce trends are findings ways to incorporate every aspect of our daily lives into an online package associated with our everyday needs (Fishbein, 2013).
Following the invention of Online Transaction Processing (OLTP), primarily used by the airline, banking, and retail industries during the late 1960s, the introduction of E-Commerce progressed towards a global enterprise design which incorporated commerce for web, mobile and the business-to-customer and business-to-business models. Such designs became more useful as they increased the ability to manage and provide powerful tools to aid potential customers with searching, merchandising, master data management, order management, and web content management.
Such designs present a great benefit to companies because the platforms make available procedures and price alternatives for in-house, hosted, or cloud computing solutions (Hybris Software). Even though the travel market is headed towards more of an online business model, there is still hope for travel agency business types to provide full service, customer-oriented, and personal assistance, such as Travel Agency Inc. The hope comes from potential travel customers who still value the personal relationship between a travel agent and the customer, and value the expertise a travel agent can provide. Such potential travel customers come from travel market areas of Corporate Travel, Luxury Travel, Cruises, and Complicated and Important Trips (Weber, 2013).
Travel agencies such as Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, Kayak, Cheap Tickets, and Priceline have increasingly grown their businesses since their initial introduction. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 15.1 million U.S. tourists booked their travel online in 1999. The numbers since 1999 have quadrupled for American consumers. At the end of 2011, this growth topped the charts at $125 billion in online booking for the United States, according to Jupiter Research Firm (WWW Metrics). As it currently stands, more than 40% of American customers utilize online travel planning tools over the traditional travel agent as these travel websites offer much more in regards to purchasing travel fares, hotels, and rental cars.
Since customers’ demands continue to change and the demands of businesses change, E-commerce must continue to evolve in order to stay competitive in today’s market. Direct competitors who provide similar full service, customer-oriented, and personal assistance for travel customers must be taken into consideration when keeping the personal relationship between a travel agent and the customer. Travel agency businesses that provide this type of service have increased their revenue from $9.4 billion dollars in 2002, to revenues of $17.5 billion dollars in 2011. Projections show employment for travel agents will increase 10% for the years of 2010 to 2020 (Kennerly, 2014).
III. Problem Definitions
The current infrastructure is outdated and needs a number of major changes in order to optimize performance for Travel Agency, Inc. to move forward. There are several subcategories related to this concern which must be addressed within the concept of infrastructure (See Appendix A).
The cabling used within the data and call centers is currently Category 5. While this is moderately functional, bandwidth is throttled for the networked systems. In addition, users create choke points for the data which decreases speed and quality of service. Team B believes upgrading the cabling to a minimum of Category 6 will dramatically improve the throughput for the networked systems, as well as allow for additional scalability for future load impact.
2. Disaster Recovery
Currently, there is a disaster recovery plan that has been established for Travel Agency, Inc. Incorporating a high availability solution through the utilization of the three data centers can mitigate part of the DR risk. By using the existing datacenters, Travel Agency, Inc. would provide the necessary load balancing and redistribution of call volumes as needed if one hub were to go offline.
3. Equipment Life Cycles
The current equipment has not been significantly upgraded over the past five years. This is a strong indication a site survey is necessary to evaluate and replace key items to increase network efficiencies.
The security systems within Travel Agency, Inc. are outdated and do not conform to modern standards. Obsolete security systems pose a significant risk to the organization since the company has access to a great deal of proprietary information and personally identifiable information (PII) of their customers.
c) No Internal VoIP
Travel Agency, Inc. is using an analog PBX-based internal phone system for the call center reservation agents. While this works well for call center based agents, this solution will not translate well to migrating the reservation agent staff to an “at-home” or “telecommute” workforce.
d) Inability to Switch to Telecommute Employees
The current infrastructure and network bears no support for at-home reservation agents. With the lack of proper infrastructure Travel Agency, Inc.’s ability to transfer the agents from call centers to working at-home cannot be accomplished without a major overhaul of the network.
e) Turnover Rate
Travel Agency Inc. is experiencing a 43% employee turnover of its travel agent employees, which relates to the costs of recruiting, acquiring, and training to those former employees. In fact, agent turnover in a call center environment is high in any industry for those who use a call center format. These businesses have tried different ideas to reduce the turnover of its call center agents, such as giving a potential agent a realistic job preview to enable the new hire to understand what the person is getting into, and providing agents variable compensation plans to help with agent motivation. (Adsit, 2013) Travel Agency Inc. is no different from the other companies who want to reduce agent turnover. However, the current network infrastructure is not up to par to enable telecommuter agents, which is why Travel Agency Inc. wants to revamp their network.
Travel Agency Inc. is losing market share due to the increased competition from online sites, such as Expedia who had a 31.6% increase in page views for their website in 2012 (statista, n.d.). Therefore, Travel Agency Inc. is looking towards implementing a low cost E-Commerce site for the purpose of competing against online travel agencies. This too will depend on the current network being revamped since the current WAN connections for Travel Agency Inc. may not be sufficient to handle the traffic load from online transactions as proposed in the Implementation section of this project paper.
g) Reducing Infrastructure Costs
Travel Agency Inc. is incurring costs from maintaining the five separate buildings of its regional call centers, along with each building’s telecommunications facilities. This is another reason the company wants to implement a telecommuter business model with the hope of eliminating the separate regional call center buildings. As mentioned earlier, the telecommuter business model will be dependent upon the proposed revamping of the company’s current network.
h) Call-Volume Efficiency
With the current call center business model, those calls coming in from the company’s travel customers are being divided evenly to each of the five regional call centers by an 800 service provided by Sprint. But the CEO of Travel Agency Inc. has statistics to show the agents are answering incoming calls on the fifth ring, which is a concern for the CEO. One of the objectives with the revamp of the company’s current network is to find a solution to enable incoming calls being answered on the second ring.
IV. Requirements Definition
a) Project Goals and Objectives
Team B will assess the current Customer Relationship Management (CRM) infrastructure and migrate the infrastructure to an updated system. This will ensure the user interface is functional on current operating systems. The migration will include an upgrade to the WAN and scalability to allow for the expanded business and infrastructure of Travel Agency, Inc. The datacenters were inherited from past mergers and operate at maximum capacity. Team B has established a plan to utilize the business impact assessment to establish a baseline infrastructure for current and future datacenter requirements. Finally, Team B is focused on establishing a security and disaster recovery plan which assesses current and future risks, in addition to providing ways to mitigate these risks. This plan will create policies and procedures which will adhere to industry standards for all emergency situations.
b) Project Assumptions
1. Current Configuration of Network
From a high level view of Travel Agency Inc.’s existing network, it consists of five regional call centers located in Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York where agents take inbound calls from customers; whereby inbound calls are routed by a Sprint 800 service that balances the inbound calls between the five regional call centers. The agents create ticket requests using the company’s CRM/Transaction system and transmit the ticket requests to the three regional data centers located in Phoenix, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh.
The Phoenix regional data center receives ticket requests from the Los Angeles and Dallas regional call centers where the ticket requests are combined by the company’s CRM/Transaction system. Ticket request data goes to the company’s Oracle database which resides in an IBM mainframe. Finally, the combined ticket requests are transmitted to any of the industry travel agency clearinghouses located in Los Angeles, St. Louis, and/or Atlanta.
The regional data center located in Atlanta has the same processes as the Phoenix regional data center. The only difference with the Atlanta regional datacenter is that unlike the Phoenix regional data center, it receives only ticket requests from one regional call center located also in Atlanta.
The regional datacenter located in Pittsburgh has exactly the same processes as the Phoenix regional data center. The only difference is that it receives ticket requests from the regional call centers located in Chicago and New York.
Once the industry travel agency clearinghouses have received and made confirmations of the ticket requests, they are transmitted back along the same communication path as the originating ticket requests. This means ticket requests transmitted from the Phoenix data center will receive ticket confirmations for those same ticket requests, in which the ticket confirmations are processed by the CRM/Transaction system and recorded onto the Oracle database. After this process, the ticket confirmations are transmitted back to the original regional call center that created the ticket request, such as the Los Angeles regional call center or the Dallas regional call center.
Once the original regional call center receives the ticket confirmations, agents fax the ticket confirmations to their respective customers’ business offices. Another part of Travel Agency Inc.’s existing network which needs to be mentioned is the company’s Headquarters. The company’s Headquarters has the function of providing a data backup location for the regional datacenter’s, where the data backup process happens every mid-night. The other function of the company’s Headquarters is to restore data to the regional datacenters when encountering problems with their CRM/Transaction system or Oracle database. Also worth mentioning is Travel Agency Inc. operates 24/7; therefore, the whole network must be operational 24/7. See Travel Agency Inc.’s existing network diagram and current workflow in Appendices A and B. 2. Data Volumes, Measurements, and Details
To estimate the WAN data connections and datacenter network infrastructure to handle the traffic loads of Travel Agency Inc.’s business operations, Team B based its calculations on the company’s busy hour of 9AM to 10AM, which represents 30% of the total calls and calls for ticket changes which represents 20% of total calls. To estimate the needed data capacity storage at the regional data centers for the network revamp, Team B used the information of 10Kbytes per ticket request, 1Kbyte per ticket confirmation, 504,000 customers per year, and traveling customers requesting tickets every six weeks. The busy hour calculation is discussed below followed by the calculation estimate for the data generated within a year by Travel Agency Inc.’s business operations. This information is used as an estimate for data storage capacity for the regional datacenters.
Base Information for Calculations:
1) 504,000 customers per year2) Traveling customers request tickets every six weeks 3) 10Kbytes per ticket request or 80,000 bits4) 1Kbyte per ticket confirmation or 8,000 bits 5) Calls for tickets last 4 minutes or 240 seconds6) Ticket change calls last 3 minutes or 180 seconds 7) Wrap-up of calls is 15 seconds each call
Erlang Calculation for Busy Hour:
52 Weeks per year / 6 weeks = 8.66 or 9 times a year that each traveling customer will request a ticket 504,000 customers per year X 9 times customer ticket request a year = 4,536,000 tickets per year 4,536,000 / 365 days in a year = 12,427.39726 or 12,428 tickets per day 12,428 / 5 call centers = 2,485.6 or 2,486 calls for ticket request per call center 2,486 X (.20 ticket change) = 497.2 or 498 ticket changes
2,486 + 498 = 2,984 total calls per call center
2,984 X (30% or .30 busy hour) = 895.2 or 896 busy hour calls 896 X [(240 seconds for ticket calls) + (180 seconds for ticket change calls) + (15 seconds for wrap up)] =389,760 seconds 389,760 seconds/3600 seconds = 108.26666666666667
Data Traffic Calculation for Busy Hour:
Using the Erlang C Table to look up 108.26666666666667 Erlang with a 1% probability of queuing, it will take 150 agents to handle the volume of calls during the busy hour of a call center. 150 X 80,000 bits per ticket request = 12,000,000 bits or 12 Megabits for ticket request 150 X 8,000 bits per ticket confirmation = 1,200,000 bits or 1.2 Megabits for ticket confirmation 12,000,000 bits + 1,200,000 bits = 13,200,000 bits or 13.2 Megabits for two way data traffic generated per call center Phoenix Datacenter will have two-way traffic from two call centers = 2 X 13.2 Megabits = 26.4 Megabits of two-way data traffic Atlanta Datacenter will have two-way traffic from one call center = 13.2 Megabits of two way data traffic Pittsburgh Datacenter will have two-way traffic from two call centers = 2 X 13.2 Megabits = 26.4 Megabits of two-way data traffic Just to round to the highest two-way data traffic load, the regional datacenters should have WAN connections and network infrastructure which can handle 26,400,000 bits or 26.4 Megabits of two-way data traffic for the busy hour (See Appendix C for Erlang C Table).
Estimated Data Storage Capacity Calculation:
4,536,000 tickets per year X (10Kbytes + 1Kbyte) = 49,896,000 Kbytes or 47.58453 Gigabytes Based on this estimated calculation, the regional datacenters should have data storage capacity to handle the storage of at least 47.58453 Gigabytes of data per year.
c) Existing Customer Equipment
Hardware: Datacenters have IBM mainframes. The computer network contains a mixture of Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Novell servers. The WAN is connected using Cisco routers with DS0 modules, encryption and firewall features done either in software or actual hardware modules, and each of the regional datacenters do have a network monitoring system implemented to enable the tracking of the network equipment and the IBM mainframe’s performance and security. The routers are on UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) and, since the company operates 24/7, each of the regional datacenters has a backup power generator.
In fact, each of the regional datacenter’s power systems was designed to provide more than enough power for future equipment which can be housed and operated in each of the regional datacenters. The automatic call distributors (ACDs) include both Nortel and Meridian hardware, and they use an 800 service provided by Sprint. Employees use Dell laptops and desktops. Software: The LAN uses Windows Active Directory for account administration and electronic mail is running on Novell GroupWise servers. The Dell laptops and desktops currently run Windows XP and have virus protection from Kaspersky. There is a CRM application for managing customer information, and they use customer booking software, and Oracle databases. There are licenses for Microsoft Office and Windows XP systems.
d) Identification of Business Issues and Requirements
The business issues for Travel Agency, Inc. include retaining qualified personnel, high cost of telecommunications, and insufficient volume of sales transactions. Bringing in a state of the art infrastructure and business model will provide the environment for not only attracting; but, also more importantly, retaining valuable qualified employees to Travel Agency, Inc. The requirements include a new business model fully operational within 12-months, and keeps Travel Agency, Inc. operating during the implementation phase of this project.
Virtual offices, with standardized office equipment, must be established to replace the five regional call processing sites in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago. Reservations will be available 24/7 and it’s very important all reservation calls be answered no later than the second ring. The regional datacenters in Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Phoenix consolidate the ticket requests, and then all completed tickets are forwarded to clearinghouse/brokerage centers. Finally, there will be a new Travel Agency, Inc. website established for second tier customers.
e) Budget Requirement
The project telecommunications budget will not exceed $1.5 million dollars per year over the next three years. This includes all labor, equipment, outside services, and equipment. Team B will provide two alternative solutions to meet the budget of $1.5 million dollars. However, the budget amount is a concern as Team B reasons that Travel Agency Inc.’s network infrastructure is made up of three components of the regional call centers, regional datacenters, and the WAN connections.
Each of these components has complicated factors to make it a challenge in meeting the $1.5 million dollar budget. One concern Team B has is the licensing aspect of software, which could potentially use up most of the budget. Another factor is a concern about the monthly charges of WAN connections as they can also potentially use up most of the allocated budget. Therefore, Team B endeavors to evaluate each potential option for the two alternative solutions to make sound judgments regarding budgetary limits.
V. Network Design
1. Alternative 1
In this approach, Travel Agency Inc.’s revamp of its existing network will use a service provider to provide a hosting service for a Virtual Call Center for the regional call centers. By using a hosted Virtual Call Center platform, Travel Agency Inc.’s agents can work remotely from their homes, enables the supervisors or managers in charge of the agents to manage the agents from their homes or other remote locations, and enables the closing of the five regional call centers. Besides utilizing the service of a hosting Virtual Call Center company, there will be other changes to Travel Agency Inc.’s existing network in which the whole network revamp will be discussed below.Regional Call Center: Hosted Virtual Call Center Service Provider
The company Team B chose to provide for the hosted Virtual Call Center platform is the company 8X8, Inc. 8X8, Inc is ranked Number One for providing a customer focused hosted Virtual Call Center service and works with the customer to customize their package service to meet the needs of the customer (MarketWatch, Inc., 2014). Team B was able to contact a representative of 8X8, Inc. Dave McGuire, for pricing and services provided. Dave stated the price range for 8X8, Inc.’s service is $99 to $185 per month for each agent. For the lowest price of $99 per month, per agent, this plan just includes routing of the inbound calls. As for the highest price, $185 per month, per agent, this plan includes everything that 8X8, Inc. can provide. Dave encouraged Team B to look at 8X8, Inc.’s website to view the service feature offerings (D. McGuire, personal communication, May 20, 2014). The service features 8X8, Inc. provides for a Virtual Call Center service are listed and described below. Skills based routing – enables the direction of customers to an agent with appropriate skills. Multi-media Management – enables the use of telephony, email, or web chat channels in one application.
Real-time monitoring and reporting – enables the viewing of call center operations anytime. Historical reporting – enables the viewing of the call center metrics, and has wallboards with real-time metrics created in a visual format. CRM integration – enables the integration of leading CRM solutions such as Salesforce, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics and ZenDesk for an out-of-the-integration. Collaboration – enables an agent to see and control a client’s desktop for collaboration purposes. IVR (Interactive Voice Response) – enables the automation of customer interactions. CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) – enables the coordination of telephony and data delivered to remote agents. Local CRM – enables the management of customer relationship and management. FAQ Knowledgebase – enables agents to answer customers’ questions quickly. Call recording and logging – provision of robust capabilities for voice recording and logging.
Web Callback – provision of an application programming interface (API) that enables the creation of a form in a company’s website to let a customer request a callback. ACD – provision of an automatic call distribution (ACD) to enable a “universal queuing for multimedia contacts and skills based routing” (8X8, Inc., 2014). As for security, 8X8, Inc. is in compliance with the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Customer Network Information (CPNI) regulations, the U.S. Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), and is evaluated by Skyhigh Networks for enterprise-readiness of cloud services based on the criteria developed in conjunction with the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). Redundancy-wise, 8X8, Inc.’s “solutions are delivered from two mirrored, top-tier, secure, fully redundant, and geographically diverse state-of-the-art SSAE 16 certified datacenters on the East and West coasts of the United States” (8X8, Inc., 2014).
Based on the pricing and service features 8X8, Inc. provides, Team B recommends going with the $185 per month per agent price plan. As mentioned earlier, 8X8, Inc.’s service representative stated the price plan will include everything 8X8, Inc. offers, and will work with Travel Agency Inc. to integrate the two companies’ systems to a solution. Also, 8X8, Inc.’s website mentioned the company is responsible for the upgrade, maintenance, and licensing of their software Travel Agency Inc.’s agents use for the service (8X8, Inc., 2014). The total cost for 8X8, Inc.’s service for 600 agents, for each month and year, are $111,000 and $1,332,000 respectively.
By utilizing 8X8, Inc.’s service, this will enable Travel Agency Inc. to close down the five regional call centers, and enable those agents to work from their homes, which will aid in lowering the turnover rate Travel Agency Inc. is experiencing. But, before Travel Agency Inc. and 8X8, Inc.’s network systems can be integrated, Team B believes it is important to revamp and ready Travel Agency Inc.’s regional datacenters first because 8X8, Inc. must access the regional datacenters to create an integrated CRM Travel Agency Inc.’s agents will use for 8X8, Inc.’s service. To get a feel of Travel Agency Inc.’s budget of the network revamp, see Appendix D.
Regional Datacenter Section: Servers and Network Infrastructure Revamp
The revamp of the regional datacenters consists of deploying new servers, new cabling (to enable higher data rates), and network equipment for higher data rates and better security. The combined server and network infrastructure deployed to the regional datacenters of Travel Agency Inc. will greatly improve the network system technology.
The servers Team B plans to deploy for each of the three regional datacenters are HP ProLiant BL460c Gen8 Blade servers which have a Xeon E5-2650V2 2.6 GHz CPU, 64 GB of memory, and a hot swap HP Dual Port Enterprise hard drive with a capacity of 1.2 TB. There will be a total of three of these servers in each of the regional datacenters housed in an HP BLc7000 Enclosure which houses a total of 16 Blade devices. Along with the Blade Servers will be HP D2200SB STORAGE BLADE devices with a capacity of 7.2 TB. The will be used for mirroring of data for the three Blade Servers’ applications.
All three Blade Servers will be installed with Microsoft Windows Server Standard 2012 R2, and configured for mirroring. The mirroring configuration is made possible with Microsoft Windows Server Standard 2012 R2’s default feature of Storage Virtualization (Karafilis, 2013). Mirroring the Blade Servers is useful for situations when there are problems with any of the servers, and allows for faster recovery from the backed up data in the HP D2200SB STORAGE BLADE, as opposed to downloading from Travel Agency Inc.’s Headquarters.
Each of the three Blade Servers will also have the application software to provide functions Travel Agency Inc. will need for its business operations. One of the Blade Servers will be installed with Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Standard to provide email and other functions for Travel Agency Inc. The second Blade Server will be installed with Travel Agency Inc.’s CRM/Transaction application software for use with customer interactions and transactions. The third Blade Server will be installed with an Oracle Database Standard Edition with a Processor License to provide the function of storing customer data and transaction data. Besides applications installed in the three Blade Servers, each server will be installed with Norton Anti-Virus 2014 to provide anti-virus security.
Also, each of the three Blade Servers will be licensed with a Microsoft Windows Server External Connection license, thus allowing 8X8, Inc. access to each of the Blade Servers to create an integrated CRM Travel Agency Inc.’s remote agents will use for 8X8, Inc.’s Virtual Call Center service. The added benefit of utilizing the Microsoft Windows Server External Connection license is it is the only license needed to facilitate communication between 8X8, Inc. and Travel Agency Inc.’s Blade Servers. This eliminates the need for a Microsoft Client Access License (CAL) for each user, resulting in significant cost savings (Microsoft, 2014). Another license the servers need is the Integrated Lights-Out Advanced Blade license so the regional datacenter’s existing network management system can track and monitor the performance of the servers.
As for the network infrastructure deployed for each of the regional datacenters, all the cabling and the Belkin 48-Port Modular Patch Panel needed enable the connection of the Blade Servers, Cisco SG300-10 10-port Gigabit Managed Switch, Cisco 2911 router, and the Cisco ASA 5512-X Firewall Edition and are rated for Category 6, which enables a data rate of 1,000 Mbps or 1 Gbps. All of the equipment (Blade Servers, Cisco SG300-10 10-port Gigabit Managed Switch, Cisco 2911 router, and the Cisco ASA 5512-X Firewall Edition) have network connection ports to transfer data at a data rate of 1,000 Mbps or 1 Gbps. Therefore, the planned network infrastructure will have a much improved data rate capability compared to the existing network infrastructure.
Also, the regional datacenters will be licensed for the Cisco Web Security Management Bundle, so the regional datacenter’s existing network management system can track and monitor the performance and security of the network. Besides an improved data rate for the network infrastructure, Team B will deploy the Cisco ASA 5512-X Firewall Edition to enable secure virtual private network (VPN) data transmissions for the WAN connections. This will allow secure transmissions between a regional datacenter, 8X8, Inc., Travel Agency Inc.’s Headquarters, and the hosted website Travel Agency Inc. plans to deploy.
This will be possible because Team B will work with 8X8, Inc. to ensure communications between the companies using a VPN. Team B plans on deploying the Cisco ASA 5512-X Firewall Edition at Travel Agency Inc.’s Headquarters, and the hosted website service provider Team B has selected, by use of secure sockets layer (SSL) VPN capability to enable secure transmissions. Team B will also work with the regional industry travel clearinghouses for the purpose of coordinating a solution to enable secure VPN data transmission. An example of this can be seen at Appendix E.
Planned Hosted Website: GoDaddy.com
Travel Agency Inc.’s desire to have a low cost hosted website brought Team B to recommend GoDaddy.com. This hosted website service provider is one of the largest in the industry, and offers a wide array of features for its web hosting service (Rollins, 2014). Currently, GoDaddy.com is offering an Ultimate service plan, which provides many features to meet Travel Agency Inc.’s website need. Pricing is $7.49 per month if signed up for 12 months. As well, the GoDaddy.com does provide SSL for data transmission (GoDaddy Operating Company, LLC, 2014).
WAN Connection: Comcast Business Internet
With Travel Agency Inc.’s existing WAN connection, Team B evaluated it as too slow for the needs of the operation. There are other choices for WAN connections, but depend on the price for the WAN connection. For example, there are telecommunications carriers similar to AT&T who offers T1 service with a data rate of 1.5 Mbps, with a price range of $212 to $1200 per month (T1 Shopper, Inc., 2014). With data rates and price in mind, Team B decided it would be best for Travel Agency Inc. to use the Business Class service from Comcast. Business Class Internet service begins with a price range of $69.95 to $249.95 and data rate range of 16/3 Mbps to 150/20 Mbps.
Taking the budget into consideration, Team B decided to deploy Comcast’s Internet service of 50/10 Mbps at a price of $109.95 per month, and purchase two sets of five static IP addresses (total of 10 static IPs) for the price of $19.95 per month per static IP set (Comcast Corporation, 2013). The static IP addresses intended for the Cisco 2911 router, and the Cisco ASA 5512-X Firewall Edition in the regional datacenters and corporate Headquarters. The Cisco ASA 5512-X Firewall Edition will provide firewall security and a secure VPN capability for the data transmission for the Travel Agency Inc.’s WAN connections.
Recommended Remote Agent Equipment:
The plan is to have the regional call center agents use their existing computer with Windows XP in their respective remote locations. Team B recommends the operating systems be upgraded to Windows 8 or at least Windows 7, and install anti-virus software (such as Norton Security Suite) on each computer for security reasons.
Since Travel Agency Inc. will be using 8X8, Inc.’s Virtual Call Center service, Team B recommends Comcast’s residential service to provide high data rates, such as 25/4 Mbps, at a price around $54.99 per month. Comcast’s residential service also provides the added benefit of being able to use Norton Security Suite for the customer’s computer for free (Carver, 2014). By using Comcast’s residential service for the remote agents’ Internet connection, Team B considered the data rate and security that Travel Agency Inc.’s remote agents need in order to perform their jobs at their respective remote locations.
As for other remote agent equipment, Team B recommends a router with a firewall capability, an UPS, and Polycom’s 300 or 310 Business Media Phone. The router with firewall capability provides added security, and this router must have enough ports to connect the remote agent’s computer and Polycom’s Business Media Phone. The UPS is needed for situations when power outages occur and allow the remote agent to use their equipment to contact their respective supervisor or manager to inform of the situation. The Polycom’s Business Media Phone enables the phone to be configured to automatically answer incoming calls within a number of certain rings (Polycom, 2014), which meets the CEO’s objective of answering incoming calls within the second ring.
Alternative 1 Conclusion:
Team B believes this solution provides a better network infrastructure in terms of an updated network system, higher data rates, and better security as compared to the existing network infrastructure. This solution provides a solution in reducing the high turnover rate Travel Agency Inc. is experiencing with its regional call center agents.
Alternative 1 Diagram
2. Alternative 2
The second alternative solution also includes a complete revamp of the current network design where the existing legacy PBX phone system is upgraded to provide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capabilities utilizing a new Nortel Avaya Aura communication system. This new system provides VoIP, new audio, video and web collaboration, and expanded telephony management for remote customer reservation agents. Travel Agency Inc.’s system will be reconfigured to streamline processes into existing office locations. The Headquarters office in Kansas City and the Regional Datacenters in Phoenix, Atlanta, and Pittsburg will remain open as one network, whereas all Regional Customer Reservation Call Centers will be closed. The 360 employees have the option of relocating to other office locations or becoming part of the virtual office pool. There will be a primary site (Headquarters) and secondary site (Atlanta) to mitigate DR risk.
The VoIP system will replace the existing analog-based Nortel Meridian PBX telephony system for all business units. It provides enhanced communication capabilities for agency employees across the three Regional Datacenters and Headquarters, as well as access into the system by remote agents. The system is comprised of the Avaya Aura System (Communications Manager (CM), Session Manager (SM), and System Manager. Both the CM and SM are installed in a primary and secondary site. Specifically, the Session Manager operates in two modes—core and survivable remote—where HQ will be the core site and Atlanta will be the survivable remote site. The VoIP phones register with both sites in case of failure where they have a backup. The Avaya Aura system integration with Exchange Unified Messaging (UM) and Lync Server 2013 allow for expanded features and collaboration.
Exchange UM will provide VoIP enabled user’s access to centralized managed voicemail functionality. In addition, the Avaya Call Center on Avaya Aura Communication Manager provides Avaya Aura Contact Center (AACC) software for business applications integration. The legacy PBX will connect to the Avaya Session Manager via a PBX trunk group utilizing a Session Server Trunk (SST) which uses an RFC3261 to communicate. Local PSTN PRI trunks to the LEC will be migrated to the Avaya CM via the G450 Media Gateway and subsequent calls will be routed to the legacy PBX through the Avaya for all inbound and outbound traffic voice traffic. The G450 media gateway connects to the CM using TCP/Encrypted H.248:1039, TCP/TLS for Lync, ICMP, and TCP/HTTPS for admin access.
The device allows for connectivity of the PSTN trunks to make available to CM and SM. Avaya’s Session Boarder Controller (SBC) will be deployed between the Avaya Aura Core (SM, CM, and System Manager) and all SIP devices. The SBC is a firewall that provides deep packet inspection, as well as altering for attempts to gain access to an enterprise telephone system (Avaya Aura® Session Manager, 2014). The Avaya Aura Contact Center provides a Unified Agent Desktop that can be configured to handle up to six multichannel interactions of calls, emails, faxes, text (SMS), and scanned documents. The system can support up to 1000 agents allowing for future growth. There is also integration with Microsoft Active Directory and Exchange, which provides single sign-on with authentication security (Avaya Aura Contact Center, 2014).
Avaya Aura System and equipment cost
Session Manager ($11,500) – Avaya Aura Session Manager 6.3.4 Port Matrix System Manager ($3,600) – System Manager 6.3.4 Port Matrix Communications Manager ($8,800) – Avaya Port Matrix: Communication Manager 6.2 G450 Gateway ($8,500) – Avaya Port Matrix G430 & G450 H.248 Media Gateway BG6.2.1 FP1 Session Boarder Controller ($3,600) – SIP Firewall with deep packet inspection Avaya Aura Contact Center ($1,080,000) – Agents multichannel integrated solution (CRM Search, n.d.)
Recommended Remote Agent Equipment
The recommended remote agent equipment is identical to Alternative 1 with the exception of the phone system specified below: Avaya 9641G SIP phone: Port Matrix – Avaya one-X Desk phone SIP 9600 Series IP Software Release 6.4 Avaya 1120SA secure set
Avaya Client Application / One-X Communicator (Soft client) – Avaya Port Matrix – Avaya one-X Communicator Release 6 (Avaya Aura Contact Center 6.4, 2014) The following sections utilize the same solution as explained in Alternative 1: Web Site – Hosted website from GoDaddy.com
Regional Datacenter – The use of a Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite allows each user the ability to access multiple Microsoft devices at once. (Volume Licensing) WAN Connection – Comcast Business Internet
Alternative 2 Conclusion:
The second alternative solution does meet the requirements of Travel Agency, Inc. in providing an updated call center with remote agent access. The system will introduce a new VoIP infrastructure and server integration services that do not currently exists.
Alternative 2 Diagram
b) Comparison of Alternatives
1. Cost Differences
The upfront cost difference between Alternative 1 and Alternative 2 is not much, but Alternative 2 will go over the $1.5 million dollar budget allocated for the first year of implementation. Alternative 1 is below the $1.5 million dollar budget. As for the second year budget, Alternative 1 will use more of the budget compared to Alternative 2 because of the monthly charges for the service provided by 8X8, Inc. In terms of a future outlook, cost will be a factor for comparing both alternatives if Travel Agency Inc. were to add more agents, meaning Alternative 1 agents can be added by contacting 8X8, Inc. to add agents and obtain new pricing. With Alternative 2, Travel Agency Inc. might need to procure more equipment for the VoIP system in order to support the future agents.
2. Workflow Differences
The workflow for Alternative 1 (page 22) shows inbound calls are handled by 8X8, Inc.’s network, in which management of Travel Agency Inc. will exercise control on how the inbound calls are routed through 8X8, Inc.’s network to the remote agents. From the remote agents, ticket requests can be created and transmitted through 8X8, Inc.’s network, to the regional datacenters for transaction processing, and transmitted to the industry clearinghouses for ticket confirmation. The ticket confirmation can then be transmitted back through the original transmission path, towards the original remote agent that created the ticket request.
Once the original remote agent receives the ticket confirmation, the remote agent can email the ticket confirmation to the customer. As to the workflow for Alternative 2 (page 23), the inbound calls are handled by the 800 service provided by Sprint, where the inbound calls are balanced between the regional datacenters. From the datacenters, the inbound calls are balanced between the remote agents and are configured to use a specific regional datacenter. Once the remote agent receives the inbound call, the remote agent will create a ticket request for the customer.
The ticket request is then transmitted from the remote agent to the regional datacenter for processing, and then transmitted to the industry clearinghouses for a ticket confirmation. Once the ticket confirmation is completed, the ticket confirmation is transmitted back via the original path to the original remote agent who created the ticket request and is then emailed to the customer. For the complete cost of Avaya Aura System and equipment cost, see Appendix F.
Alternative 1 Workflow Diagram
Alternative 2 Workflow Diagram
Essentially, the workflow between Alternative 1 and Alternative 2 are almost the same, but the difference between the two alternatives is the inbound calls for Alternative 1 are handled by 8X8, Inc.’s network. With Alternative 2, the inbound calls are handled by the 800 service provided by Sprint and by the VoIP system at the regional datacenters.
Reliability for both Alternative 1 and Alternative 2 solutions are equal to each other. The differentiating factor between the two alternatives is how the inbound calls are handled and distributed to the remote agents. For Alternative 1, the inbound calls are handled and distributed to the remote agents by 8X8, Inc. 8X8, Inc. has dedicated personnel to constantly monitor the reliability of the service they provide Travel Agency Inc. With Alternative 2, the inbound calls are handled by the 800 service provided by Sprint and the VoIP system which resides in the regional datacenters. Potential unreliability can come from the VoIP system residing in the regional datacenters since Travel Agency Inc.’s employees at the datacenter might not be specifically dedicated to monitor the VoIP system, and have other duties to perform within the regional datacenters. Based on the factors for each of the alternatives, Team B recommends Alternative 1 over Alternative 2 in terms of reliability.
Maintenance for both alternatives is very similar. Both alternatives must maintain servers and network equipment within the regional datacenters. When compared to the reliability section discussed previously, both alternatives differ in terms of how the inbound calls are handled. With Alternative 1, inbound calls are handled by 8X8, Inc. With Alternative 2, the inbound calls are handled by the 800 service provided by Sprint and the VoIP system at the regional datacenters, and maintenance of the VoIP system equipment is maintained by the regional datacenter employees unlike 8X8 Inc’s 24/7 model. Therefore, Team B recommends maintaining the network system for Alternative 1 is easily managed since 8X8 Inc. will provide round-the-clock management of their equipment.
Since Alternative 1 has the communication function (inbound call and call distribution handled by 8X8, Inc.) separate from the ticket request and ticket confirmation functions (transaction processing and data base recording at the regional datacenters), Team B recommends Alternative 1’s planned network will not put undue traffic overhead on the existing network equipment in the regional datacenters. Compared to Alternative 2’s planned network, in which VoIP communication, multimedia communication, and data traffic (Ticket request and Ticket confirmation) are all being handled by the network equipment at the regional datacenters, this can produce traffic overhead on the network.
This could affect the real-time requirements of VoIP and multimedia communication traffic if too much traffic is produced on the network equipment. Therefore, based on these factors for both alternatives, Team B recommends Alternative 1 as a better network system for Travel Agency Inc.’s operations.
VI. Findings, Conclusions, Recommendations
Based on the dynamics discussed in the sections of Cost Differences, Workflow Differences, Reliability, Maintenance, and Performance, Team B proposes the differences between Alternative1 and Alternative 2 are close, but Alternative 1 is the recommended solution. The reason Alternative 1 is the suggested solution is that it comes under budget, it will have 8X8, Inc. to providing constant communications monitoring (reliability), less network system equipment to maintain, and the solution enables the separation of communication traffic from data traffic. Based on these factors, Team B recommends Alternative 1 for implementation.
Team B also recommends Travel Agency Inc. develop and implement an official disaster recovery plan based on Alternative 1’s network solution. In fact, Alternative 1 has two built-in disaster recovery features, such as mirroring of the servers at the regional datacenters, as this provides for faster recovery of data when a server fails. Since all three regional datacenters will be left operational, the regional datacenters can be used as redundant components for network system. For example, if a regional datacenter were to lose network connectivity from the rest of the network system, data traffic can be rerouted and balanced between the other two still operational regional datacenters. Again, based on all these factors, Team B recommends Alternative 1 to be implemented for Travel Agency Inc.’s network revamp.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 September 2016
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