Feature Story

ExtremeTix's Well-Timed Disaster Response

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  June 01, 2011

Business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) is about staying in operations during and after disasters and knowing how to rebound from them. Effective BC/DR strategies require having, knowing how to use and actually applying the right methods and tools, and the ability to adapt on the fly as situations change.

Perhaps the most important factor in BC/DR is timing. That is, having these disaster responses in place or easily launched before or immediately after the euphemistically-termed “events” happen.

BC/DR methods earn their mettle in hurricanes. Few large-scale disasters are as common, widespread, long lasting and as devastating as them–when measured in losses, in power and voice/data outages and economic, especially transportation disruptions and dislocations.

While Hurricane Katrina, which slammed into New Orleans in August 2005, has stayed in most peoples’ minds as the iconic such disaster, Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas in September 2008, has come in after it in the impact. Ike has proved to be, so far, reported Wikipedia as “the third-costliest hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States.”

Ike ripped into Galveston and wreaked havoc in the Houston area, leading to 112 people being killed and causing nearly $30 billion in damage in the U.S. alone, said Wikipedia. The hurricane “also resulted in the largest evacuation of Texans in that state’s history. It became the largest search-and-rescue operation in U.S. history.” The state was the main but not the only event for Ike; it had punched up the Turks and Caicos, Haiti and Cuba on the way. And after landfall it tore into the Midwest and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec then touched Iceland before petering out.

Houston-based ExtremeTix, which develops and markets web-based ticketing solutions, is one of many firms whose operations – including contact centers – had stood in the way of Ike. The hurricane ripped out power and phones lines and forced employees out of the firm’s building. In doing so Ike silenced ExtremeTix’s contact center as the company relied on a legacy on-premises platform.

ExtremeTix searched and then found a temporary location in a hotel conference room with power and Internet access. It also set up a few cubicles in its data center for staff who could not reach the hotel.

Fortuitously, ExtremeTix had already decided to switch to hosted/software-as-a-service (SaaS (News - Alert)) solutions at its now-stricken contact center. And it had selected inContact (www.incontact.com) to provide the platform when Ike rolled in.

The company called inContact to see what they could to do to help out. InContact gave ExtremeTix high priority. It connected the hotel- and data center-located agents and enabled those who could not access either site and were staying at home or with others, connected by landlines or by cellphones.

“The response from inContact was just fantastic,” recounts Mike Hergert, chief technology officer for ExtremeTix. “They were ready to do whatever it took to make us successful. They understood what we were facing and were quick to make things happen. As we scrambled to find a location with power and Internet that we could work from, inContact was up and running before we were even ready.”

One of the reasons that inContact was able to get ExtremeTix back in business so fast was that as a SaaS solution, there was no need to put in any phone switches or deploy servers, reports Hergert. inContact’s services were not affected by Ike. The applications are housed on servers located in Dallas, Texas and Los Angeles, Calif. at secure sites with battery-powered UPS and generators. inContact has agreements and connectivity to multiple major tier one communications providers.

“We were able to hand off everything to inContact with no worries or fuss,” says Hergert. “And the fact that inContact itself employs redundant systems, assures us that they can deliver the business continuity we needed.”

ExtremeTix operated from its temporary quarters for over two weeks. It completed the disaster-prompted switchover to inContact.

Disaster response was and is by far not the only benefit gained by ExtremeTix from the inContact hosted solution. It has enabled the firm to gain greater efficiencies. For example, ExtremeTix can run with two less agents, saving approximately $52,000 annually.

“inContact has been willing to do whatever it takes to make us successful,” Hergert says.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.