Melbourne’s taxi industry was rocked yesterday when a fire at Silver Top Taxi’s city headquarters struck down call centre and computer dispatch systems, leaving cab drivers stranded without job notifications.
The fire was a dramatic demonstration of the importance of disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity planning for critical IT and communications infrastructure.
According to media reports, the call centre will be re-established today after about 24 hours of downtime and only with the help of Sydney-based taxi operator Premier Cabs, which donated call centre hardware.
Taxi drivers receive job notifications electronically via wireless radio networks but the calls are taken and dispatched by computers in a central location.
Many drivers complained of a drop in business of about 50 per cent as a result of not receiving bookings electronically.
Maria Padisetti, CEO of Sydney-based VoIP call centre technology provider Digital Armour Corporation, said although organisations can get a telecommunications provider to divert calls, a phone system is still required.
“With more open [telephony] systems businesses that couldn’t afford a second system now can,” Padisetti said. “You can even use a server not identical to the original in order to get things going.”
Padisetti said Digital Armour is working on a DR project for a 95-seat call centre which will use the open source Asterisk at the primary and secondary sites.
“We are working with the telco to switch over in the event of a disaster and, because it’s Asterisk, it’s a fraction of the cost,” she said.
“A fax server that would have cost $50,000 can be bought for less than $20,000, so for that money they can set up a hot DR site [but] they are comfortable with a maximum of four hours downtime.”
Developments in VoIP technology have enabled the concept of a 'virtual call centre' where agents do not need to be in a central location and, if the network is designed to support call routing, more than one IP-PABX can be used for business continuity and DR.
Padisetti said a virtual call centre can help business continuity but the real problem is the PABX going down.
Another call centre and job dispatch system is operated by NRMA, which, as reported by Computerworld, has implemented call centre and data systems DR for better business continuity.
At the time of writing, www.silvertop.com.au was also inaccessible.