Monthly Archives

October 2017

How Can A Traditional Hospital Benefit From AWS?

By | Amazon Services, AWS, Healthcare Solutions | No Comments

We all come across multiple challenges in our day-to-day activities. The key to success is to learn how to solve them by benefiting from continually improving technological achievements.

If you are managing a hospital, you might have several outstanding issues that can be solved with the help of the cloud.

For instance, what do you do if you have old computers that can’t perform with expected productivity to store your growing database, integrate with HER, etc.? Replacing old computers with new ones will lead to significant capital expenses. There are also the issues of upgrading and maintaining them. It is obvious that this is a temporary solution; eventually any new equipment becomes outdated again. This is exactly the situation where moving to the cloud has absolutely no disadvantages.

AWS (Amazon Web Services) offers multiple services and offerings that will mitigate the described problem. By using Amazon Elastic Cloud – EC2 you receive on-demand compute capacity in the cloud. As a result, you will receive reliable and scalable infrastructure that will be easy to manage. In addition to that, due to the massive scale of Amazon services (external), this solution will be cost effective. All these obvious benefits will ease your life as a manager.

There are other instances when using the cloud can benefit a hospital. As we all know, most hospitals have a significant number of seasonal staff. Although it might be cost efficient and beneficial from a management perspective, it creates challenges with an uneven load on the IT infrastructure. If all your resources are on premises, you have to pay as if you are in high season all year round. With the help of services provided by AWS, you will be able to balance your load and pay only for the resources you consume. Amazon EC2 with its Auto Scaling function enables control of the number of EC2 instances. AWS VPC controls access to EC2 instances, which will allow all the necessary staff to log into your system. AWS Elastic Load Balance will balance the workload between EC2 instances and increase the overall fault tolerance. With AWS Management Console or AWS Command Line, you’d be able to define custom Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) and speed up the application deployment process with AWS CloudFormation templates. And let’s not forget to mention the Amazon Rational Database Service (RDS) that could be used as a persistent storage.

Care Analytics is an AWS Partner.

These two examples show that keeping up with technology can be incredibly easy and beneficial for your business. Moving to the cloud can solve multiple issues and open up great opportunities. Do not hesitate to explore them! If you need a guide to the cloud, feel free to Contact Us.

Care Analytics Launches New Website

By | Press Release | No Comments

Improved user experience and better visibility into company resources and services

Lake Mary, FL: Care Analytics announced the launch of their newly redesigned website today. The new website features a new Resources section that will house an increasing amount of material to help answer questions that organizations may have about the cloud or Care Analytics’ services or experience. The new website is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Care Analytics key partner, and can be found at www.careanalytics.com.

“We are proud and excited about the new look and user experience of our website. The Resources section is one that we always had in mind to create, but it wasn’t intuitive with our previous layout and design. We can now offer our site visitors access to webinars, white papers, videos, and anything they need to educate themselves on the cloud, technology trends, and our services” says Tommy Simon, President & COO of Care Analytics.

“The new site is a better reflection of who we are as a company and the industry we are in. It is interactive, user friendly, and showcases our expertise and methodology that ensures the quality of work we produce”, added Mr. Simon.

Care Analytics will feature new content on a regular basis including scheduled webinars and events, white papers and blogs, and even tutorial videos. The blog will feature regular posts from Care Analytics’ employees on the industry, trends, company news, and more. It will also feature relevant guest bloggers as well. The company encourages anyone interested in the cloud or technology innovation to stay connected and visit frequently.

About Care Analytics: Care Analytics is a subsidiary of TEAM International. It is a US owned cloud and analytics solutions partner, specializing in migrating, building, integrating and managing applications in the cloud for the healthcare industry.

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For more information, please contact:

Anita Larses
Care Analytics
407-708-1146
anita.larsen@careanalytics.com

Creating A Customer Service Center In The Cloud

By | Customer Care, Customer Service | No Comments

At our company, we decided to look at reengineering the way we handle initial contact from our existing and potential new customers. We were changing the name, launching a new website and a whole new look and feel as we re-tooled and re-branded.

I am not going to sugar coat it, I am sure that if “Customer Care” is your “thing” that probably would excite you, but I think most people would look at the task of creating a customer service center and call center as being right up there with root canal and dinner with the in-laws on the excitement scale.

When you think about what you do today as a business, and try and fit your existing actions, process and procedures into the mix, the task starts to look very complicated, and the headache starts to grow… you feel a touch of the “PTO’s” coming on.

But wait! – there is hope!

I read that Amazon had started a new web services component called “Connect.” As someone that has built a 60 person call center, I was initially skeptical of anything that claimed to be a quick fix for Customer Care and contact centers. I know how complicated it can become, and did not want to start a new initiative trying to replace an aging system and process, with one that had limited functionality, or worse, locked us into a new and crippled process. The last thing an IT guy can get away with these days is a “Look I created a new system for you” – that is promptly met with a “But it doesn’t do what the old one did.”

Now, as if I would do that … [smile].

I probably would not have paid so much attention to the article, had it not been about Amazon. However, having a pretty good understanding now of how Amazon thinks, I look at their new product offerings with a great deal of respect, because I know that some brilliant people think the product through from beginning to end and pay great attention to the details.

Care Analytics is an AWS partner

Obviously from the outset, I knew I needed one or more 800 numbers for customers to call in on, but I also knew that I had to route those calls based on a number of factors including differences in branding and messaging that you want to apply as you age and when having to deal with different companies.

I initially spent a few hours looking into everything that Amazon Connect had to offer, and to see where the shortfalls were. I also figured that it was possible to interface what Amazon had built to some scenarios that I could think of, as an Amazon Solutions Architect, like the ability to play back custom messages that were either part of Connect, or was in S3 buckets where we could have pretty granular control on changes and new messaging.

At the end of my investigation, I was pleasantly surprised at what Amazon had come up with. Certainly, all the components were there to build a customer service center in the cloud, or appeared to be at first glance.

I was already familiar with another of the Amazon components, Lambda, which enables you to write small pieces of serverless code that interact with other components within Amazon Web Services. I could get my mind around custom code that you can write in Lambda, but I was not sure how that would interface with Connect, although I read that it did.

The thing that I found most exciting within Connect was Amazon’s inclusion and their use of Lex, which is another new Amazon component in AWS that is a text to speech engine. With Lex, you can type your call scripts, and have them played back in your call flows via synthesized voice, like Alexa that Amazon uses for their Echo units. You can also record customer voice messages to text as a reverse of that functionality.

I could see that you can route calls to different queues set up for different times of the day, obviously handy for after-hours messaging being different than business hours. You could even route the calls to your support team’s desk phones during the day, and their cell phones at night. This was something that we were looking for, to support a medical company customer that we had recently engaged and that needed a 24 x 7 contact solution.

I could also see that you can record your prompts and then route the incoming calls to those prompts. I have always thought that you needed professional recording though I was pretty sure that we could either find the prompts in wave files out on the Internet or perhaps as I have done before, which is to have one of our office staff record the messages in a quiet room environment. I have done some of this in the past for my call center, and there are also paid services out there that will take your uploaded text scripts and send you professionally recorded wave files very inexpensively.

You need hold music, and it was there, that is a given, but Amazon has allowed you to upload your music, so some of this appalling elevator music can be avoided, something I confess I always found a little annoying when being kept waiting for 40 minutes on hold, usually by a telephone or electricity company. No one else is that bad.

The actual contact center functionality and configuration files for Connect are all stored on an instance, which in Amazon speak is a compute instance similar to how they assign EC2 instances, basically a computer running in the Amazon Cloud.

You are allowed up to 10 contact numbers for your call center, and you can use either local numbers in a selected area, or as I did, use an 800 number for my contact number, the entry point for my call center options.

Any calls that come into your call center via this number are recorded if you set that setting and all calls are then recorded to an S3 bucket.  

Amazon offers all sorts of templates that you can use for basic call flow and control, it would seem that you could probably get up and running with the templates, but we modified or created our call flows, which was easy to do within the Contact web administrator’s dashboard. Contact flows are created in the contact flow editor using action blocks arranged by dragging and dropping them onto a grid. The contact flow configuration is grouped into blocks. Each group represents a particular action, and each block has editable conditions related to the group’s action or behavior. It took a little getting used to, but after 10 or 15 minutes you get the hang of it, basically drag and drop.

When the call comes in, you can set up some options, and you can record the voice, listen and translate it to Text using Lex, play a wav file based on voice input or capturing digits the user keys in on the keypad. You can transfer using call queues to levels of Agents and whisper the Agents as the call is being transferred. You can set up a whisper to tell the Agent that the customer being transferred is a VIP. You may have to write some custom code to use Amazon’s Lambda functions, which is VB Script to access a database to see if the customer was a VIP – but you get the idea, I thought that was pretty neat.

When a customer is on the call, you can select to record only the customer, only the Agent or both, which is pretty handy, as most systems don’t offer that choice usually it is two way only, sometimes you only want to records one side, and with Lex you can transcribe what I said to text and store that text to be emailed to your support Team.

After spending a little time with Connect, seems possible to assemble a comprehensive collection of small pieces of the puzzle that makes up a good Automatic Call Distribution System, the call details and stats are collected in an S3 bucket, as are the recorded calls themselves.

I have not yet investigated the reporting functionality that Amazon also has as part of Amazon Connect, but if the rest of the product is anything to go by, it will likely have functionally easy to use and quick to learn. As the data is collected and stored, even of the reporting system facet does not give you all the queue and Agent management reporting that you need, it would not be a difficult task to use your reporting tools like Qlik or Tableau, and use the data collected by Connect to create your own sophisticated presentation layer.

In summary, I thoroughly recommend anyone looking for an inexpensive option to some of the expensive call center systems that are in the market today to look at Amazon’s Connect product. It is easy to use and could be set up my most small companies to very quickly hit the ground running with what appears to the customer, to be a professional call center.

If you need professional support as you investigate your own customer service center in the cloud, we are available to help. Contact Us today.

~ Mark Richards

AWS Solutions Architect – Care Analytics

 

 

Is The Cloud For Everyone?

By | Amazon Cloud, Azure vs AWS, Cloud Solutions | No Comments

So, a funny thing happened to me at the airport the other day, and it dawned on me that I knew something that I had thought was common knowledge within the community of people that I will label “People who run computers.” The common knowledge, or so I thought, was that the Cloud is for everyone.

Now, when I say “People who run computers”, I am not referring to the masses of us that have figured out that our little Android helpers in our pockets, or our bedazzled sequin Siris in our purses, are little computers. No, I am referring to those people that, for one unknown reason or another, have decided to make computers their focus within their professional lives. I mean the people who endeavor to keep our Global thirst for ever increasing information processing and storage running, even when we wake up at 3:00 am and decide to embark on an electronic version of the “Midnight Munchies.”

So there I was, at the airport, listening to two of these very people, who were contemplating the 21st century electronic philosophic equivalent of “Who am I, and why am I here” the question being, “Why do I need the Cloud?

It was a fascinating question, and one that many people are currently asking, given that you can’t be awake for a whole day and not come across some small reminder, someone, somewhere, doing something – “In the Cloud.”

After hearing the one younger man, probably in his thirties, explaining to the other older man how he prefers “Azure to AWS– I grew more interested in the conversation. Now most people would be thinking that they were discussing a chocolate bar, or perhaps the latest fitness routine, but they were, in fact, discussing “The Cloud” and the merits of why Microsoft was a better selection as a provider of Cloud Services as opposed to Amazon’s Cloud platform – or more commonly referred to as “Amazon Web Services“.

Care Analytics is an AWS partner. 

It wasn’t until the older gentleman had voiced the comment “Why do I need a Cloud full of servers when I already have a cupboard full?” – that was when I was busted, as I must have visibly shown in my smile that I was eavesdropping on the conversation …… so I deflected and warmly said: “But EVERYONE needs the Cloud.”

For the next hour, while I waited for my flight, there was a great conversation that covered every aspect of how the older gentleman had purchased servers from Dell several years back for his call center, only to find that the relatively large purchase was just the beginning of his journey. Even though he considered himself a technical person, he soon discovered that he needed a pretty sophisticated router setup to connect all of the servers and allow them all access to the Internet. He initially thought that he could use a similar device that he had been using in his office at his house. He even admitted that in less than two years he had maxed out the connections and processing power of his router after gaining a massive timeshare contract for his call center business and had to go to the “next level” of a router which was $1,500, even on Ebay.

I asked him if he had set that router up himself and he said no, as it was a little more complicated and he had paid a friend of his son $300 for two days work setting it up.

I explained how all of that was built into the Cloud and Amazon Web Services for literal pennies, as it came with your very first deployed computer, or “instances” as Amazon likes to call them.

So Rick (as I came to know him) – continued to tell me all the tales of woe that he had managed to find himself in over the several years since his purchase. They had been a de facto educatio0n in computers forced upon him by the simple business evolution that he had during that time.

From Routers to network cables, from power supplies to power losses, poor Rick had no end to his battle scars.

He even had to replace four servers in a flood because some of them were not in a rack and he managed to get ten inches of water into his “cupboard” one time. His “cupboard”, by the way, was a small office within his call center that his company had re-purposed as a “temporary” computer room that never made it out of the “temporary” category.

Clearly, Rick was not going into competitive business with Amazon anytime soon.

I had so much fun with Rick over that hour that it flew by, he gave me so many reasons for the comment that I left him with as I got up to leave for my flight.

Looking over my shoulder as I started to walk away, I winked at Rick and said, “you know Rick, for a guy that did not need the Cloud, you sure seem like you need it to me!”.

As I got almost out of earshot, Rick shouted: “How much is Amazon’s Cloud, it sounds expensive!”.

“It can be” – I fired back, but the first year is FREE!”.

I strolled on – not sure if I had helped poor Rick, or even if my comments sunk in, or left him with a new conclusion of if or why he may just have a need for “The Cloud.”

So I end with the beginning of my blog entry, and perhaps a small contribution to the question “Is the Cloud really for everyone?

Well, maybe, and maybe not, but certainly it was for Rick, so Rick, if you are reading this, thank you for making my airport wait time so entertaining.

For anyone else reading this blog entry, is the Cloud for everyone, including you?

Absolutely.

If you’re not sure, Contact Us.

 

~ Mark Richards

AWS Solutions Architect – Care Analytics