Feature

Voice apps can strain storage

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Voice meta data
Call-center systems create a standard record for each telephone session. This record is typically short and contains just the specifics of each call, including time and date, operator number, call duration, phone number (from and to), wait queue time and so forth. This meta data is joined to the voice recording. In addition, periodic screen captures--every 100 milliseconds to one per minute--are sometimes saved during the call to correlate an operator's actions with voice and call detail records. This data is vendor-specific to the call-center software and is often used to audit the actions of telephone operators to determine, for example, that call scripts are followed properly.

Some systems also provide computer-to-telephony interface data, which can be extracted for the call. This data might not appear on the operator's screen, and could include information such as operator name, login duration and customer account information not pertinent to the call. The voice recording, call detail record, screen captures and other computer-generated data can provide a good view of a specific call and require a great deal of storage.

The leading voice-recording systems on the market are Nice Systems Inc., Rutherford, NJ, Verint Systems Inc., Melville, NY, and Witness Systems; all are tightly coupled with call-center operations software. Recording voice becomes much easier if all phone traffic is funneled through an Ethernet

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switch to the voice-recording system. Voice recording is also available for analog phone equipment. In the old days, this was done with what amounts to line or PBX taps using proprietary hardware/software systems.

IP PBX storage
IP PBXs often use internal disk for voice mail storage. Depending on the number of user mailboxes and the maximum amount of voice mails per mailbox, storage requirements can escalate quickly. A typical small IP PBX might have a 40GB drive supporting 20 to 40 voice mailboxes, and could store up to 17 hours of voice mails for 40 users. High-end PBX systems have options for much more voice mail storage. In some cases, the move to VoIP has merged voice mail and e-mail. You can receive your voice mails as an e-mail with a WAV file attachment and maintain your voice mails within your e-mail repository with these systems.

Voice analytics are mechanisms used to extract additional information from a voice stream. Voice analytics used in real-time can provide hints to the operator on how to handle the person on the call. If, for example, the person on the call is stressed, the analytics may tell the operator not to try to sell them more products/services, but to simply help the caller. Once voice recordings begin to accumulate, calls can be analyzed and data mined to determine what type of response works best to drive up the yield from telephone operations centers. But real-time feedback of this sort is years away and will certainly boost storage requirements.

In some respects, VoIP applications may mean just another 40TB-per-year data stream for your data center to handle. But digital voice applications and storage have their own unique lifecycle and performance aspects and, if not properly planned for, can easily strain your already-stretched network infrastructure and SAN/NAS/archive storage. Voice recordings are beginning to look a bit like e-mail during the early years, but roughly 1,000 times larger per element.

This was first published in April 2006

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