There's not really a whole lot of "magic" to making such a system work well — it's mainly common sense and, yes, advanced technology. Standard VoIP technologies provide the backbone of our telephone support system. A very talented Australian voice artist provides the friendly voice behind our telephone menu (and rumour has it she's also the voice behind a rhinoceros on a popular BBC children's television show). Features within our internal support ticket system also ensure that company actions are quickly generated, scheduled and assigned with appropriate urgency, based on incoming calls.
Common sense and people power, though, form the true cornerstone of telephone support. This takes the form of a combination of rotating shifts, training of all staff in providing effective, friendly telephone support, and the expectation that everyone — even management — will make "front line" customer service their top priority. In other words, we make possible what would otherwise be impossible with advanced technology alone.
In terms of advanced technology, that is an important component of our e-mail customer service as well — we use a customised version of a popular support ticket system, called Kayako. Integrated into this are components of our proprietary Hawkeye Server Analysis, Metrics and Monitoring system. It is the latter system — Hawkeye — that proves critical in providing our support teams with the ability to engage in proactive support as much as possible, versus reactive support. In other words, it enables us to catch problems before they become major issues, and in the overwhelming majority of incidents, before they have an opportunity to adversely affect our clients' uptime/service availability. The ticket system also enables us to very effectively maintain various priority queues for support action requests, ensuring that issues are quickly escalated based on administrator requirements and issue urgency.
Ensuring questions, concerns and issues are effectively handled can't be entirely left up to technology, however. This is why our staff is also intensely trained in providing e-mail based support, just as they are with telephone customer service.
Not everything involves sticking to standards, though, particularly in the smaller details. For example, all of our server wiring is, literally, engineered — that is to say, all network and power cabling systems are custom-designed by a professional engineer. As simple as it sounds, it is very dramatic in terms of making datacenter operations far more efficient; not only does it look tidy, it makes it very easy to do tasks such as moving servers between racks and installing cabling for new servers, and ensures one doesn't have to second guess what cable goes where! Then there's the matter of actually keeping track of equipment — this actually requires a fair bit of resources and of itself, and a mix of custom and standard software — considering that we have servers, routers, and other hardware spread amongst a variety of facilities both in Australia and abroad.
Speaking of facilities — that is another very critical component of maintaining excellent service levels. Although we discuss our network and datacenter infrastructure elsewhere, it is worth addressing a few of their similarities here. When we have made choices to expand our service offerings, we have been extremely selective in choosing datacenters. There are a range of criteria that rank as extremely important; although it's difficult to put them in an order of priority (since they are all truly critical to maintaining high quality of service), among them are highly redundant power systems, intense physical security, advanced fire suppression systems, adequate cooling, and well-engineered facility design. The reason for this is almost every one of those criteria simultaneously lowers risks of data loss and/or downtime, which in turns allows us to ensure higher levels of service.
Network infrastructure is very important as well. Although uplink quality is very important, one area that many people often overlook is internal network quality. In other words, one can have the very best and fastest uplinks on earth, but if the underlying routing and switching technologies that connect the web servers to this uplink are in any way inferior, overall hosting performance will be degraded. This is why we go out of our way to ensure that even our fail-safes have fail-safes; we only utilise enterprise-grade Cisco routers and switches, ensure those are configured with automatic fail-over characteristics for the rare cases in which those may fail. Additional redundant routers are also kept at hand, to ensure that we can quickly bring our network back online even in the case of a catastrophic failure of multiple routing components. Although it may seem odd, contingency plans exist even beyond that point.