Author Archive: Chris Valderrama

August 15, 2012

Managing Support Tickets: Email Subscriptions

This week, the development team rolled out some behind-the-scenes support functionality that I think a lot of our customers will want to take advantage of, so I put together this quick blog post to spread the word about it. With the new release, the support department is able to create "Ticket Email Subscriptions" for different ticket groups on every customer account. As a customer, you might not be jumping up and down with joy after reading that one-sentence description, but after you hear a little more about the functionality, if you're not clapping, I hope you'll at least give us a thumbs-up.

To understand the utility of the new ticket email subscription functionality, let's look at how normal tickets work in the SoftLayer portal without email subscriptions:

User Creates Ticket

  1. User A creates a ticket.
  2. User A becomes the owner of that ticket.
  3. When SoftLayer responds to the ticket, an email notification is sent to User A to let him/her know that the ticket has been updated.

SoftLayer Creates Ticket

  1. SoftLayer team creates a ticket on a customer's account.
  2. The primary customer contact on the account is notified of the new ticket.
  3. Customer logs into the portal and responds to ticket.
  4. Customer gets notifications of updates (as described above).

There's nothing wrong with the existing support notification process, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to make the process better. What if User A creates an urgent ticket on his/her way out the door to go on vacation? User B and User C aren't notified when an update is posted on User A's ticket, so the other users aren't able to get to the ticket and respond as quickly as they would have if they received the notification. What if the primary customer contact on the account isn't the best person to receive a monitoring alert? The administrator who will investigate the monitoring alert has to see the new ticket on the account or hear about it from the primary contact (who got the notification).

Ticket email subscriptions allow for customers to set contact addresses to be notified when a ticket is created, edited or moved in a particular ticket group. Here are the ticket groups differentiated in our initial release:

  • Billing - Any ticket in our Billing department
  • Maintenance - Scheduled maintenance notifications for specific servers
  • Network Protection - DDoS mitigation and Null Routes
  • Monitoring - Host Down Alerts
  • CST, SysAdmin and Hardware - Any ticket in our support and data center departments
  • Managed Services - Tickets that relate to any managed services
  • Network Maintenance - Scheduled network maintenance

You'll notice that Abuse isn't included in this list, and the only reason it's omitted is because you've always been able to designate a contact on your account for abuse-related tickets ... Ticket subscriptions extend that functionality to other ticket groups.

Because only one email address can be "subscribed" to notifications in each ticket group, we recommend that customers use their own distribution lists as the email contacts. With a DL as the contact, you can enable multiple users in your organization to receive notifications, and you can add and remove users from each distribution list on your end quickly and easily.

When User A creates a ticket with the data center and goes on vacation, as soon as SoftLayer responds to the ticket, User A will be notified (as usual), and the supportsubscription@yourdomain.com distribution will get notified as well. When a network maintenance is ticket is created by SoftLayer, the netmaintsubscription@yourdomain.com distribution will be notified.

Ticket email subscriptions are additive to the current update notification structure, and they are optional. If you want to set up ticket email subscriptions on your account, create a ticket for the support department and provide us with the email addresses you'd like to subscribe to each of the ticket groups.

We hope this tool helps provide an even better customer experience for you ... If you don't mind, I'm going to head back to the lab to work with the dev team to cook up more ways to add flexibility and improvements into the customer experience.

-Chris

January 27, 2012

Deciphering SoftLayer Acronyms

As a bit of an introduction, I began my career as a GSP and hosted LAMP sites with WHM for SMBs ... NBD. If you're not fluent in "Tech Geek Acronym," that sentence may as well be written in Greek. If I were to de-acronym it, I'd say, "I began my career as a Game Service Provider" and hosted Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP sites with Web Host Managed for Small- and Medium-sized Businesses ... no big deal." For many, the humble acronym is a cornerstone of what it means to be a true techie. Stringing together dozens of three-letter abbreviations (TLAs) to compose semi-coherent sentences would seem to demonstrate your mastery of technology ... The problem is that if the reader of that sentence doesn't have the context you have, it's not very easy to easily get up to speed.

Every profession has their collection of acronyms. The little expressions serve as a verbal and written short hand for people who toil daily with the topics of their trade. I'm proud to confess that I've been using these minute medleys of letters for over twelve years. Given that I work on the Internet, I've been exposed to hundreds of acronyms in the fields of technology, business and management, and in my experience, I've had to break through several acronym "barriers" to get in the know. Because I happen to interact with customers every day as the manager of SoftLayer's technical support department, I've encountered a few "Can you tell means?" responses, so I thought I'd write a quick blog post to clarify some of the common acronyms you may see in the SoftLayer vernacular.

Within support we have our CSTs (customer support technicians) and CSAs (customer support admins) who, with the help of SBTs (server build technicians), manage our massive fleet of servers. SBTs are the hands and eyes of our data centers, working closely with the hardware to ensure your server is online and operating in peak condition. The CSTs and CSAs are focused on the software and services that power your websites and applications.

Beyond employee title acronyms, you'll probably see a collection of terms that describe the products and services that we manage. In support, we receive questions about accessing servers or CCIs (cloud computing instances) using KVM (Keyboard, Video and Mouse) or IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) through our VPN (Virtual Private Network). Once connected to our back-end network through a SSL (Secure Socket Layer), PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunnel Protocol) or IPSEC (Internet Protocol Security) VPN, you have access to services such as DNS (Domain Name Service), NAS (Network Attached Storage) or iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface). Finally, while discussing our network, I often refer to http://www.softlayer.com/diagrams/pod-network-diagram/dal05 to show the difference between a VER (VPN Edge Router) and a BCS (Back-end Customer Switch).

If you run across an acronym you don't understand in a ticket, please let us know so we can share its full meaning ... By using these shortened terms, our team can provider faster service (and you can read their responses quicker). I know that seeing all the bold TLAs above may seem a little off-putting initially, but as you have a chance to read them in the context of some of the other acronyms you already know, I hope you have an "Aha!" moment ... Like finding the Rosetta Stone or the Code of Hammurabi. Given the quick glance at the terms above, if you want to learn more about one of the TLAs in particular, leave a comment below, and we'll respond in another comment with details.

CBNO

-Chris

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