Live chat: Backing up conversations in the cloud

Cloud solutions for customer service and technical support operations, such as chatbots and live chat, often reside in the cloud. They also create a considerable amount of data from the conversations that advisors have with customers, and from the chatbot queries whenever customers choose a self-service option. Some of the data created from these interactions will be sensitive in nature too, and so there is a need to consider how to protect it to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) whenever backing up data to the cloud.

Other considerations arise too, including the need to prevent hackers from being able to access any data created by live chat and chatbots. After all it’s a duty to protect customer data, and a failure to do so could damage an organisation’s customer relationships and reputation. It could even cost them financially. Commercially speaking, they also need to ensure that data can be retrieved quickly whenever it is needed to respond to customer queries, and this may involve an array of systems – including cloud knowledge bases — that could be slowed down by latency.

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Service continuity

To keep the business operational when disaster strikes, whether it be caused by human or systems error, cloud backups must also be available as part of a service continuity and disaster recovery strategy. In these situations, it’s important to be able to have more than one disaster recovery site available to be able to retrieve any data that is stored as backups in the cloud. Only then can it be possible to seamlessly failover in a way that doesn’t significantly impact on customers.

Some companies that manage their own cloud-based applications and data will rely heavily on their cloud providers to help them to backup and restore their data, and to ensure that their data is secured in either a public, private or hybrid cloud – much depends on the type and sensitivity of the data. On the other hand, there are other organisations that buy cloud services, such as live chat and chatbot solutions that are and hosted and managed by a vendor.

Vendor support

In this case clients will mostly focus their time and efforts on the using the solution, rather than on backing up the data they create. Gary Martin, Managing Director of live chat solutions provider Click4Assistance explains: “By using a cloud-based live chat provider, like my company, clients have no need to back up their chats with their customers because the provider manages all of this.”

“Being cloud-based, should the company experience a disaster, or if there is a need to failover to another disaster recovery site, live chat staff can continue to work – including from any location that has an operable internet connection.”

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Regulatory compliance

His marketing colleague Gemma Baker adds that, in compliance with data protection regulations such as the European Union’s GDPR, all of the live chat conversations are backed up to the cloud for a specific period of time. However, she adds: “Some organisations will transfer these chats into their own systems.”, which is advisable because organisations shouldn’t overly rely on any type of cloud to keep their data secure and available.

With this and GDPR in mind, Baker comments: “When organisations are using live chat and chatbots within Europe, there’s no such thing as considering the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR): enterprises must ensure they comply with the new rulings, otherwise they risk data breaches and fines. Using a cloud-based service can therefore help organisations that are not so experienced with systems and security to ensure their customers’ data is fully protected. “

Air-gapping data

This can nevertheless be achieved by having an air-gapped copy of their chat data. However, to comply with GDPR they must also consider how to archive and retrieve the data quickly. Beyond that, air-gapping and not just relying on cloud providers to back up sensitive data, can help organisations to restore their operations if a cyber-attack on their cloud provider were to be successful, while keeping highly sensitive data out of the hands of hackers. This is because air-gapping entailed storing the data securely offline.

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Service level agreements

However, by working with a cloud solutions provider, they can also focus on their own customers, as well as on business and service continuity. To ensure that the data is portable and accessible, and to know to what extent the cloud solutions or service provider is responsible for data backups and security, organisations would be advised to look closely at their service level agreements.

This can be a complicated task for smaller companies; they may lack the expertise to understand them, and so they need to have the right SLAs in place to clarify responsibilities, data ownership and management considerations. While a number of large corporate may outsource some of their IT, they have a greater ability to recruit and buy expertise than their smaller counterparts. Nevertheless, they should still ask cloud solutions providers questions about how these issues are managed to allow them to be reassured that their data storage will be GDPR compliant and safe.

Backup and restore

There are also backup and restore considerations. Organisations that use a cloud-based solution want to be reassured that their data and the solutions they use – including live chat – can be restored quickly, but there is one little devil that can get in the way. That’s network latency. While latency is a matter of life, and it can’t be totally eradicated, it needs to be addressed.

Latency causes jitter and packet loss. Consequently, it can stall applications such as live chat solutions and chatbots by slowing them down and by reducing wide area network (WAN) performance. What’s more it gets worse the further away the data is stored and transmitted between different locations. The traditional way to address this is WAN optimisation, but it doesn’t adequately mitigate the effects of latency company to an SD-WAN with a data acceleration overlay.

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Back up other systems

Baker advises that companies should back up their customer relationship management (CRM) systems too. This will ensure that their customers data is retrievable. She therefore thinks that CRM shouldn’t just be considered as one standalone piece of the communications puzzle because CRM systems are often integrated with live chat to permit organisations to retain and analyse customer data for better customer service, cross-selling and up-selling products and services to customers.

There may also be a number of other interconnected systems in place, and increasingly that may include chatbots. The data from the interactions they have with customers will also need to be retained – not just from a CRM perspective, but also because they use artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve their effectiveness in answering customer queries.

5 backup top tips

Lastly, Martin and Baker offer their 5 best practice top tips for backing up live chat conversations and chatbot interactions. These include the following:

1. Remember chat information usually contains personal and potentially sensitive information, and therefore should be dealt with in line with GDPR and their companies security policies.
2. From a provider’s point of view – Ensure the chat data is encryption at rest; and use a solution that can transmit encrypted data fast and securely.
3. Ensure the data remains safe and secure, which can be only accessed by the authorised staff in the organisation, unless a customer organisation is permitted to retain a copy of their chat (e.g. for air-gapping sensitive data).
4. From an organisation’s user point of view – transfer conversations into legacy systems, ensuring they are also cloud backed up either by the supplier or by the organisation using them.
5. Ensure monitoring and alerting features are built into the service which extracts the chat data, ensuring extracting is happening when expected.

Ask questions

So live chat conversation can be backed up and retrieved from the cloud. Nevertheless, the ability of client organisations using a cloud-based live chat solution to keep backup copies of the conversations will depend on the terms and conditions of the SLA they are required to sign for using it. Even if they are small companies, they mustn’t be shy about asking questions, and by asking tough and appropriate questions they can ensure that they buy into the right solution for their business, while reassuring themselves that they can develop a positive client-solutions provide relationship.

The solution should also enable them to achieve GDPR compliance, and to retrieve customer data whenever it is required. This includes having the ability to response to an individual’s requests to know what personal data is stored about them – whether that be in the cloud, or offline. This is often a horrendous task as data volumes are ever-increasing, and so it’s worth finding a way to index cloud backups to allow it to be retrieved quickly. Indexing can also be a good way to enable live chat operators to find information quickly in response to customer queries.

To achieve this, organisations will need to have the ability to integrate with a plethora of other systems, many of which may also be cloud-based, to ensure that all of their conversations with customers can be captured, and the data from them analysed to constantly work on improving their customer relationships. Yet this can only be achieved if their cloud solutions provider is committed to frequently backing up data, while keeping it secure for business and service continuity.

Written by Graham Jarvis, Freelance Business and Technology Journalist
Written by Graham Jarvis, Freelance Business and Technology Journalist

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...