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Posts Tagged ‘iCarol uptime’

A Special Message to iCarol Users as 2017 Comes to a Close

The end of a year is typically a time for introspection as we look back on what we’ve accomplished and begin to plan for the future. This past year has certainly been challenging for a variety of reasons, but you, our clients, have been a consistent source of inspiration throughout it all. You have repeatedly stepped in to assist the most vulnerable in their time of greatest need. Whether it was responding to those at risk during and after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, helping survivors in the aftermath of a violent attack and addressing the surge in awareness and discussion around those topics, assisting those struggling in their day-to-day environment, or handling countless other problems and requests, you have stepped up to make a positive difference in the world.

They say there’s strength in numbers, and you demonstrated it this year with creative partnerships to aid each other in your respective missions. In the interest of brevity, I’ll cite just two examples: first, a California 211 who on very short notice agreed to back up a Florida crisis center as Irma grew close, utilizing iCarol’s ability to share contact forms and resource data. The plan ensured help seekers would still have someone to assist them even as the Florida center lost its power and telephone service. The California 211 logged over 1,100 call reports during that crisis.

In another powerful example of strength in numbers, a group of crisis centers across Canada banded together to form the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), agreeing on a common process and technology standard in order to provide a seamless network of assistance to those in crisis. The vision of a unified national service was first championed by Karen Letofsky, and began providing service in late November of this year. CSPS uses iCarol for logging contacts, chat and texting. Their very first interaction, a chat, resulted in an active rescue of a teenager. Countless other stories could be told of the valuable services you’ve all performed throughout this year, and of the powerful network you’ve built to assist each other in times of need.

At iCarol we have always strived to provide the best possible software and service we could to empower you further. After listening closely to your feedback last year, in 2017 we focused most strongly on overall service stability, product quality and in the addition of critical functionality to iCarol. We also wanted to ensure we built in additional feedback loops from you to help us continue to improve. So, you might ask, how have we done?

I’m pleased to say that for 2017 thus far, we’ve achieved our best “up time” in the past 10 years, exceeding 99.972% system availability, per our third-party monitoring service. To put 99.972% in context, it averages out to only 24.2 seconds of down time per day, or a total of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 15.9 seconds for the entire year. We’re feeling especially good about the percentage given that this year our customers logged over 10 million contact forms in iCarol, doubling the number of forms entered just 3 years ago. Your need for access to iCarol stretches ‘round the clock, and our relatively small company has delivered this year with up times comparable to industry giants like Salesforce and Amazon, ensuring you have access to your systems as you provide vital services.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve product quality. iCarol contains almost 300,000 lines of code, which implies a significant amount of work to continually test its feature functionality. In late 2016 and throughout 2017, we’ve been investing in automated testing as a way to ensure more ongoing, consistent testing. To date we’ve created 220 automated test cases, which will be kicked off nightly as the codebase is updated with new bug fixes or features. Our plan is to grow the number of automated cases to cover more and more of iCarol, thereby relying a little less on manual testing, which can be subject to human error. The more product defects we can capture before a release, the better iCarol will perform for you. This will also help us to speed up our release cycle in 2018, releasing an update on average every two weeks throughout the year, delivering feature functionality to you more quickly. As always, check the iCarol Dashboard for news on upcoming releases and any features it may contain.

The iCarol Ideas Portal was launched this February as a more formal feedback loop for you to suggest improvements, and to vote on Ideas of fellow customers. It also enables the ability for Q&A, allowing our Product Management team to gather more detailed information about selected Ideas. We’re thrilled that you’ve jumped in and begun logging your Ideas, enabling us to see trends in your voting. We’ve implemented multiple Ideas this year, and plan to add more in 2018.

In 2017, 2,769 code changes were made to iCarol, which translates into over 790 features and bug fixes added throughout the year, as we strove to improve iCarol per your feedback. Some of the most notable enhancements this year included a new release of Messaging, which incorporated the text or chat conversation into the call report form, the massive Field Visibility enhancement for resource database managers, and an updated Public Resource Directory 2.0, with its configurable Guided Search, among other features.

Smaller enhancements can also provide a lot of value for our clients, as you reminded us through your suggestions on the Ideas Portal. These included enabling a custom date range for the Summary Report, receiving an email notification when a resource is flagged for review, requesting email outcomes from an Automated Verification campaign, receiving notifications for bounced email from an Automate Verification campaign, and initiating an Automated Verification request when editing a resource record.

Finally, we’ve also begun formalizing focus groups on particular areas of functionality we’d like to improve. If you are a “Power User” of a particular area of iCarol, meaning you use it heavily, and have strong opinions on how it could be improved, we’d love to hear from you so that we can add you into a focus group. Each group will be small, but will hone in on specialized functionality so that we can obtain very detailed feedback on what works, what doesn’t, and the special requirements and limitations you run into in your environment. As I hope I’ve conveyed throughout this note, your voice and expertise is a valued part of our business, especially as part of our product management process.

All in all, it’s been quite a year. We hope you’ve weathered the storm well in both your personal and professional life, and we wish everyone a safe, secure and happy new year. Everyone at iCarol continuously marvels at the fine work you do and your life-changing and life-saving contributions to our world, and we’re excited to see your continued positive influence in the new year. We remain honored to serve you, our clients, and look forward to another year of service and giving in 2018 and beyond.

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iCarol achieves 99.99% uptime for first quarter 2017

Being a web-based service, we are always aware of how access to our systems effect you. After all, many of our users operate as 24/7 services, entering call report forms and searching for resources ’round the clock. We recognize that there’s never a “good” time for iCarol to be unavailable to you, and this is why we’ve invested so heavily in infrastructure and processes that work hard to minimize outages and make unavoidable ones as brief as possible. We have “fail over” servers that are are set to pick up systems routed to them in the event of connection loss, and members of our technical team receive notifications no matter the time of day or night in the event of detected instability so they can begin working on a solution, often before our users have even detected a problem. In an effort to be completely transparent about iCarol’s uptime and availability, we make status.icarol.com available to you, and advise our users to check this site if they suspect they’re having connection issues to help determine whether the issue is originating with iCarol or something is amiss with their own local network connections. These are all examples of efforts and placement of reliability as our very top priority.

Our service level agreement with our users is 99.9%, which translates to about 10 minutes of allowable downtime, on average, per week to achieve. Of course it’s our goal to go above and beyond that, and consistently we do. iCarol regularly achieves uptimes of 99.95% or 99.97%, and our overall uptime for 2016 was over 99.97%, translating to no more than three minutes of downtime per week on average. This 2016 achievement exceeds industry standards as comparable to some of the top web-based service providers, including Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Amazon, and Netsuite. These companies are, of course, much larger than iCarol in every way, and yet we often meet and exceed the service levels offered by them.

We’re pleased to say that thanks to some of the infrastructure work that’s been done over the last year, our total uptime for the first quarter of 2017 met a “four nines” achievement, which is 99.99% uptime. To give you an idea of how good that is, it means that in a given month a site would be unavailable for just over 4 minutes total, and about 1 minute of downtime weekly.

Occasional, brief slowdowns or short periods of downtime are unfortunately an unavoidable part of the online world in which we live, but making these interruptions a rarity is our top priority. We are scaling our infrastructure and systems as we grow so that we can continue to provide the level of service you’ve come to expect and deserve from us. It is an ongoing item that we’re always monitoring and looking to innovate, but we were particularly happy with the performance following the strides we made and wanted to share that with you.

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