Don’t get caught with your phone system down

By - October 28, 2015

Many people talk about the dark days of IT as cloudy days. However, the cloud has been a significant improvement for phone system resiliency with recent offerings. How confident are you in your phone system disaster recovery plan? Have you tested it? Do you have a plan when the phone lines or system goes down? In my many years of assessing communication platforms for companies, to this day, I find very few have a solid disaster recovery plan and most have significant points of failure. Given the many new channels of communication out there that collapse into a unified platform, it’s time to take a more serious approach. Let me help you improve that landscape.

To get started, we first must determine what type of phone system platform you have today. Is it a traditional phone system (TDM) or newer model using voice over-IP (VoIP)? If your answer is TDM, please consider an immediate change to VoIP for everyone’s benefit. The expense alone in building disaster recovery into a TDM platform should quickly change your mind on waiting for VoIP. If TDM is in the cards for another five years, I would start by understanding the end-of-life of your system to verify you can still get support. If still supported, there are options for you. Perhaps it’s simply backup gear, in which you should contact your local provider to get a “crash kit” list of parts to have on hand. Several TDM systems on the market were designed with some level of redundant options, so it’s worth a conversation if you are planning on several years of use. Next, I would talk to that provider about backup phone lines for the system to verify what configuration can be deployed to quickly overcome a carrier outage.

Now, if your phone system is a VoIP platform, you are in luck. The vast majority of VoIP phone systems on the market have redundancy options galore. From SIP phone line support (the latest technology of phone lines from your carrier), to secondary systems for call processing and messaging (the primary functions performed by the phone system). VoIP allows you to easily separate the system with redundancy to provide immediate failover options so your customers don’t notice a thing in the event of an outage.

Next, let’s get to the brass tacks of this issue. How important is disaster recovery for your phone system? Has anyone helped you define recovery time for your system? How far do you need to go with the spending to align your phone system (unified communications) with your business need and strategy? Once you have those questions answered, then you’re ready to tackle the design.

One of the developments in the last few years that has elevated the options for redundancy in VoIP platforms is the use of server virtualization. Most leading VoIP manufacturers have certified their platforms using Microsoft Hyper-V and VMWare virtualization technology, allowing for easy and cost effective redundancy of these phone systems.

The last important topic to discuss with VoIP is the use of the cloud. Many providers offer cloud phone system backup and recovery options allowing a business to purchase seats for failover or for use during a disaster. The failover of your system with this type of solution can range from immediate to a few hours depending on your subscription level from the provider. A possible design option would be to point your phone numbers at both your current production environment as well the failover provider. So, in the event your primary phone system goes down, your calls would immediately ring to the backup provider. The inbound calls could be managed by the auto attendant of the back-up system while staff get logged in. Again, just one design option, but should illustrate how easy it is to put a solution in place if you don’t have one today.

To summarize, customers want to communicate in today’s world via phone, video, email, chat, fax, SMS (text), and social which is requiring much greater reliability of the unified communications (phone system) platform. Your business has many options and you should study your needs to craft the necessary design that aligns with the business for your communications reliability.

If you’re interested in learning more or need assistance with your phone system disaster recovery plan, please contact our technology consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us. Lastly, to learn more about our service offerings check out our website.

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