Thursday, 10 January 2013

Business Continuity and VoIP

Your business has a Business Continuity Plan BCP ready to be rolled out in the event of a business disruption but does it include you’re your phone systems to the same extent that your data is?

As more firms adopt Voice over IP communications it becomes essential that steps be put in place that will protect your business communications in the event of a failure, which can range from internet issues, line failures and power outages at a data centre.

 The causes of VoIP outages can range from loss of power at a data centre to glitches in Internet connectivity through to physical lines cut through by contractors.

Although you cannot rule out connection problems completely by careful planning and some thought you could put options in place that will go a long way ensure BCP.

  •  Create a back-up plan.
  • Set-up automatic diverts to landlines and/or mobiles
  • Ensure that your suppliers are robust by carrying out due diligence in the initial selection stages. 
  • Spares that can be swapped over quickly
  • Robust Service Level Agreements (SLA’s)

A back-up plan
Install a UPS (uninterpretable power supply) to keep VoIP routers and POE phone switches powered on for a period. You will need to ascertain the amount of power required to maintain devices for a determined amount of time. You may decide to have a selection of handsets that remain on during a power outage.

Set-up automatic diverts to landlines and/or mobiles
By setting up inbound call rules on a PBX, you can automatically divert calls to a PSTN line or designated mobiles so that you do not miss inbound calls to the business in the event of an outage. This allows the business to continue as normal, albeit on reduced capacity, until the outage can be resolved. At the same time, it will help to reduce any impact to customers.

Ensure that your suppliers are robust by carrying out due diligence in the initial selection stages
When you decide to change your phone system for the latest all singing and dancing solution it is essential that you carry out the necessary due diligence on your proposed providers. Ensure that they have robust systems in place to ensure that downtime is kept to a minimum and that they have multiple routing options in place so that calls can be diverted quickly via alternative carriers.

Spares that can be swapped over quickly
Equipment can fail at any time and for any reason. If a VoIP router fails then you could be without phones until a replacement has been sourced, set up and installed. This could mean downtime for upwards of 24 hours. By having a redundant router of the same make and model means that you can be up and running in 10’s of minutes. The same applies to switches and phones that can be swapped out with replacement devices within relatively short time frames. BCP is also about being prepared for those events that you can control.

Robust Service Level Agreements (SLA’s)
When negotiating with prospective suppliers ensure their SLA’s go towards protecting your business and minimise damages. Check uptimes with them to ensure that they meet your business requirements. Uptimes in SLA’s tend to be within a range but 99.9% is not an uncommon figure and with proof should give you comfort.

Check that the SLA contains all the relevant notice periods and ‘time to fix periods’ (usually 4 hours) and that they meet with your business requirements.

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