A telephony disaster is one problem you don’t need to own.

Owen Kirwan
On: 7 Feb 2019
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cloud telephony

Come power cut, hardware failure, software glitch or administrative error, it’s almost certain you have a disaster recovery (DR) plan in place for most of your IT infrastructure. Your DR will allow you to restore your systems in little or no time, enabling your business to function as normal. However, few businesses are as well-prepared for a telephony disaster – but with the right telephony, they may not have to be.

With a hosted or managed, cloud-based, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony system, disaster recovery won’t be an issue for your business, because you’re effectively choosing disaster avoidance instead. The core hardware and software are located in the provider’s data centre, so issues at your premises won’t affect it. Issues at the provider’s end will be covered by extensive redundancy, and keeping your system running will be guaranteed by strict Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

If there’s an issue at your premises that affects your ability to make or receive calls, the system can automatically reroute inbound calls to another one of your sites or to your business’ mobiles. Since most cloud and privately hosted telephony platforms are next-generation, you can also avail of advanced features such as voicemail-to-email, soft clients and online portals where you can manage and make changes to the system yourself, if you wish. The features that come as standard on most hosted and cloud platforms will not only improve communication between your business and your customers, but also relieve dependency on your office as end users and administrators can use the system from anywhere. Your workforce is freed to work from any location, whether on the road or unable to travel to the office because of weather.

Down-to-earth planning.

If your telephony currently operates on an onsite PBX system, you will need to make a decision about the future of your communications sooner rather than later. The phasing-out of fixed line telephony is already underway. For example Telia, the Finnish telco, is discontinuing its provision of fixed line telephony this year. British Telecom is planning to have all fixed line phased put by 2025. The once ultra reliable onsite PBX systems that have sat in the corner of every server room for decades are now becoming quite aged. While they are still quite reliable, they are a single point of failure for your business and because of their age are most likely end of life, meaning parts may have very long lead times or may not be available at all.

This makes moving to cloud-based or privately hosted VoIP telephony the optimum strategy for disaster recovery, since it places the responsibility onto the provider. However, should you decide to opt for an on-premise solution, you need to have your own disaster recovery strategy in place.

Disaster recovery for PBX telephony.

A power failure at your premises will affect all of your PBX telephony, including all outgoing calls by employees and incoming calls from customers. Adding insult to injury, the power surge when power is restored can often lead to hardware failure, again causing you to lose the capability to make or receive calls. Even doing the right thing and conscientiously installing software patches and upgrades can lead to glitches that knock your system out of action. Daily or weekly system back-ups to an external storage facility will give you some chance of a faster recovery after a disaster, as will having a backup power supply like a UPS. However, these devices generally only have enough power to allow you to shut down your equipment safely until normal power is restored.

Having a way to divert calls elsewhere in the event of a loss of power or system failure will go some way to helping you maintain business-as-usual. You should also have a plan in place for maintaining operations in the event of a major, longer-term issue. For example, if your on-premise system is offline for a week or more, you need to be able to divert calls to mobiles, or even to an external third-party call centre. Alternatively, you could move your whole telephony system to the cloud and make disaster recovery someone else’s problem.

Choosing a provider.

With so much depending on them for the smooth operation of your business, it’s obviously important to choose your provider carefully. With a huge global provider, for example, any issues that affect them may be on a much larger scale, and concern for how they affect their smaller customers could be well down on their list of priorities. A more local provider, operating their own platform will naturally be closer and more responsive to customers – particularly if you already have a relationship with them and an account manager you know and trust.