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Doug Mohney with VoIP News

Hurricanes, floods, and other acts of nature can inflict severe damage on a businesses, wrecking equipment, ruining office space, and displacing staff. Boston’s record snow season is just one example of unexpected weather playing havoc with buildings, with overloaded roofs collapsing, clogged gutters forcing water and ice into buildings, and melting snow adding the final insult to injury by flooding basements. Voice over IP (VoIP) is a vital tool in business continuity and disaster recovery planning, enabling businesses to continue operating even if staff can’t come into the office.

There’s no one best solution to apply VoIP as part of contingency planning because budget and existing infrastructure affect decisions. The versatility of VoIP can be applied to all scenarios, however, ranging from voice routed through an existing IP private branch exchange (PBX) to an all-cloud solution.

Many medium-sized and larger businesses own IP PBXs, having made a considerable investment in hardware and staff training to support in-house phone needs, remote offices, and contact centers. In cases where the main corporate PBX server isn’t physically affected but office space and staff are, inbound phone calls can be easily rerouted—with the proper planning and testing, of course—to unaffected remote offices, individual homes, and alternative off-site backup space. Companies that already support remote offices and teleworking have a leg up in that they have the ability and experience in re-route phone calls on the fly from a desktop phone to alternative extensions, mobile phones, and home phones.

The IP PBX is also a critical single point of failure for many businesses, however. Expensive to set up and maintain, few companies fully develop and test contingency plans that take into account interruption of service resulting from the company phone system going down because of physical equipment damage or a focused cyberattack. Only the largest businesses can afford distributed physical hardware in multiple locations capable of handling peak voice call traffic for the entire business in case the main IP PBX goes down.

Service providers and specialized telecommunications consulting firms have started to offer a “hot spare” alternative to IP PBX owners, offering a cloud-based service. These firms set up a virtual PBX “mirror” that has all the functions and capabilities of the IP PBX, operating just like its hardware-based counterpart inside and outside the company. If the IP PBX goes offline, the cloud mirror takes over with a few commands or one phone call to the cloud service provider, with all calls almost instantly re-routed through the cloud. Businesses pay for setup and a monthly contingency fee until; if the company needs the service, then it starts paying regular rates for as long as it uses the service.

Having a totally cloud-based VoIP solution would appear to be the best solution for business continuity planning, but a number of issues bear examining. A cloud-based solution may not provide all of the flexibility or features an enterprise requires for its operations. For businesses that have regulatory reporting requirements, such as the financial, legal, and medical professions, an in-house PBX solution may be preferable to provide a detailed audit trail and ensure confidentiality for clients.

Cloud-based VoIP solutions should also be carefully examined for the vendor’s business continuity plans. If your business is affected by a natural disaster, the last thing you want to do is worry about that same event shutting down your phone service. A cloud provider should have multiple geographically distributed data centers with redundant servers so that if one center is knocked offline, others can pick up the load without a service interruption. Single or dual data centers just aren’t enough when it comes to a cloud VoIP service you can trust your business voice with.

To learn more contact MCC’s Telecom Division today!