Disaster recovery and business have continuously become hot topics, however much of the focus is on protecting data and the systems surrounding it. The IT industry tends to fixate on things like phishing scams, cryptolockers, and data leaks; and as a business, you want to protect your staff and systems.
What about the phones?
In this blog, I will discuss the importance and best practice of disaster recovery in relation to your telephony system. As a telecoms consultant, the most prominent feature that I get asked about is the ability to have a reliable and effective disaster recovery solution in place, to which I always recommend moving to a fully hosted VoIP system. For those not familiar with this, VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol – also referred to as broadband phone service, IP telephony, or voice over broadband – and offers telephone communications delivered over the Internet. It’s a unified communication package, which combines phone calls, faxes, email, voicemail, and Web and video conferences.
With this in mind, the aim of this blog is to highlight why I would recommend a hosted telephony system over a traditional on-premise, and to discuss the many ways that companies can ensure that they protect themselves and their customers.
Hosted Cloud Telephony vs Traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange)
Businesses often do not realise the importance of a disaster recovery plan until it is too late as such it’s not hard to understand why businesses forget about their telephony. Traditionally, the phone company was in charge of business phones, as long as the ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines were functioning, you had service. If the lines went down you were left with nothing; the most you could do was request a forward to an external number that usually took between 1 – 2 hours to set up. However, in today’s modern workplace, with ever-increasing demands, that’s not good enough. This is where Hosted telephony really shines through.
By moving the PBX to the cloud, you are removing the operational risk associated with on-premise equipment and physical ISDN lines. Here are some of the advantages a cloud-based PBX has over legacy ISDN connections:
- The disaster recovery functionality ensures that employee productivity will not become stagnant due to a lack of access to information,
- Communication is made easy in the recovery process thanks to features like advanced call routing,
- Voicemail, Contacts, Fax and Call Information are all safe when the VoIP system is using the Cloud,
- Recovering your information can be done with ease from any device,
- Employees will be able to take advantage of seamless mobile working.
If the worst should happen…
We all know that a business can be affected by a variety of disasters such as fire, network failure, weather-related incidents or malware attacks. When companies purchase a hosted phone system they are taking a step in the right direction by having a fully redundant solution. Features like call routing, video and web conferencing and configuration are always available. No matter the circumstance a Hosted system keeps your employees in-touch and ready to work from anywhere.
How cloud can help to protect you in a disaster:
- In the event of a disaster, a traditional PBX system doesn’t allow employees to access their phones and information the way a Hosted VoIP system does.
- A traditional PBX system may not have a dial tone in the event of a large storm or power outage, while a Hosted VoIP system will be operating to its full capabilities.
- During a catastrophe, a Hosted VoIP system gives the option to employees to work from where they are safe.
- The abilities of Hosted VoIP systems are possible by the diverse locations of servers, allowing for the system to always be operational, no matter where a disruption may occur.
Of course, no system is 100% bulletproof and the same goes for hosted VoIP. The best disaster recovery solution is to take a proactive approach. As a business, you may have taken the biggest step you can by moving to the cloud; but there are other factors to consider when looking at the entire DR picture. These additional layers are optional and considered best practice; they focus on prevention and monitoring and will add protection and redundancy to your existing systems.
Backup Internet Connectivity
VoIP phones require the Internet to work so any DR plan should account for the loss of connectivity. Do you have a second line to switch over if the primary one fails? What happens if your ISP goes down? Some organisations prefer to have a second line from a different provider for this exact scenario. Your business should be able to carry on working if your primary Internet went down.
VoIP Monitoring Systems
One of the crucial elements of disaster recovery is notification. How do you know when to kick your backup plans into action? VoIP monitoring systems help with that. This is something not offered by traditional PBX platforms, that will actively monitor and report on the state and quality of the calls within the platform and report directly back to the user. Even a few minutes of downtime can be costly to a business and being forward-thinking will help you recover faster.
Reputed VoIP service providers will offer automatic failover protection. This means if calls cannot be completed, the system will roll over to an alternate solution. If you don’t use hosted services, you might need to create your own failsafe systems.
Do you automatically forward calls to your employees’ mobile devices? Not everyone likes to get business calls on their personal phones. Will you allow your staff to use their personal VoIP services instead? If yes, you will have to reimburse them for business calls. You may have to create DR plans in conjunction with other policies such as BYOD (bring your own device), corporate expense reimbursement, and storm evacuation.
What DR Plans does your Provider have?
Just because you use cloud VoIP services doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to disaster recovery planning. You should talk to your vendor and see what plans they have to recover from a disaster. After all, you’re depending on their ability to provide phone services to get you through a crisis. Suppose your vendor has 4 data centers. Are they all in the same location/region? Some disasters can strike a large area, so this might actually be a risk.
What happens if one of the data centers loses power? Are calls automatically re-routed? How quickly can they notify you when something goes wrong? Not all vendors know how to manage disaster recovery properly and you need to make sure your provider is prepared as well as you are!
The age of the on-premise ISDN based PBX is drawing to a close. This is confirmed by BTs’ decision to begin the staged phase-out of all ISDN lines starting in 2020, essentially speeding up cloud telephony adoptions for business.*
Traditional telephony is unable to provide an adequate solution to this demand and as such we are seeing the adoption of cloud telephony become more popular. Cloud-based telephony is no longer the domain of SMBs and early adopters, it has now matured to the point that it is adopted by some of the largest global brands. They recognise the advantages it brings from a piece of mind point of view when it comes to redundancy and recovery, and that it offers unparalleled flexibility. Now all that remains is for other companies to take the next step for themselves.