October 9th, 2017 by Bronson Tang
By Michael Dozier, President & CEO, Pulsar360, Inc
Disaster can strike your business at any time and in a variety of ways. Once an effective, well designed, and professionally managed telephony disaster recovery plan is in place you can rest easy in the knowledge that fire, flood, power outage, natural disaster, etc. doesn't mean a change in your businesses fortunes.
Here are some shocking statistics about disaster recovery:
- There were 102 Disaster Recovery declarations by FEMA in 2016 & 105 so far in 2017. An even larger number of security, technology, network and telecommunications outages and disruptions occur annually.
- A Gartner Study states "2 out of every 5 companies struck with a major disaster are unable to recover. Of the survivors, 1/3 go out of business within the next 2 years."
- 20% of businesses experience an emergency failure in any given year, and 80% of those businesses will go under in just over a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Nearly 40% of small businesses close after a disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Only 25% of businesses that close due to a major disaster ever reopen, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety.
Technologies & Mitigating Strategies
In such circumstances, what technologies are available to businesses that might be used to keep telephony up and running 27/7?
- Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) - SIP trunking offers high flexibility in the event of a disaster and offers the capability to provide disaster recovery options for your business telephony. Most service providers offer:
- Automatic Failover - In the event the primary T1 or Internet connection fails, calls automatically fail over to a secondary, tertiary or 4G LTE connections.
- Automated Distribution and Rerouting of Calls - If your location fails to receive calls, calls are automatically rerouted between geographically-diverse sites, to a designated off-site number, another TAS etc. This allows you to maintain receipt of inbound calls in the event of a power, system, or circuit failure.
- Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) - Voice over IP (VoIP) needs to be at the core of any well-planned communications recovery strategy and should be used to bolster disaster recovery plans. TAS users of VoIP can expect a high availability in the event their TAS system (either premise-based or hosted) fails, or they lose connectivity to their system. Some key attributes of a Fail-Over Cloud based Backup System are:
- Calls automatically failover and are delivered directly to operator desktop via softphones.
- Calling party ID and customer name or account number are delivered to the operator
- A Cloud based IVR provides multiple call queues, skills based routing, and redirect of calls at the DID level
The best line of defense in the event you lose your ability to work from your existing location due to fire, storm, power outage, or other disaster is a Hot Stand-by Emergency Could System for Remote Continuity. Send your employees home or to locations with internet access to work with a computer softphone and headset. You may be able to resume critical functions in minutes at a temporary location. The same key attributes of a Fail-Over Cloud based Backup System are available.
Communication continuity also depends on redundancy in the Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery provider's infrastructure. Here are some criteria to consider:
- Does the provider utilize redundant, geographically diverse data centers?
- Are these data centers Tier III high-availability data centers or Tier I and Tier II centers? Organizations selecting Tier I and Tier II solutions typically do not depend on real-time delivery of products or services for a significant part of their revenue stream.
- Tier III data center services providers depend on colocation services for the critical lifeline of their business. Rigorous uptime requirements and long-term viability are usually the reason for selecting strategic solutions found in Tier III and Tier IV site infrastructure.
- Is SIP Trunk redundancy available? (Connectivity of each SIP trunk to geographically diverse data centers so if there is a data center issue, carrier issue, etc. the other takes over for all trunks and DIDs)
- Is Toll Free Number redundancy available? (In the event of a major failure at one carrier, all toll free numbers are activated on a secondary carrier)
- Do they provision DIDs to multiple carriers to terminate traffic? (In the event of a major failure at one carrier, not all DIDs are out of service)
- Does each of their data centers have connectivity to multiple national networks? (If there is a problem with quality or service issues with one network, calls are routed to another)
A true business continuity telephony solution needs to be able to handle any kind of problem, no matter how big or small.
Whatever disaster recovery methods for telephony a company uses, the effectiveness of the whole recovery plan will have a massive impact on how well a company deals with the disaster. Here are some simple steps to create a telecommunications disaster recovery plan:
- You need a serious plan if your regular communication method fails. Consider how your employees will react to the change in communication as well. Both the customer and the employee are key to your business running smoothing, take both into consideration as you develop your plan.
- Create a well-written document regarding how your telecommunications systems operate. Include important information like failover specifications and remote capabilities. Some issues can be resolved remotely with the proper plan in place. Be sure to document any critical operation functions and any service level agreements associated with them. Include the technical support reporting processes and escalation processes and contact information for all critical providers.
- Identify the potential crisis that may affect your business telecommunications systems and create well-defined procedures to handle each crisis. Make sure various departments within your organization review the procedures and make adjustments/addendums as necessary. Be sure to plan for the transition for resumption of service. Lastly, create roles and responsibilities for employee's overseeing business continuity and recovery efforts. Does staff know where they should work from in the event of a DR plan being implemented, for example?
- The best way to ensure your disaster recovery plan is effective is to implement a test.
Establish, develop and manage strategies, plans, policies and procedures to protect your people, facilities and supporting technology in the case of a disaster. Make sure your organization is prepared for the worst. Be sure to contact our team for any questions.