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Business continuity planning doesn’t tend to get people excited and it can be tempting to ignore the need to work through all your disaster recovery scenarios. Nonetheless, the value of the planning is knowing what to do if the worst happens.

Maybe a natural disaster, like a flood or fire, could damage IT, telephony and other equipment and make it impossible to get to the office. What about a terrorist operation? And, as we’ve all experienced, something like a global pandemic can be incredibly disruptive.

Good business continuity planning  will save you time and money during and after an emergency. Having system redundancies built in means you won’t waste valuable time with, for example, your phone systems down, unable to communicate and get business back on track.

The benefits of a VoIP phone system in a disaster recovery situation

VoIP means Voice over Internet Protocol. Put simply, a VoIP telephone system translates the caller’s voice into a digital signal and then uses the internet to send this to the recipient. At the other end, the signal is translated back to voice. Unlike a traditional landline call, a VoIP call does not depend on a wired connection through a telephone exchange to reach the other person.

All disaster recovery plans require good communication. So keeping your phone lines operational is one of your top priorities. Further, for customer service orientated businesses like call centres and consultancies even a few minutes of down-time on your phone system can create a significant reputational or revenue loss to the business.

With VoIP you can literally take your calls anywhere you have an internet connection. In a disaster situation this already solves a big problem – how do people access their phones and what happens to calls coming into your offices? Easy: Smartphones, tablets and laptops can be used as a replacement, allowing callers to reach your people on their office numbers wherever they’re working.

Employee working from home

Continuity planning tips for your VoIP system

If you’ve already moved over to VoIP for business telephony, have you updated your recovery plan for the new set up? If you’re thinking of switching to VoIP, what should you be considering for contingency planning?

Here are our thoughts on what you need to plan for:

  • How will you be alerted if your phone system is down?
  • Is a VoIP system installed on staff mobile devices?
  • In some VoIP systems the main control box is hosted at your premises, so what’s your back-up if it’s damaged by fire, flood or similar?
  • Similar to above, what happens if there’s a power outage at the office?
  • As VoIP is dependent on an internet connection, what happens if the office broadband goes down?
  • Some VoIP systems are hosted entirely in the cloud, so what’s your supplier’s contingency plan in the event of a problem affecting their data centre and servers?

How will you be alerted if your phone system is down?

In some cases, and for some organisations, it will be obvious something is wrong. However, if there are no immediate signs, how long would it be before you’re aware that phone calls have stopped coming in? Would you be reliant on an employee reporting an issue with making outbound calls?

Ideally, there’ll be some kind of alert built into your system or available through your hosting provider, so you know you need to get your back-ups online.

Is the VoIP system installed on staff mobile phones?

VoIP offers the ability to take a call on almost any mobile device with access to the internet. It does, however, need the right software installed and set up and staff need to know how to use it.

What do you need in an emergency: do you need all staff to make and receive calls on their personal mobile phones using their office numbers? Or is it sufficient for a smaller number of key personnel to be able to do this?

Employee working from home in kitchen

If you have an on-premises control box for VoIP, what happens if it’s damaged?

On-premises VoIP systems use a PBX (Personal Branch Exchange) to route calls to the right extension within the business. Without the PBX, calls can’t be transferred to individual devices.

The ideal solution is to have a second PBX system mirroring the original. It’s even better if the back-up is hosted in the cloud, so it won’t be vulnerable in the same way.

If your VoIP system is already entirely hosted in the cloud it will be up to your provider to manage any problems, see the next section.

 What are your telephony supplier’s contingency plans?

Another option for VoIP systems is to have a virtual PBX, which is hosted in the cloud by your telephony provider. In this case, an emergency that affects your office won’t disrupt the functionality of your VoIP system.

The vulnerability here is that something may happen to your provider’s data centre. Importantly the onus is on them to restore your service, but it’s probably worth checking to see what’s stated in your contract about Service Level Agreements and their contingency planning for disruption to a data centre.

What happens if the office broadband goes down or there’s a power outage?

There could be any number of reasons for loss of power or broadband including natural disasters, malicious activity or a problem with an individual provider.

If your PBX is hosted on your premises, it will be vulnerable to both broadband and power outages. It’s worth evaluating the likely risk of either occurring and the severity of disruption that either would cause over a given time period.

Your provider may offer the option to automatically re-route certain calls to your employees’ personal mobile phone numbers, if they’re willing. In this scenario you’ll need a fit-for-purpose ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy and to have a process in place to deal with the expenses claims. 

Support for your business over the long term

At ITS, we believe there’s a whole lot more to telephony and IT than just supplying a system. Contact us for support with all aspects of installing and running a VoIP system.

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