History tells us of the time when our economy was transitioning from horse-drawn buggy to the automobile. Many companies had a hard time seeing that the change was real and permanent. Some continued to stick to their old business model, e.g., making buggy whips, and went out of business.

We are undergoing a similar change in the telecom industry today, from traditional ‘land lines’ delivered over ancient copper infrastructure to Internet based services. And likewise, many people continue to think of this as a fad, failing to recognize the sea change that it is.

Death of the Land Line

I am here to announce: The land line is dead. Long live the SIP trunk! Internet delivered trunks are generally referred to as SIP trunks. SIP is the internet protocol for setting up and tearing down phone calls. SIP trunks have many advantages over traditional phone lines and I’d like to examine some in detail.

Master of Disaster

Today I want to talk about disaster recovery. Of course, we never expect a disaster to occur with our phone system, but when one does, we will either be a hero or a zero depending on the quality of the disaster recovery plan we have in place. Disaster in this context can mean several different things. Of course we always think about fire/flood type disasters that wipe out a facility (and the phone system with it!). But it could also be failure of a critical phone system component, a cable cut, or massive local power failure. For those of us in the telecom industry, anything that interrupts telephone service is a disaster.

So the traditional disaster recovery plan involves re-routing phone lines to a secondary facility where they can be answered. In the event of a disaster, you would have to call the phone company and request they re-route all lines to the one backup location. This scenario required a physical backup location, typically equipped with a fully functional standby phone system, a deal breaker for most small/medium businesses. Not only that, the phone company would typically charge exorbitant fees to re-route the calls and the routing change might take hours.

The Unreachables

A standard feature of SIP trunks allows you to assign a ‘destination unreachable’ number to each of your phone numbers. When the service provider detects that calls cannot complete to your facility, they start sending calls to the alternate location. Automatically. No long delays. I repeat: this is a standard feature, not a costly option. Since alternate locations can typically be specified on a per-number basis, distributed answering can be implemented. These alternate numbers can be home phones, cell phones or an answering service.  No backup facility required. This makes huge sense for SMBs. Now you can reassure your customers that you have a plan to support them in the event of a disaster. A real-world plan that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Caveat Emptor

A few caveats: Be sure to test your backup scenario. Understand what specific parameters trigger a re-route from the carrier. Understand how long a destination must be unreachable before re-routing takes place and how quickly it will switch back. Do you really want calls re-routing if you just have a momentary circuit glitch? Work with your vendor and carrier to customize a plan that works for your specific circumstances. Document your disaster recovery plan and review it periodically. And keep your fingers crossed!

Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Have you ever had to deal with a telecom disaster? What was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments.


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