In Disaster Recovery Planning: Part 1, I discussed Disaster Recovery Planning for a Complete Site Failure and Equipment Failure modes. In this post, I will discuss Service Failure and how planning for this type of failure is applicable to the other failure modes as well.

VoIP, SIP Trunking, Hosted VoIP Services and IPPBXs all have the capability to deliver great disaster recovery services at reduced (or even zero) cost. Even if you have an older traditional PBX or are using traditional analog or PRI phone services,  you can take advantage of the new technology to create a cost-effective strategy.

Services Failure

A Services Failure might be your T1 or PRI service completely down.  If you’ve been in telecom long enough, this has probably happened to you. Calls are not ringing in and no one can call out. While this type of failure may sound less critical and more temporary than either of the previous two, it can be every bit as debilitating. Many (most) businesses live and die by the telephone. When service is down, you do not want to be the one responsible for no backup plan.

In 30+ years in this business, I have never personally witnessed a complete site loss. (I live in New Mexico where we have no hurricanes or earthquakes!) And while I have seen many equipment failures, they were almost always resolved within a matter of hours. (The one notable exception to this is the local company that bought a phone system over the Internet, then found out they couldn’t get spare parts.) But I have seen several situations where telco service outages have lasted for days. Sometimes the outage is due to a cable cut, sometimes it is central office equipment failure.  But you cannot always count on the service provider’s ability to effect repairs in a timely manner. Think about what effect that would have on your business. Some simple planning and inexpensive backup services can make a huge difference in this situation.

Traditional Phone Service

If you are using traditional Phone Service, it may be possible to re-route your service in the event of a circuit failure. Talk to your service provider. Typically, even if such a capability is available, it requires a service activation fee, monthly fees and even charges for each re-route event. This kind of re-routing is typically a manual process that takes time, maybe as much as several hours. The idea here would be to re-route calls around the failed circuit. You could then have those calls answered by cell phone users, home workers or any other option that fits your needs.

Some businesses address Service Failure risk by provisioning their site with service from multiple vendors, hopefully using geographically diverse cable routes. This can be an effective strategy, but many (especially) smaller companies will find it cost-prohibitive. If this is your choice, don’t assume that buying service from two different vendors is buying route diversity; often, Provider B is just using last-mile cable from Provider A.

SIP Trunks

Today, there is a much better option. SIP trunks can be utilized on any telephone system today. When SIP trunks are used, they can automatically detect a service interruption (destination unreachable) and instantly re-route calls to a pre-assigned location until the problem is resolved. This blog post goes into greater detail about this feature. If you have already moved to SIP trunking, make sure you have designated alternate numbers for all your trunks.

If you are still on traditional analog or PRI phone service, my recommendation is to look into SIP trunks as an inexpensive Disaster Recovery solution. Even if you are locked into a contract with your incumbent carrier, you can still take advantage of the disaster recovery features of SIP trunks.

I Gotta Plan!

Here is the plan: Sign up with a SIP Trunking provider. Order a small group of trunks, just enough to cover your most critical phone numbers. Port those critical numbers to the SIP trunks. Then, simply forward those trunks back to your T1 or PRI. Voila! You now have disaster recovery capability on your telco services. When your PRI goes down, just turn off the forwarding and you have no interruption in service. Calls are still ringing in, although at reduced capacity. If the outage turns into an extended one, you can add trunks on the fly. Some SIP Trunk providers can provision additional trunks almost instantly.

Here’s the amazing part: Now that your trunks live in ‘the cloud’, they can be answered anywhere. So now you begin to have a Disaster Recovery Plan for a Complete Site Failure and Equipment Failure modes!

Hosted VoIP Service

Now, I want to talk about another alternative that may be attractive if you are still on traditional phone service. Instead of using SIP Trunks, this option uses hosted VoIP service. Again, the plan would be to procure a small set of lines initially and port your most critical numbers to that service. Then, again, forward those numbers back to your main PRI service. When your PRI goes down, just turn off the forwarding and calls will ring in to your hosted phones. These can be located anywhere you have a broadband connection; on the desk beside the PBX phone or at an alternate site. Do you start to see the possibilities here? You could even get a 4G backup connection. Then you could go anywhere with those hosted phones, paying for bandwidth only when you need it.

Do you have a Disaster Recovery Plan? Have you ever had to use it? Have you thought about what triggers would cause you to activate your plan? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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