Communications Factors to Consider for Disaster Preparedness

By Alan Creighton

More than a month after Hurricane Sandy hit, reports show that telecom service disruptions were recorded in 158 counties and ten states stretching from Maine to Virginia; as many as 8 million customers were left without the ability to communicate, according to an FCC estimate. All the major service providers were hit: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all reported significant disruptions. Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), estimated that about 25 percent of wireless cell towers in the Northeast were knocked out during the storm, and some 911 emergency call centers were even disabled.

Hurricane Sandy was a reminder to do everything we can to protect ourselves, our businesses, and our call centers. While wireless and wired networks experienced downtime after Hurricane Sandy, services backed by geo-redundant architecture were able to stay up and running. Organizations unprepared for disasters often lose communication capabilities, which in turn jeopardizes sales opportunities, revenue, and valuable client contact. Every enterprise should take the time to ensure that it has a disaster recovery plan in place and that its provider is prepared to keep communications up and running. Here are three key factors to consider regarding your business communications before catastrophe strikes:

1) The Location of the Cloud. Though its services are virtual, the cloud is tied to a physical location along with the information stored there. As we saw after Hurricane Sandy, flooding knocked out several carriers’ switches in New York and New Jersey, leaving thousands of business lines down across the country. Businesses can avoid a breakdown in communications by simply choosing a provider that has a geographically dispersed network infrastructure with switches in more than one location. Geo-redundancy insulates businesses from having to experience the effects of a core network crash and prevents disruption in business communications. In the event of a switch outage, another location can serve as backup and thereby preserve uptime.

2) The Core Network Infrastructure. Providers that rely on Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) trunks for communication set businesses up for trouble in the wake of a disaster. TDM trunks are physically tied to a local switch, so if flooding knocks out the circuit, businesses can’t access their communication network. TDM trunks are a single point of failure because numbers tied to a TDM trunk are unable to easily move to another switch.

Hosted VoIP providers use the power of the Internet to deliver voice services and run with IP-based core network infrastructures that allow numbers to be instantly moved to a backup switch to process calls and maintain network uptime.

3) The Point of Access. By choosing cloud-based VoIP services, businesses can ensure that employees are able to continue business correspondence and access communications in a number of different ways. When a circuit goes down, users with hosted VoIP can reach their business line with a unified communications application by utilizing a Wi-Fi hotspot or a cellular voice or data network.

If you can access any form of a wired or wireless network, you can get to your business communications with inbound and outbound business identity dialing. Features like Unreachable Destination can also ensure that businesses can continue to communicate, even when the IP access circuit is out of operation, by enabling users to set an alternate phone number to which calls can be routed.

Other Benefits: Hosted contact centers also eliminate the downtime associated with software upgrades, hardware maintenance, and other outages. In addition to keeping your operation up and running reliably, cloud-based contact centers offer a number of other benefits that include virtual queues, reduced technical and operational costs, and the opportunity to build a nationwide team of US-based remote agents and supervisors. Many businesses that implement these contact center solutions generate an increase in revenue. Data released by Yankee Group shows that businesses can save up to 45 percent on the total cost of ownership by choosing a hosted solution instead of an on-premise service. The overall value-added benefits of hosted services are evident and driving market growth at rapid rates, with a predicted compound annual growth rate of 18 percent in 2013.

Hosted contact centers increase productivity with the ease of management and provisioning for multi-site, remote, and expanding businesses without the costs associated with in-house call centers or loss of quality often associated with outsourcing or offshoring. Businesses can also eliminate virtually all software, hardware, implementation, and recurring maintenance expenditures.

Businesses without these services found themselves without a way to communicate during the outages that followed Hurricane Sandy. VoIP technology is mature, and the features and benefits clearly outweigh TDM. Put your business communications in the cloud with a geo-redundant solution so that if disaster strikes, your business will stay up and running.

Alan Creighton is CEO of Momentum Telecom.

[From Connection Magazine April 2013]

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