Cloud Communications for Business Continuity

I hit a deer on my way to work Monday morning.  Actually, the deer hit me since I was minding my own business when it leapt into the path of my car.  Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt and the damage to my car is manageable.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for the deer.

In case you are wondering, I don’t live or work in the woods.  In fact, this happened in the middle of suburban Bloomington, Minnesota.  Bloomington is the home of the Mall of America and isn’t some backwater country village – at least not by Minnesota standards.  Still, there are enough places for deer to scratch out a living and come bounding out of their hiding places when least expected.

Being the nerd that I am, this made me think of SIP and how even the best laid plans can go awry.  An enterprise can spend tons of cash creating a rock-solid, resilient system and still things can go wrong.  Systems go down due to stupid human tricks.  Mother Nature can rise up and bring a data center to its knees.  Software crashes and hardware fails.

Additionally, an enterprise might not be in the position of hardening every facet of their communications system.  Money is short and investing in redundant servers and gateways might not be in the budget.  Also, you might be sitting on aging equipment that isn’t worth upgrading.  The money for your next system isn’t available for a year or two, so you nurse the current one along until it’s hauled away.

No matter what the state of your system, it makes sense to consider adding one more layer of resilience.

Enter the Cloud

One option that is becoming increasingly popular is to add elements of cloud communications as part of a comprehensive business continuity strategy.  Instead of going headfirst into the cloud, you dip your toes into the water for a few key people and groups.  Perhaps you provide cloud communications to your first responders and key management personal.  Perhaps you give critical departments standby cloud resources.  The point is that this isn’t a full-blown rollout to the entire company, but only to a select few and only for times of great need.

This is how it works.  Day-to-day communication stays on your existing platform.  Perhaps you have an Avaya system that has already implemented flatten, consolidate, and extend for resilience at the core and survivability at the branch offices.  Any failover scenarios that exists with FC&E work as they always have.

However, imagine a time when something really catastrophic occurs.   While I hate to dwell on the negative, imagine another hurricane Sandy or even worse, a Fukushima meltdown.  You’ve done everything right, but your rock-solid Avaya system has been washed out to sea.

This is where cloud communications for business continuity comes in.  Prior to the disaster, you identify the key people that require enterprise communication during the time of total failure.  These people are configured as users on your cloud system and install SIP communications software on their PCs and smart devices.  They don’t actually use the software at this point in time.  It’s simply there waiting to be told to do something.

Next, you configure SIP trunks with the numbers you intend to use during a disaster.  These trunks are “wired” and provisioned at the carrier and cloud levels, but are not activated.

When a disaster occurs, the accounts are activated and the users start up their soft clients.  Within a matter of seconds, they can communicate with their coworkers.  Next, your carrier is informed of the disaster and the SIP trunks are activated.  Depending upon the carrier, this might require a few minutes or a few hours.  Once the trunks have been activated, your cloud users are able to call out and the outside world is able to call in.

Not only can these cloud users make telephone calls, but they also have access to all sorts of unified communications functionality.  They can send instant messages, make video calls, and create and join conference calls.  They even have access to voice mail.

The users and trunks remain active for as long as they are needed and once the disaster is over, the cloud resources return to their dormant state.  It’s that simple.

Be Prepared

Like that deer that came out of nowhere, there is no way to anticipate when a disaster might strike.  I am a careful, fully aware driver and own a car with a high safety rating and yet I was still hit with the unexpected.   I would like to think that the accident wasn’t worse than it was because of my car and driving ability.  The same kind of thinking can be applied to communications.   Plan ahead for the unexpected and the impossible.  Being prepared for the worst might keep your business functional during very hard times.

For another look at this subject, please see my blog article, Cloud Communications.

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