Our Guest Post today comes from Robert Bellovin, an Editorial Coordinator at Software Advice. Instead of writing a traditional Guest Post for us, Robert did a Q&A with Software Advice's Craig Borowski on how to make sure your VoIP system continues running if an issue with the internet occurs.
Many business owners who are considering switching their phone systems to VoIP often hesitate because of concerns about losing service due to Internet failure. With this in mind, Software Advice decided to develop an article that provides three strategies that can ensure uninterrupted telephone service for businesses, even when Internet connection is lost.
To find out more about these strategies and how businesses can prevent their VoIP systems from going down with the Internet, we decided to catch up with Software Advice's Business Telephony Analyst, Craig Borowski. Here is what he had to share on the subject:
1. What types of features should you look for in a VoIP system to make sure you can keep your service from going down with the Internet?
To make sure your VoIP service stays up and running even when your Internet connection goes down, you need to look for call continuity and system redundancy features. These will be different depending on which VoIP system and provider you use. The most basic call continuity features simply forward calls to numbers on another network, like a manager or employee’s cell phone, when the main system has problems.
More robust solutions can be had with system redundancy features that maintain a secondary, independent Internet connection. For example, a company could have one Internet connection for their VoIP service and another for their computer Internet connection. These connections can arrive at the office via two physically separate lines. They can be configured so that if one connection fails, everything temporarily switches to the other network.
2. Are there any technical solutions to prevent your Internet or VoIP service from completely going out?
Most large Internet Service Providers have very good records of keeping their services up. Sometimes local or regional providers run into technical issues resulting in temporary outages, but for the most part, choosing a service provider with a good reputation should give you the reliable service your business needs.
Power outages present a particular challenge to VoIP providers. Unlike traditional telephone systems that carry electricity and data together on the same line, VoIP systems rely on power coming from the power grid on separate lines. So it’s possible that a power outage would prevent using a VoIP system, even when the data connections it uses are fine. Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPSs) and backup generators can help avoid this problem.
Another technical solution is to go with a cloud-based PBX VoIP system. This way if the Internet connection to your building goes down, customers calling will still hear the same IVR or auto-attendant they’re used to. And employees would be able to use their office line from any location with working Internet service.
3. Is establishing a backup connection feasible for small businesses?
Answering this question requires a very careful assessment of how a business uses its Internet and VoIP connections, how critical they are to the minute-by-minute functioning of the business and what it's worth to ensure a backup connection is always available.
You also need to be clear about what constitutes a backup connection. If your business has a VoIP system that runs on a T1 connection and you invest in a DSL or cable backup solution, what scenarios will that help prevent? If the T1 line goes down for some reason, then the DSL could work well as a backup. But what about a power outage? A power outage would bring down your backup DSL along with your primary T1 system. In this case, a more practical solution might be a few plain old telephone service extensions.
4. Are purchasing these features and backup connections cost effective for small businesses?
Of course a small business should never pay for a backup connection just for the sake of having a backup connection. But in some cases, for some businesses and for some business models, they are absolutely necessary. If a business’s phone system is mission critical, then a backup system will always be, or it will need to be made to be, cost effective.
The best strategy a business can take to ensure it has the most cost effective backup system is to make sure to look at all available options. Simply adding a secondary T1 line or SIP trunk could be a straightforward and relatively inexpensive option. But as an alternative, how about looking to move the company’s in-house PBX to a cloud-based system? A cloud-based system will often have redundant backups in multiple locations spread out over a wide area. Customers would never even know that your connection is down, and employees could access the system from anywhere.