Jun 6, 2017

BCDR planning: How to protect your voice communications

IT outages are inevitable. Whether it is from a natural disaster, network outage, or something else, it’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when. Having a solid business continuity / disaster recovery (BCDR) plan allows you minimize downtime – saving money and resources in the process. It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to BCDR planning for voice communications.

If you have voice over internet protocol (VoIP) you are already one step ahead. Session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking offers more resiliency and flexibility than traditional phone systems to help protect your business’ phone system. How do you take advantage of this and ensure you are getting the most out of your BCDR planning?

We like to think of BCDR as a chain made up of three main links:

  1. Network access during an outage
  2. Customer access during internet outage
  3. BYOC or choosing a provider that is bandwidth-agnostic provider

Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link it’s important to make sure your company is prepared in case one breaks. Here are the three links and safeguards to consider for each link when assessing your BCDR chain.

Link one: Network access during an outage

This first link in the BCDR chain is network access. This refers to how you are receiving service from your voice services provider and how they help protect your communications. What happens if a datacenter goes down? It’s key that you have a redundant network connection and dynamic failover.

A redundant network connection

Having a secondary trunk that mirrors your primary one is the cornerstone of any BCDR plan. Ideally, this secondary trunk would be in a data center in a different geographical region, so any issues in the primary region wouldn’t have an impact on the secondary one.

Dynamically failover outside of the provider’s network

This provides an extra layer of assurance that you will be able to recover quickly if the outage is only occurring in your provider’s network.

Link two: Customer access during internet outage

The next link to assess is what we call customer access. This is how you reach a provider’s network. In the case of SIP trunking, this refers to your internet access. What would happen if your internet service provider (ISP) went down? You can prepare for this disruption in two ways.

Deploy a dual ISP model

Your primary internet connection would be used for the SIP trunking connection and a secondary connection to serve as the backup. With only one circuit you risk being hard down because there isn’t another connection that could be used to connect your service.

Using a primary and secondary routing on the same trunk group

This way if your provider is unable to reach your primary deployment, they can automatically failover to your secondary deployment. Your team and provider can focus on getting the primary connection back online while calls are able to be completed through the secondary connection.

Link three: Customer gear deployment

The third link is also on the customer side. It refers to how your equipment is set up. To have the strongest link of gear deployment, we recommend dual sites with dual instances, keeping them both active, and using a bandwidth-agnostic provider.

Have dual sites with dual instances

How many deployments do you have? Are they collocated? As we mentioned concerning network redundancy, having more than one equipment site means you have an even deeper level of backup. Those backups operate in the same way, avoiding the resources it would take to recreate the initial set up from scratch.

Run dual sites active/active instead of hot/cold

When you run your sites hot/cold, the primary site is operating 100% of the time and then goes to cold failover at the primary site after an incident has already occurred. With an active/active design, both sites operate simultaneously, which helps decrease recovery time.

BYOC or choosing a provider that is bandwidth-agnostic provider

Most providers require you to use their bandwidth for delivery which can hinder your redundancy and resiliency abilities. Going with a provider that is bandwidth-agnostic (also known as bring your own carrier or BYOC) means you have more flexibility in terms of network design and business continuity / disaster recovery planning. IntelePeer’s pre-approved BYOC option is flexible and allows more than one ISP and circuit. You get more resiliency when it’s easy for your provider to shift traffic around when things are working in one place but not another.

We don’t mess around when it comes to protecting business communications and ensuring a quick recovery in case of an outage. Checking and strengthening network access, customer access, and adding a BYOC option are great places to start preparing for emergencies.