Recent and frequent headlines stress the need to better prepare for adverse events. Even so, the idea of investing in continuity planning can still be a hard sell. A key part of that challenge is dispelling the myth that it will be an expensive project that may never be needed. Many enterprises and government groups turn to their local resellers for guidance and the resellers, in turn, look to their vendors. The following information is a condensed version of a paper provided by Forsythe Technology, Inc., to their resellers and is a good example of vendor marketing support.
While a single technology is never, in itself, a business continuity solution, one technology that stands out is IP Communications (IPC) including VoIP telephony. IPC also drives short-term benefits by improving an organizations day-to-day business processes and operations. This is a key factor, since is allows a company to recoup its investment even if a disaster never transpires. In fact, the cost reduction benefits of IPC are driving the current wave of IP telephony deployment, which, in 2005, exceeded the traditional legacy phone (TDM) equipment being shipped. The primary result of this shift will be a fundamental change in the way business continuity works.
The initial capital outlay for the deployment of IP telephony is typically justified by a reduction in ongoing operating costs as compared to the cost of maintaining a traditional TDM (define - news -alerts) phone system. However, the savings are magnified when factoring in business continuity. An IPC infrastructure is uniquely designed to be implemented as a geographically dispersed architecture. The benefit is to reduce the likelihood of a business interruption by eliminating single points of failure and enabling remote recovery with seamless fail-over between locations. A bonus is that recovering a single, converged network typically takes less time than recovering separate voice and data networks, further decreasing the impact of any potential
Keeping the technology up and running is vital, but people and processes must also be maintained. Again, the same IPC technology features that enhance day-to-day business productivity also speed the return to productivity. For instance, when localized flooding temporarily closed an IP contact center for a major online retailer, the company was able to seamlessly reroute customer calls to an alternate contact center not affected by the flooding. The outage was transparent to callers, and the company was able to keep its major source of revenue operating.
Another IPC component unified messaging has been documented to increase employee productivity by 30 to 60 minutes per person per day under normal working conditions but also enables access to voice messages and faxes even if phone systems are down and the office is closed.
Integrated conferencing increases productivity by enabling real-time collaborative work via a combination of audio, video, or Web-conferencing, and instant messaging (IM) across multiple locations. This feature also helps overcome logistical challenges in times of emergency by supporting efficient communication and collaboration among remote workers.
Extension mobility allows users to log onto any networked telephone and have calls to their extension routed to any phone from which they are working including cell phones. Soft phones further broaden extension mobility since employees can plug in anywhere with broadband access, and work from their normal business extension and access all the information the office phone system provided, including directory or customer information.
The end-user features mentioned above are available to any organization, but for companies with TDM-based call centers, implementing an IP contact/call center is even more critical. For example, by dynamically balancing call loads between multiple, geographically separate call centers, IP-based contact/call centers both enhance the customer experience plus the technology can automatically re-route calls to other agents at other contact/call centers if one or more of the locations is off line for any reason.
Although Implementing IPC can reduce cost and risk, it also introduces the potential for new risks that need to be managed. This should be carefully addressed during the planning stage. Organizations must account for additional security concerns stemming from the increased ability to forward and remotely access voicemails, e-mails, and other corporate data. Frankly, it is more of the same old, same old. In other words, make sure your employees know the security and privacy policies and obey them. It is also important to review compliance regulations, taking into account any telecommunications laws that may newly apply once certain data is linked to an IPC network. TMCnet.com and the ECA (www.encomm.org) are great resources for this type of information.
Finally, one of the most avoidable causes of business interruption and decreased productivity is lack of preparedness. The redundancy of the IP network is irrelevant if redundancy isnt also built into the server and storage elements of the communications infrastructure. Beyond that, an implementation is only as successful as its systems management and user training.
The end result of deploying IP Communications will be a transformed business continuity model that reduces cost and risk while improving productivity on a day-to-day basis. IT
Rich Zimmermann is Director of Network Solutions and Michael Croy is Business Continuity Practice Manager with Forsythe Technology, Inc. Zimmermann is also Chairman of the Board of the Enterprise Communications Association (ECA) (news - alerts)..
Max Schroeder is a board member of the ECA, media relations committee chairman, and liaison to TMC. He is also the Sr. Vice President of FaxCore, Inc (news - alerts).
Rich Tehrani is the President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC and is Conference Chairman of Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.
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