Business leaders meticulously plan for future growth and expansion but are often caught off-guard by disasters. Local storms, fires, power, and network outages continuously wreak havoc on organizations, meanwhile, large-scale disasters seem to be increasing in intensity and quantity. 2017 was a perfect example of the top three costliest weather-related disasters to hit the U.S. and its territories, at $125 billion, $50 billion, and $90 billion, respectively.
Unfortunately, survey data shows that business leaders tend to believe they’re better prepared than they actually are, as they typically don’t have a granular view of their technical capabilities to resume business after an incident. This misunderstanding can greatly harm a business’s ability to resume operations quickly. In fact, 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster according to The Institute for Business and Home Safety.
While IT leaders are generally prepared with solutions to get servers and data centers up-and-running quickly, business continuity for communications capabilities is often overlooked. That oversight can cause significant financial damage as customers that are unable to contact a business is likely to look or purchase elsewhere. Additionally, the reputational damage caused by the inability to communicate with a business can sometimes play a heavier role in the organization’s failure than any other factor. Further, lost communication services also disrupt the ability of staff members to collaborate and for partners to meet supply chain deliverables.
Preparing for the Worst: Developing a Business Continuity Plan for Communications Systems
For all organizations, the first step in business continuity planning for communications systems is to better understand your financial exposure. Calculate the cost of downtime for your organization from every perspective. While every business is different, Gartner estimates that for some businesses downtime can cost $5,600 per minute and as much as $540,000 per hour in more extreme scenarios.
Business Continuity for On-Premises Communications Systems
For businesses with phone systems that reside on-premises, a local disaster can effectively disconnect that site from the rest of the world. Therefore, it is critical that a business decides which functions to restore first. Consider key business operations – from customer-facing units to human resources – and understand how IT and telecommunications systems are needed to support each function. It can be helpful to visually map continuity priorities, lines of jurisdiction, areas of primary business concern, and the order in which systems will be restored in the event of a disruption.
Additionally, ensure the following are completed:
How Disaster Recovery for Cloud Communications Is Different:
Regardless of conditions on-site, cloud-based unified communications (UC) systems answer inbound calls, forward callers to voicemail, or automatically reroute calls to a cell phone. Even when a business location is unavailable for an extended period of time, staff members can seamlessly continue business operations via a soft client to remain productive without customers knowing they’re “homesourcing.”
Because of these inherent capabilities, for an increasing number of businesses, cloud-based voice, video, and instant messaging services have become the go-to method for ensuring communications business continuity. In fact, our recent survey noted that 30% of North American businesses would be evaluating a cloud communications system.
As you might expect, because of the lack of onsite equipment business continuity planning is significantly streamlined in a unified communications environment. On-premises equipment requirements are usually handled by the service provider, often with significantly greater security and backup measures put into place. For example, at Evolve IP our cloud communications platform is:
Cloud service providers generally also leverage a highly diversified network connectivity architecture to ensure uptime. At Evolve IP we actively monitor and route voice traffic with 12 of the world’s top providers (like Verizon and CenturyLink) across over 120 global routes. In addition, we have differentiated data connectivity capabilities via 20 different internet service and private connectivity providers.
As with on-premises, you should also employ multiple Internet providers in your location and test for failover regularly. Or, better yet, deploy an SD-WAN service like Evolve IP’s Cloud Connect so that your network stays up, even if one, or even more, providers do not.
So, essentially, in a cloud communications scenario businesses need only to:
Other Benefits of Cloud Communications
1. Cloud-based unified communications systems also help businesses more easily scale, grow and expand. In a UC environment, adding new locations, extensions, departments, and resources is simple, and each site is easily managed in the event of a disaster.
2. UC systems also present a number of financial advantages. The cloud-based subscription model is a predictable operational expense, whereas maintaining an on-site PBX is a significant capital expense with ongoing (and often prohibitive and unpredictable) maintenance costs.
More than ever before, businesses are exposed to a wider array of potential business disruptions. Whether a disaster is caused by natural causes, a cyber attack, employee-sabotage or any number of other issues, business continuity planning is the key survival. Regardless of cloud or on-premises architecture, your business should allocate the time and resources to update your recovery and continuity plans to include your communications systems today.