Few would argue that business as we know it could exist without Internet-based services. Connected devices and the burgeoning Internet of Things only add to this dependence, and yet, two key vulnerabilities remain that, when exposed, have the potential to now completely isolate businesses from their customer base – even via the telephone.
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Only recently, 10 percent of BT customers’ Internet usage was affected by broadband outages, caused by no more than a power cut at one of its partners’ Docklands-based data centers. The issue also followed a widespread shortage in February that hit several hundred thousand customers.
Of course, when broadband is reliant on the power of those partners housing the infrastructure, a certain number of setbacks due to extreme circumstances or conditions could be unavoidable. Yet, the apparent fragility highlighted by this particular incident does still raise a question mark over the resilience of the UK’s Internet architecture in the first instance. Secondly, for businesses, it emphasises the importance of ensuring the contingency of all Internet-based services, including IP telephony.
Despite consumers’ increasing propensity towards online self-service – not least in the banking sector, which was particularly affected by the latest outage – the fact remains that 72 percent of people still prefers customer contact via the telephone. And with businesses of all sizes migrating to IP Telephony for its cost savings, increased operational flexibility, and agility, the incident points clearly towards the need for ensuring resilience and contingency within the provider’s architecture.
So what lessons in contingency can the industry learn?
First and foremost, organisations should think about having a guaranteed alternative means of connecting to the services they want; which should ideally be a combination of digital and IP-based technologies for full business continuity. Simply having two Internet or Ethernet connections may not be sufficient if the service supported by a business’s telephony (and broadband/Internet) provider is business critical. For some businesses, analog might also play a role, but with an expected lifespan of only a few more years for this technology, it is especially important for such companies to consider contingency.
On-premise switches have evolved for corporate digital and IP use, but are still restricted due to the static nature of the technology. For example, on-site digital switches can now take IP cards, and IP switches can accommodate digital cards as back up. However, if the on-site switch fails, a replicated switch that can be manually swapped onto is the only means of backup.
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A cloud-based solution, on the other hand, offers a flexible and seamless alternative with no need to overhaul existing on-premise infrastructures. This opens the door to a range of on-demand contingency measures, including the ability to log in through a standard telephone line to manage the telephony system and operate as usual. A preinstalled mobile app can also allow the use of the mobile network rather than the local Internet network. In fact, mobile is fast becoming the backup of choice for contingency. As a location independent solution, mobile can receive directed calls with relative ease, particularly those devices installed with contact center apps.
As we move steadily forward in today’s digital age, innovation comes in many shapes and sizes. However, one thing is clear: existing ways of doing things still have a role to play. In the modern world, there remains a place for both digital and IP telephony – the true innovation lies in combining the two in conjunction with the cloud for complete architectural resilience and business continuity.