Include the VoIP system in your disaster recovery planning process

Independent disaster recovery planning expert Paul Kirvan discusses why your VoIP system must be part of the disaster recovery planning process.

What should be included in the VoIP disaster recovery planning process that differs from what's in a standard telephone DR plan?

Voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems operate differently from traditional time-division multiplexing, or TDM, and related switch fabrics. Access to the Internet is a key component of such systems, so a key priority is to ensure uninterrupted access to the Internet.

Owing to the complexity of VoIP systems, it's essential that your on-site staff is trained in operating a VoIP system as part of the disaster recovery planning process. If you depend exclusively on outside vendors -- whether the manufacturer or authorized distributors -- for system operation and maintenance, be sure that the distributor is factory-authorized to maintain your system and the technicians are certified to support the system.

Network connectivity in a VoIP system will be different from connectivity in older systems, as once again Internet access is critical to system operations. Internally, your VoIP system will probably reside on one or more subnets of your internal LAN infrastructure. Make sure those subnets are secure and firewalled off from other data traffic. Because today’s VoIP systems are truly distributed in their design, a key part of the disaster recovery planning process may be to deploy mirrored copies of the system's primary servers in another location.

Another strategy is simply to use a managed (cloud-based) VoIP system, in which the system is operated by a third party and only the station equipment and, possibly, specialized devices (e.g., contact centers) are located on-site. DR planning and testing can be greatly simplified with a managed solution.

In contrast, if your system is very large and you manage all system activities internally, a managed VoIP service may be a suitable DR-only solution. Other than the above issues, a VoIP system DR plan will be similar to DR plans for servers and other hardware devices that are connected to your network infrastructure.

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