IP telephony has come a long way since the days of the echo-filled, patchwork of sounds that threatened to torpedo the nascent technology. Now, thanks to broadband and advances in transmitting audio over IP, it's rare to discern between a traditional voice call and one that's been packetized - provided, of course, that it was deployed properly and throughput is abundant.
VoIP also untethers workers from their desks and makes the process of fetching voicemails as easy as opening a message in Outlook.
One typically overlooked aspect of IP telephony's impact on IT operations, however, is its role in disaster recovery efforts. The very features that make for a neat collection of bullet points in sales literature turn out to be instrumental in keeping companies humming when a disaster strikes.
Catherine McNair, a Business Continuity Consultant with Avaya Professional Services, knows a thing or two about the role VoIP can play in a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. It's her job to guide clients toward deploying flexible IP voice platforms that can keep a company going in the aftermath of a destructive event.
IP telephony is increasingly becoming a critical part of business continuity planning because of two main factors. The first is communication diversity, namely "giving yourself diverse ways to communicate to the outside world," says McNair.
This diversity represents the multiple ways businesses can reach customers, partners and employees. These include voice calls that can traverse landlines, IP networks, and wireless networks, opening up the avenues in which parties can communicate should any one of those become unavailable.
"Mobility gives a company and the employees to work anywhere they can get network access," says McNair about the second most critical aspect that influences the decision to go with VoIP.
Rather than remain anchored to one voice platform, VoIP allows voice calls to take advantage of the redundancy of IP networks and the Internet to reach their intended recipients. This allows displaced workers to conduct business from home, hotels or remote offices until things settle down.
As far as planning for a disaster, McNair offers some advice.
First, she suggests that businesses "document what they currently have in place to help them recover." Success, she says, ultimately hinges on "planning and getting yourself prepared."
Though it seems like a common-sense approach, this is where many organizations trip up. Usually, firms find the process "overwhelming because there's so much detail involved." Plus, there can be a certain of amount of institutional inertia that hinders the process. She finds that for many firms that "until a disaster happens there isn't a push."
To make certain that her clients don't wait around for that rude push, McNair's team provides a multitude of services depending on the customer's needs. Avaya's equipment and IP telephony expertise comes in handy, certainly, but there are other ingredients in the disaster recovery mix.
According to McNair, Avaya Professional Services helps businesses unravel the complexity of their infrastructure to arrive at a business continuity plan. This includes not only IT equipment, but also the room or facility the systems occupy. In evaluating this, the team takes into account ambient temperature, its resistance to the elements and fire suppression systems.
And while McNair is involved primarily in prevention work, she reports that her group has been called in on occasion during a disaster. Notable among those was Katrina, a hurricane that not only tested the mettle of an entire region, but the ability of businesses to get back on track. Consultants on the ground helped get things rolling again for one of her customers, in a feat borne out of technology, know-how and a mix of services designed to support businesses in the IT decision making process.This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.