Does Your Business Continuity Plan Include UC?
Communication services are the lifeblood of any business where keeping in touch with clients, prospects and employees is critical to maintaining operations. But with recent events in the news such as typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, and the ever-present threat of cyber or terrorist attacks, organizations that are planning on upgrading their phone systems should take a look at how unified communications (UC) can support their business continuity plans in the event of a sudden disruption.
Communications as a Lifeline
Your business continuity plan should encompass both what is traditionally considered mission-critical systems such as your enterprise applications as well as your phone systems, which are equally important to your organization’s operations. In fact, during and after a disaster are the times when communications capabilities are more critical than ever.
“Having communications beyond the walls of your offices have driven a lot of customers to create a mobility contingency plan in case of a natural disaster,” says Craig Gironda, global director of ShoreTel’s solution architects.
UC inherently lends itself to business continuity and disaster recovery scenarios due to the fact that many IP phone systems, including ShoreTel’s unified communications system, are by their very nature distributed. “With ShoreTel, it’s easy to ensure business continuity,” says Gironda. “Not only is ShoreTel UC an effective tool for businesses with far-flung workers who may telecommute, travel or be located in branch or remote offices, ShoreTel makes it easier for your employees to keep in communications during a disaster.”
ShoreTel’s business VoIP system is built on a distributed architecture and N+1 redundancy, helping provide 99.999% availability for mission-critical business continuity. ShoreTel’s switch-based hardware platform helps ensure that in the event of a WAN failure, your phone system will continue to place and receive calls on the public switched telephone network. With ShoreTel’s appliances, it’s easy to distribute functionality, such as mobility, at different locations while still managing the entire system from a single management console.
Considering the Cloud
Businesses should also think about where their UC capabilities live when formulating a business continuity plan. Many organizations are opting for UC in the cloud, which provides not only the convenience of having UC as a service, but also leaves the details of business continuity up to the provider. This may be a particularly good choice for smaller organizations that do not have the resources to build out their own redundant systems or prefer to hand over IT to the experts.
In those instances, a hosted, or UC as a Service (UCaaS), deployment may be the best solution to ensure that regardless of location, users will have access to their communications services even if something unforeseen takes place. Research firm MarketsandMarkets forecasts the global UCaaS market to grow from about just over three-quarters of a billion dollars in 2013 to almost $2.5 billion by 2018 and is fueled by video collaboration and enterprises wanting to lower their capital expenditures and create a leaner operation.
Selecting the Right Partner
A cloud-based UC solution typically relies on a single partner to supply the entire solution end to end, which requires an extremely high level of trust and confidence in that particular company. When evaluating which partner is the best fit, businesses need to consider several key points.
First, make sure the partner of choice has deep expertise in the field of unified communications and cloud services. Just knowing one or the other isn’t enough to create a comprehensive strategy that includes a business continuity plan.
Second, go with a partner that has a long list of customer references and a good track record in the space. This includes strong leadership from management and stellar customer service and support that will be there in the event of an outage or failure.
Cloud UC has a number of key advantages over on-premises UC systems, including lower upfront costs, improved accessibility, flexibility and responsiveness. These advantages also make it an attractive option for businesses concerned about continuity and disaster recovery, and treating communications services as integral to the organization is a good place to start.