Yes. You Need a Disaster Plan for Your Phones

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted August 05, 2014

Backups keep your data safe. How about your business phone services?

Few things in business are as trusty as the old-style dial tone that greets you when you pick up your phone receiver. You dial a phone number, have a conversation—or leave a voicemail—and hang up. That's it.

It's simple, uncomplicated, and there's little fear that messages will mysteriously disappear due to finicky email servers or overzealous spam filters.

Yet, even phone providers are not immune to disasters, both big and small. Whether staring down a major threat like Hurricane Sandy or something as simple as a careless carpenter that can wreak havoc on your phone lines, it's time for small and midsized businesses (SMBs) to explore the world of voice communications beyond the telephone company, argues Thiago Modelli, director of hosted services operations for ESI, a provider of cloud-enabled voice over IP (VoIP) business phone services and hardware.


Unlike rigid traditional phone services, cloud-based voice communications like ESI's not only provide flexible and often cost-efficient deployment options, they offer an astounding array of configuration and service portability options that can help SMBs adapt quickly to circumstances that affect their businesses.

3 Reasons to Switch to VoIP Phone System

In short, VoIP helps businesses bounce right back when disaster strikes. Here are Modelli's reasons why businesses should consider VoIP-enabled phone services as part of their disaster preparedness plans.

1. Location, Location, Location

The mantra may work in real estate, but it can be a curse for today's small busineses. The problem, according to Modelli, is that traditional phone companies are "very tied to location." If their local facilities are taken offline, your voice communications are crashing along with them. "You can't just take your number and move," he said.

Simply put, traditional phone service providers weren't built for wild weather and natural disasters.

"Most of the older services rely on big iron switches," said Modelli. Flooding, as seen following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, can inflict major damage that leaves customers without a dial tone for days or weeks, even if their own offices are no worse for wear.

"Zero phone calls means zero money coming in" for many types of businesses, says Modelli. Thanks to redundant data centers, cloud-based service providers can keep things up and running even if conditions threaten one or a couple of their sites. Providers typically operate "very large and geo-distributed platforms" that route voice data across unaffected networks to minimize the effects of local outages.

2. Laugh in the Face of Danger

Of course, you won't want to act recklessly when the weather forecast shows a huge storm bearing down. However, with cloud VoIP services, you can at least take comfort knowing that customer's phone calls will go through.

For example, you can use services like a cloud PBX (private branch exchange) to virtually untether business communications from an office. "The phone can be anywhere," said Modelli.

If storms, wild fires or other disruptive events like mass transit strikes loom, businesses can then "set strategies for phones" well ahead of the messes those events leave in their wake. Although a "Closed" sign may hang from the front door, you can easily forward sales and customer service calls to home phones or cellphones, along with many other routing and messaging options that ensure callers are never greeted with an unhelpful and disconcerting out-of-service message.

3. Shrug Off the Unexpected

What if something unforeseen happens? Cloud-based VoIP has you covered there, too.

Modelli sees it all the time, he told Small Business Computing. "A fire happens in a building, the firemen come in and cut the cables," he said. Occurrences like these can often mean three days of lost business while the phone company performs repairs.

He's not complaining. ESI's resellers often get frantic phone calls after fires, construction mishaps and accidents. "This just happened to us what can you do to bring us back," is how the typical inquiry goes, he said.

Cloud-based VoIP services can failover seamlessly, said Modelli. At worst, a call may be sent to voicemail if a client happens to call in the moment it takes to recover from a network failure.

In addition, a new breed of user-friendly, self-service capabilities allow non-techies to configure and apply new call routing and answering rules on the fly, even if a carelessly wielded hacksaw plunges the entire office—and its data network—into total darkness. "If you lose everything, [and end up] completely offline," said Modelli, you can pick up a "smartphone, go to a dashboard" and quickly implement changes that keep the phone calls, and hence revenues, flowing.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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