SIP Trunking for Disaster Recovery Planning

One of the solutions for implementing VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is SIP. Short for Session Initiation Protocol, SIP is the industry standard application-layer protocol used for IP voice peer-to-peer communications.

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SIP trunking uses existing on-premise equipment (IP compatible PBX) and SIP, a set of rules for signaling and controlling communications, to establish voice calls between end locations. The call routing is handled by a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system, and a telecommunications carrier provides the trunking, or connectivity, between this PBX and the public telephone network. 

What Are SIP Trunks, Exactly?

Think of a SIP trunk like today’s version of a T1 trunk. Traditionally, a customer would buy a T1 trunk from a telecommunications provider and then connect it to their PBX. Today, however, you can simply purchase a SIP trunk from a VoIP provider and connect it to your already established IP compatible system using an existing internet connection. 

SIP trunks use what is called the “SIP standard.” Within the telecommunications industry, “trunk” simply refers to a group of phone lines. VoIP providers can connect one or more channels to their customer’s PBX using the industry-standard protocol. Phone numbers and DIDs are able to be linked to the SIP trunk when it is established.

There are many advantages to using SIP trunking, such as creating a virtual connection to the PSTN over your existing data network. With SIP trunking, there is no longer a need to use a dedicated Primary Rate Interface (PRI) for voice calls, there is now a central cloud location for call routing, voice mail, or other applications that operate virtually, which saves you money and provides way more value for your business operations.

Disaster Recovery

One business aspect that is often overlooked is disaster recovery. Many businesses rely on traditional landlines functioning as usual during an emergency or natural disaster. So organizations often fail to recognize the dangers of not planning for backup voice communications when something goes wrong. 

Disasters for companies aren’t always severe, natural disasters like floods or fires. It could be something trivial like software failing, internet connection failure, or a power outage that could bring down VoIP service. With a hosted VoIP service, many organizations are conscious that they can use mobile devices when needed or relocate. SIP trunking, however, requires disaster recovery strategies, and having a backup plan in place is wise. 

Companies have two types of disasters they need to be prepared for constantly: disaster strikes the business or tragedy strikes the telecommunications vendor. It is even possible that the company and the vendor are affected by the disaster (think earthquake, hurricane, etc.). Preparation is critical, and there must be multiple plans in place in case something like this occurs.

Disaster and the Business

From a business perspective, what counts as a “disaster” can range from minor problems to major calamities. There are often everyday processes with any place of business that could count as minor problems like network congestion, software issues, or hardware failure. Larger catastrophes may be a complete loss of the internet or a natural disaster. However big or small, they all can bring down your company’s voice system, which is hurting your business. 

If any of these issues bring down your phone system, it can be up and running from mobile devices or alternate locations in a matter of minutes. Many organizations maintain two internet connections from different ISPs so that each can act as a backup for the other. 

Disaster and Your VoIP Provider

Some disasters can be controlled within the business itself. Some catastrophes, though, are up to the vendor to address. The vendor should have a disaster recovery plan in place for themselves and their clients. It is possible that the vendor could be experiencing problems on their end, which is preventing your company from completing calls and conducting business as usual. 

SIP trunking services are often delivered via data centers, but many providers do not have the redundant infrastructure. However, some VoIP providers have data centers in multiple locations worldwide that can act as backup centers for others in case of an emergency. This can reduce latency for clients and route calls to the nearest point possible. Be sure to ask any prospective provider about their own security, redundancies, and disaster recovery provisions. 

SIP and Disaster Recovery Plans

SIP trunking is gaining popularity because of its enhanced flexibility. SIP is well suited to handle disasters and recover quickly. Being IP-based, SIP trunks are far more flexible than any traditionally “fixed” communication solutions or circuits. Users can work with their vendors to program SIP lines how they want. Suppose a specific user is out of the office or the entire office is out of commission. In that case, the lines can roll over to backup sites, alternate phones, or even mobile devices within the company’s network (or at a predetermined backup facility). It is all able to be set up way before something catastrophic happens.

SIP trunks complement existing lines because they allow companies to choose whether they use an IP connection as their primary solution and ISDN as a backup or the other way around. Hosted communication solutions can dramatically reduce the costs associated with hardware and software maintenance and can backup important contact data to the cloud. 

The enhanced resilience factor associated with using SIP is evident. On any event or reason, calls can easily be programmed to be forwarded to other destinations nearly instantaneously, with no forwarding costs or middle man to deal with it for you. Some ISDN services can take up to 48 hours and with multiple people in the middle handling it. In both forms of communication (SIP or Hosted), numbers can be deflected individually, which is extremely important for a call center where many different numbers are being utilized.

The Basics

A simple recovery plan to implement would be to order a small group of SIP trunks, just enough to cover your most used or critical phone numbers. Route those critical phone numbers to the SIP trunks. Now, simply forward those trunks back to your T1 or PRI. Now a simple disaster recovery is in place for your communication services. If or when your PRI goes down, just turn off the forwarding and you will have no interruption in service. Calls will still be conducted, although at a temporarily reduced capacity. If the outage turns into an extended one, you can add trunks on the fly. 

Some SIP Trunk providers can provision additional trunks almost instantly. Now that the trunks are living in the cloud, calls can be answered anywhere. Thus, utilizing the disaster recovery plan that was put in place long before you needed it. Stress is limited, costs are saved, and workday productivity is maintained.

Investing in a SIP trunk allows businesses to run at the optimal level every day but be prepared for a disaster if it were to occur (with minimal service disruption). Minimally, SIP technology allows organizations to have a backup communication system if the primary strategy fails. SIP trunks can transform a business, support growth, boost productivity, cut costs, and have a disaster recovery plan in place.

We, as human beings, don’t like to think about crises or disasters, but it makes it incredibly worse when there is no plan in place at all. The key to overcoming these disasters and learning is to be as prepared as possible; prepare for employees, IT systems, and the voice infrastructure of your organization.

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