Most organizations today do not have any form of carrier or connectivity redundancy built into their network infrastructure. Instead they choose to deal with as few service providers as possible to minimize the costs and complexities of managing multiple carriers.
It’s an approach that works when all is as it should be. But if calls can’t get through it translates to missed business opportunities. Since your competitors are only 10 digits (or a couple of clicks) away, it could even translate into lost customers.
There are plenty of scenarios where this plays out throughout the year and not just during a large-scale disaster. A local area network (LAN) or private branch exchange (PBX) could be down within a building or campus. A power supply to a phone could be disrupted or the network may need to be taken offline for service updates or maintenance.
For a company relying on a single carrier for their communications needs, any of these scenarios can spell disaster. But none of them has to create chaos if the company takes advantage of the benefits that a unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) approach through the cloud provides.
Today’s cloud-based UCaaS platforms provide multi-carrier and connectivity redundancies built into the network infrastructure. This approach builds resiliency into the network infrastructure in a cost-effective manner, while also ensuring continuity of service during an outage.
What that means is even in a large-scale disaster every call to your company will reach a destination. But in order for that to occur, you need to have business rules in place that can determine how a call is routed if an individual phone is not available.
UCaaS provides the visibility needed to determine whether lines are available, so calls can be redirected to another phone in a different geography, to a different line, or to a central switchboard. Since the core routing is done in the cloud, the physical impact of the disaster on the ground is negated, while service continuity is ensured by redirecting calls to alternative destinations that have not been impacted by the disaster.
Cloud-based UCaaS can also provide organizations with automatic call routing and automated attendance menus -- including emergency notification greetings and out-of-service messages with off-site voice mail capabilities for later follow-up after service is restored.
Typically, organizations set up business continuity rules at the granular, individual level. But they should also be set higher up on a group, location, and trunk root basis. And while having business rules is important, there is no way for even the best-prepared company to account for every contingency ahead of time. If it is necessary to adjust business rules on the fly, cloud-based USaaS users can log into a portal from anywhere.
UCaaS in the cloud also eliminates the potential for single points of failure that could result in a client losing the ability to transact business. With today’s mobile workforce, the ability to access cloud-based SalesForce or NetSuite applications, for instance, can mean the difference between closing a deal or losing the sale.
Mobile workers aren’t the only offsite employees that benefit from UCaaS in the cloud. In today’s distributed enterprise, centralized applications such as manufacturing production, client billing, and even patient care management systems are often managed remotely. If a manufacturing plant’s processes are being run from a corporate data center at another location and the plant loses connectivity, the whole production system stops. The company could lose valuable uptime that is needed to meet orders and fulfill service contracts.
That is why it is important to design a good business continuity plan tailored for your specific communications and network connectivity characteristics. This plan will address the impact of losing network connectivity and then build in the level of resiliency that is needed to ensure applications at various locations can continue to communicate back and forth.
Another issue that needs to be addressed in business continuity plans is the substantial requirements of contact center operations. Contact centers are often the first line of customer service as well as substantial revenue generating centers, so losing network connectivity at those locations can have a significant impact not only on the bottom line, but also customer loyalty.
Again, in the event an original end point is not available, UCaaS in the cloud provides companies with the ability to quickly identify service outages and then redirect traffic, whether it is coming in through individual agents, 800 numbers, or email and chat. This is also critical for support organizations during natural disasters.
For instance, Louisiana 211 and the United Way are two organizations that are literally in the eye of the storm during natural disasters. Their business continuity plans look to the cloud to quickly scale up their communications and network connectivity to handle the increased volume of callers requesting assistance.
Ultimately, companies with business continuity plans that ensure communications and network connectivity through unified communications in the cloud will be able to maintain contact both inside and outside their organizations -- even during the toughest situations.
James Whitemore is Executive Vice President of West IP Communications, a provider of cloud-based communications for enterprise-level companies (www.westipc.com). He can be reached at email@example.com.