Planning plan B

01 Apr 09

What would you do if your business became a victim of disaster? Fires, floods, earthquakes, power outages, or even the failure of your voice and data network, can all affect your business and render it impossible to serve your customers.

Despite this, many organisations don’t have disaster recovery on their radar. A recent IDC survey found that while 80% of organisations across the Asia-Pacific region had secured their infrastructure, only 36% of respondents have deployed disaster recovery solutions.
Without tools like off-site storage, a simple data backup plan is not always enough to protect company data. After all, backups stored alongside servers in a burning building are of little use to anyone!
It is also important to ensure that you have continuity of voice and data services, with access to a standby site and/or the ability for your staff to work from home should disaster strike.
Many companies are now taking advantage of the cost savings and productivity enhancement offered by Voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology. However, most don’t realise that using VoIP phone systems also enables a level of fault tolerance that was not previously achievable with traditional phone systems.
Normally, the failure of your office’s PSTN and/or ISDN lines means working without phones until the problem is resolved. VoIP, however, allows you to build fault tolerance at the network level. For example, if you were to connect to your service provider via ethernet with SHDSL as a backup service and your ethernet failed, the SHDSL service would enable you to continue to make and receive calls.
By enabling the quality of service to be maintained, such a solution can also provide network continuity during an outage for both voice and data traffic.
Enhancing a disaster recovery plan
There are many options available to boost a customer’s disaster recovery plan. Moving to VoIP, for example, can significantly enhance disaster recovery capabilities.
Fault-tolerant IP access (a primary and a backup service) will allow for failover of both inbound and outbound calls (not generally possible with PSTN and ISDN). Clients could also opt to have another phone system in an off-site data centre that could take over if the primary system fails – much as you would for data and application servers.
Appropriate backup systems take the stress out of sending people home in the event of a network outage. Employees with broadband at home could still access files and applications, as well as make and receive calls via a softphone client or IP handset.
Staff equipped with wireless connectivity could resume work anywhere with available coverage. Citrix or Windows Terminal Services also allow access to important files and applications via third party PCs.
One option for fault-tolerant access that is worth considering is channel bonding. This is where multiple identical data services are combined to deliver total bandwidth equal to the sum of the services being bonded (eg: bonding two 4Mb/s SHDSL services to provide 8Mb/s of symmetric bandwidth). In the event that one of the services fails, connectivity would still be ensured via the remaining service/s, providing some level of redundancy.
Although bonding up to four services is possible, bonding does not resolve issues with the infrastructure related to a given type of access service. As such, many customers opt to have a backup service delivered via a different carrier network and/or technology type.
For example, a supplier might provide an ethernet access from Citylink or Vector and an SHDSL backup service from Telecom. Also not far off are offers of fixed wireless access, which is connected via a mast on the roof rather than the ducts at the base of a building, thereby providing further fault tolerance.

Jules Rumsey is the Managing Director of Telarus, an infrastructure-based service provider that operates a Next Generation Network that spans Australia and New Zealand. Telarus is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia.
+61 3 0036 8521

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