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Andrew Prokop
Andrew Prokop has been heavily involved in the world of communications since the early 1980s. He holds five United States...
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Andrew Prokop | January 25, 2016 |

 
   

SIP Survivability vs. Mother Nature

SIP Survivability vs. Mother Nature Think seriously about how a SIP architecture can keep your business humming while the rest of the city is at a standstill.

Think seriously about how a SIP architecture can keep your business humming while the rest of the city is at a standstill.

I am writing this on the morning of Friday the 22nd. I've been up since five a.m. watching weather report after weather report about the onslaught of the storm of the century. If the predictions come true, there may be 30 inches of snow in Washington D.C. by the end of the weekend. The mayor of Baltimore has already announced that all mass transit will be shut down for the entire weekend, and mayors all across the eastern seaboard are telling people to stay home and off the roads until the storm has passed and the plows have done their job.

This isn't the first time I've heard such warnings. Wasn't it just last year that Boston had so much snow that after a while they didn't know where to put it? My brother-in-law posted photos on his Facebook account of ten-foot mounds lining the sidewalks. A few years before that, my Maryland brother wrote to me of a weekend of 70+ inches of snow. I live in Minnesota, and we still talk about the Halloween blizzard that dumped 36 inches of snow over a two-day period.

Clearly, when Mother Nature chooses to unleash her winter madness, the all-powerful human race stands helpless before her.

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This, of course, leads me to think about business continuity. What do you do when your business lives and dies off its ability to communicate to the outside world and its employees are stuck home watching reruns of Friends? While it may be snowing like the dickens in New York, folks in Miami still want to buy your goods and services. Do we want something as unpredictable as four feet of snow and snarled freeways to bring our company to its knees?

I don't think so.

The SIP Transition

One of the biggest aspects of my job is helping enterprises transition from TDM to SIP. For the most part, this entails analyzing call volumes, identifying and quantifying risk, qualifying SIP servers and services, and creating a resilient, redundant SIP architecture with no single points of failure. Nine times out of ten this is driven by the enterprise's desire to lower telephone bills and build a more flexible disaster recovery strategy. While I wholeheartedly support those endeavors, replacing trunks is only the tip of the SIP iceberg. For me, the most exciting part about SIP is its ability to change where and how we work.

Which takes me back to the storm.

When roads are closed, cars fill the ditches, employees are told to stay home, and businesses are uncertain as to when they can hang out their "Open for Business" signs again, a new way to keep the lights on is required. So, instead of bringing your customers to your buildings, bring your customers to your employees no matter where they may be.

The SIP-Enabled Worker

My job keeps me on the road quite a bit, but my clients and coworkers know that I am always reachable. No, I don't give them my cell phone number. I am very protective of that. Rather, I give them my normal office number and use SIP to direct calls to my many different devices.

When I am in the office, I prefer to use my Avaya 9641 SIP desk telephone. When I am at home, I run Avaya Communicator on my PC. When I am on the road, I launch Avaya Communicator on my iPhone or iPad to take and make calls from hotel rooms, airports, and coffee shops. No matter where I am or what the weather looks like outside my window, I am still at work and in my office. Unless my dog barks, or the doorbell rings, no one is the wiser.

The technology to make this possible is pretty straightforward. The remote worker needs software on his or her chosen device -- PC, tablet, or smartphone. The enterprise needs a SIP-enabled communications system with a session border controller (SBC) on the network edge. The remote clients connect to the SBC, and the SBC acts as the traffic cop between the users and the communications system. Easy peasy.

As long as the user has a network connection (home wireless or LTE/4G), he or she can seamlessly attach to the enterprise communications system. While a snowy day might keep your employees off the roads, their smart devices keep them productive as they wait out the storm.

If the communications system has both primary and disaster recovery sites, SBCs can be installed at both locations. There are multiple ways for clients to move from primary to DR sites including DNS, auto-detect, or manual configuration.

The New Branch Office Survivability

Under sunny day conditions, remote users will connect to the primary or disaster recovery systems, but there may be times something really catastrophic takes those systems down. If that is a concern, branch offices can duplicate the same SBC configuration used by the network sites. Users would then connect to their local branch to take and make calls. Risk management and budgets determine if this is desired or necessary.

Snow Bound

Since I am writing this before the predicted storm hits, I have no idea if it will be as bad as they say it might be. I've lived in Minnesota for quite a few years, and I am very familiar with big, scary weather reports that go bust. Even with all the science we throw at it, weather takes on a life of its own and can be quite fickle.

No matter what, the next big storm is just around the corner, and as you contemplate stocking up on bottled water and cans of soup, think seriously about how a SIP architecture can keep your business humming while the rest of the city is at a standstill. While you can't beat Mother Nature, you can stay home by the fire and laugh in her face.

Epilogue

It's Monday morning and the predictions for a whopper of a winter storm came true. Snowfall records were broken or nearly broken from Baltimore to New York City. The Jersey Shore experienced heavy flooding, and thousands lost power. The news reports are filled with canceled air flights, idled trains, stranded travelers, and sadly, a few deaths. Clearly, it is going to take some time before life will return to normal for millions of people.

These once in a lifetime storms are now showing up every few years, and it would be foolish to think that any part of the world is immune from crippling natural disasters. Thankfully, technology is helping to soften the blow. Mobile communications can not only keep a company's virtual doors open, it can save lives by bringing help where it's most needed. While SIP is certainly not the panacea for every looming snowstorm, hurricane, flood, or tornado, it can become part of a broad portfolio of risk management tools.

See Andrew Prokop at Enterprise Connect 2016, coming March 7 to 10, in Orlando, Fla. View the conference program here, and register now using the code NJPOST to receive $200 off the current conference price.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

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