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Many Small Outages vs. One Big Outage: What's Worse?

Communication systems have traditionally been distributed, with each office having its own servers running communication applications such as PBXs. As more organizations look to centralize and consolidate all their communication systems into their data centers or The Cloud, organizations must ask themselves if the risk in centralizing all their communication systems and potentially having a big outage is worth it.

The advantages of Centralization:

1. Lower Costs

--economies of scale and less effort to support
2. Faster Delivery--Ability to add and change features & users quickly
3. Fewer Outages--All the technology resides in hardened data centers with redundant fiber access running on equipment that is both redundant within the data center and across data centers. If there is a problem, on-site personnel and spare hardware can quickly fix component failures.
4. Business Continuity--Ability for an office to have an un-planned closure due to weather or loss of power, and all customer and employee communication is rerouted.

1. Lower Costs

Advocates of Cloud Computing, which is a centralized model, say that there should only be end devices at the office, with a highly available and robust network connecting them back to the cloud. As 4G becomes more widely deployed, wireless enables a "suitable" alternate path if the corporate WAN fails.

The disadvantage of centralization that is a problem can impact the entire organization. One improperly executed change can bring down the entire communications system. Voice is considered a critical application that must work, even when everything else is not. The reality is that organizations that have distributed communication systems see a lot of smaller outages on a regular basis, versus the centralized communication systems that have rare outages, but when they occur, it has a huge impact.

What history has shown is that organizations prefer the advantages of centralization over the risk. At first, non-mission critical applications were centralized like email and HR, then critical applications like SCM, CRM, and ERP. The only applications that have not yet been centralized are those deemed vital to an organization such as point of sale or manufacturing line.

Today, the majority of organizations are deploying IP Telephony & SIP trunking in a centralized model. Besides the advantages stated above, this is due to:

* Internal communication systems are not seen as vital applications thanks to the availability of external communication systems (mobile devices/networks) that can be used as an alternate in case of an outage. * The top reason a site will lose WAN connectivity is local access. Local telephony access is also lost in a lot of cases. (The backhoe)

* Organizations that have both centralized and distributed applications find that their centralized applications have a better track record.

* Many small outages have an overall greater disruption to business and IT operations than a rare large outage does.

Would you prefer to have a cold once a week, or to get the flu once a year?