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Taking a Holistic Approach to Business Continuity in UC


In Andrew Prokop's recent No Jitter article, "Peeling Back the SIP resiliency layers," he addressed some of the methods available to increase redundancy when implementing SIP solutions. I'd like to take this topic a step further and dive into the intricacies of business continuity for unified communications.

When implementing a unified communications platform in a multisite environment, designing for business continuity is an imperative for most organizations. Balancing the cost of a highly available solution against business requirements while understanding where the various redundancy options fit, is a challenge that plagues many ICT departments.

Carriers, UC components, data network components and virtual server hardware all offer redundancy alternatives. With all of the choices and complexities, how can organizations create the best business continuity strategy? Should they focus on one component or include components from all disciplines? Is there one best solution for all organizations? Or even one solution for all divisions and locations of the same organization?

Cost is often a primary factor in considering redundancy alternatives, and cost must be weighed against the business impact of a disruption.

The first step in designing a business continuity strategy is to determine which elements, locations, divisions or services are most critical to the organization.

For example, is there a critical contact center that generates a large portion of the company's revenue? If so, are all of the agents at one location, distributed across multiple locations, or remote workers? In a configuration where contact center agents are highly critical to the company's bottom line, the following strategies might make sense:

In a case where you have a remote worker in a nonessential warehouse, for example, spending a large amount of money to provide a fully redundant, fail-proof design might not represent the best use of corporate funds. The correct business continuity strategy for such a worker might be only to provide a 15 minute UPS for the switch, or no wired redundancy at all. If the MPLS fails, it might make the most sense for that worker to simply use a cell phone.

Designing a best-of-breed business continuity solution, then, requires not only knowledge of the design alternatives available, but a firm grasp of the true business needs of each location being included in the design. Ideally, this information should already be available, since understanding business requirements and use cases for different groups in the organization is a necessary precursor to a well adopted unified communications solution.

When thinking about business continuity requirements, some considerations are:

Once the business needs have been identified, determine which design alternatives best meet specific business continuity requirements.

Carrier Services Business Continuity Strategies

Equipment Manufacturer Business Continuity Strategies

Network and Data Center Business Continuity Strategies

Analyzing specific business continuity needs should be part of your overall needs assessment. Assessing needs by group or location and planning at a granular, rather than global level, will ensure survivability while helping to contain spend normally associated with high level availability. By taking a holistic approach to implementing disaster recovery, businesses can assure the solution implemented meets the needs unique to their organization.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.