“Plan B” Revisited

When I woke up this morning I discovered that I had no Internet connectivity … and thus no VoIP to my home and office. A quick check of the log on my PC revealed that although I did have broadband connectivity, at full speed, my connection to the Internet was dropped at about 1 A.M.

This isn’t the first time this has happened over the past few months. Nor the second time, nor the third. Indeed a couple of weeks ago my Internet connectivity disappeared for almost 12 hours. The reason this is happening isn’t really relevant (although for those interested, it allegedly has to do with Century Link’s authentication servers, a customer service rep insisted). What is relevant is that the VoIP lines in my home office, and my home, weren’t working.

The point of all of this is one I’ve made in the past, but I think it bears constant repetition: You need a “Plan B” if your business depends at all on phone service – which almost every business does.

Fortunately, with the capabilities of business VoIP, coming up with a Plan B is an exercise in simplicity. And for Phone.com subscribers, a workable Plan B doesn’t cost a penny extra.

One answer is simply to program your VoIP phone line for “follow me” services. In my case, I already have my line set up to forward to my cell phone whenever I don’t answer the desk set when it rings. As a corollary, if the Virtual PBX that powers Phone.com can’t reach that desk set – because of lack of Internet connectivity or because of a fumble-fingered blogger (me) who accidentally disconnected his ATA while installing new PC speakers – it automatically sends the call to my cell. The result: Not a single missed call.

Taking it a step further, if your business has multiple locations, you can simply have unanswered calls shifted to another office whenever your line isn’t answered (or, indeed, doesn’t even ring because of a connectivity glitch). And of course there’s always the use of multiple levels of menus. For instance, if your phone line isn’t answered (or again, if it doesn’t even ring), the call can go to a menu that lets the caller decide what to do next – perhaps ring your cell phone, or leave a message, or try to reach some other location in your company.

One interesting point is that, setting aside for a moment the tremendous cost and feature advantage of VoIP, the venerable switched telephone system has been around so long that it’s been engineered to a “T,” and does deliver 99.999% reliability. I have no doubt that the carrier industry, both telco and cable, will someday fairly soon be able to deliver broadband – and therefore VoIP – with the same level of reliability. After all, small to medium-sized businesses and homes do rely on the very same fiber and copper infrastructure as traditional phone service, at least up to the point of connectivity with the Internet backbone. Indeed so do many of the remote offices of large corporations, although typically a large company site accesses the Internet via highly reliable dedicated lines if available.

Meanwhile, whichever of the methods I discuss above, or combinations of methods, you use – always have a Plan B, just in case. I’d also be happy to hear from anyone who has additional ideas for a great Plan B, and is willing to share them with other readers of this blog.

Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.