Can VoIP Be As Reliable As Traditional Phone Service?

Oct 11, 2011

Yes it can, but that costs extra

Certain businesses and government agencies that support critical infrastructure require their phone systems to be functional 100% of the time. Examples include the military, police, fire and hospitals. When failure is not an option, then you must have redundancy in the event your primary system fails.

Sky diving is an example of an activity where failure is not an option. Sky divers always carry a reserve shoot in case their primary shoot fails. The cost of adding a second parachute adds to the cost of sky diving. The same principal applies when adding redundancy to a Business VoIP phone system.

Watch Out For The Bogus Performance Guaranty

While VoIP technology has become very stable over the past several years, no technology is 100% reliable. If your company requires 100% reliability, then you must build redundancy into your system.

You cannot expect the provider of any service, including VoIP phone service to guarantee 100% reliability. While the provider of a service publicly states they offer a 100% guarantee, to find out exactly what that means, you must read the fine print. In companies that provide a service like, like Business VoIP phone service, this is known as the Service Level Agreement (SLA), often tells a different story.

Most SLA’s have a “Damages” clause which is where the company limits its damages in the event of a service outage. In the event of an outage, regardless of how “damaging” financially it is to your company, the most you can expect to recover is a percentage of your monthly bill. That is a bogus guarantee and one that you should not rely on.

Does The VoIP Provider Guaranty 100% Up-Time?

The answer is actually fairly simple. In order to guarantee 100% up-time of your phone system, or for any system, you need two completely independent fully functioning systems in place.

An example of this type of redundancy is a back up generator at a hospital. It is unacceptable for people to die if the facility looses power and that is why hospitals always have redundant power supplies.

Situations like these require an 100% redundancy. How much redundancy your company needs depends on the damage an outage could cause. The economic harm of an outage is affected by the frequency and duration of an outage.

What is your tolerance for phone system outages?

Before you spend money building redundancy into your system, you should determine the ecomomic cost of an outage. The amount of redundancy your company requires depends on the answers to the following questions;

  • Is any outage time acceptable?
  • How long of an outage can you withstand before the damage to your company becomes unacceptable?
  • How much are you willing to pay to guarantee against each outage type?
  • Are some types of outages unacceptable?
  • Are you willing to live with the occasional system wide outage that lasts for a hour or less or occasional call quality issues?

Redundancy is a trade off, most of the time

There are different ways of achieving redundancy on a Hosted VoIP phone system. Complete, 100% guaranteed redundancy requires 2 of everything and costs roughly twice as much as your current phone bill. Other types of redundancy cost less to achieve.

Before building redundancy into your system, determine how much and what types of phone system outages your company can accept and then figure out how much it costs to implement.

In some fields 100% redundancy is a must, Sky Diving is one that comes to mind.

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