Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Do You Have A VoIP Back-up Plan?

Periodically, it's a good idea for everyone to review their VoIP back-up plans and strategies.  That is, if we have one in the first place.  And, this includes the DIY BYOD VoIP users like me.

I'm bringing-up this topic once again in light of the recent severe and disruptive DDOS SIP attacks against one of my VSP's, CallCentric.  Due to no fault of their own, CallCentric's services had been seriously disrupted by DDOS attacks with criminal intent.

As well, back in March of this year, the Dell Voice Fongo service was down for most of a day.  I was using their service, too.  I have used numerous VoIP services over the years (often subscribing to various services at the same time), that have either gone through periods of disruption or just plain failed as a business and went  belly-up.

Recently, just after CallCentric service was being disrupted by DDOS attacks, a friend of mine who uses their service too (a VoIP newby), told me he was going to switch service providers because he didn't want to be subject to these kinds of service disruptions.

Wanting to switch service providers is usually the first response people have when they have service problems.  But switching VSP's isn't always the best solution.

At one time or another, almost every service provider will have some kind of technical issues that will cause some kind of service disruption.  And, now days with the proliferation of Internet-based telecom services, DDOS and flooding attacks are becoming an everyday occurrence.  So, if we jump ship every time we have service disruptions, eventually we will run out of reputable VSP's to run to.  And, we may well end-up back with one we started with.

My Advice Is To Always Have A Back-up Service Provider

Years ago, back in my earlier days of becoming a DIY BYOD VoIP user, I made it my objective to try-out and test numerous VSP's until I had identified at least two or three providers that I would want to stick with on an ongoing basis as my "primary" service providers.  CallCentric has always been on that list, for me.

For example, in the case of CallCentric's recent DDOS attacks causing service disruptions, CallCentric was recommending to all their customers to set their user control panels to FORWARD all incoming calls to another service until normal service was restored.  They said that all incoming calls are able to be forwarded to outside numbers without problems.  This is actually a great feature during times of disruptions.

If your VSP's systems are so badly disrupted that you can't forward the incoming calls to an outside number, then the option is to have an alternate incoming DID (Direct Inbound Dialing) phone number with another VSP so that if people can't contact you on your primary DID, they can still call you via another DID on the alternate VoIP service (or, your mobile phone).

Even if you don't have multiple DID's with your other service providers, you will still be able to make outbound (termination) calls with them when your main service is down.  However, this is where you may also want to have a spare VoIP ATA, IP-Phone, or softphone - all of which I have.

What I'm suggesting is not an expensive proposition.  As a matter of fact, it is a very cheap solution when compared to what service costs with the incumbent telco's and cable digital services.

All the VSP's I subscribe to allow DIY BYOD pay-per-minute pay-as-you-go services.  In other words, no monthly fees just to have an account and register with their proxy servers.  Some, like CallCentric also allow free in-network and iNum calling for free, even if your account balance is $0.00.

Back-up VoIP ATA's, IP-Phones, or Softphones
While on the subject of back-ups, I myself do have a spare ATA, and softphones running on our PC's.  This way, if my main VoIP box dies, I can pull-out the spare unit, fire it up and be back in business in fairly short order.

Battery Backed-up UPS Power Supplies
I actually now have numerous battery-backed UPS power supplies distributed between my PC's, network devices, and VoIP boxes.  While, the UPS's will only keep my equipment running from 10 - 30 minutes (depending on loads), that is often enough to save my bacon because of short-term power outages.  As well, it protects from power surges and spikes as well as local lightning strikes.

What About Back-up Internet Service Providers?
Depending on your circumstances, having a back-up ISP may be a viable option.  Obviously, if our Internet connection goes down, we lose our VoIP services, too.

In the case of my wife, she is a full-time teleworker and now works via remote desktop connection to her employers office in Calgary, AB.  In our case, it is imperative that we have reliable full-time Internet connections.  Not just for VoIP, but for work, too.  Currently, we have good cable Internet service with Shaw Cable.  But, if that line goes down, I do have a wireless data plan with Telus.  And, I have a 3G dongle that plugs into a D-Link Mobile Router that will now give us emergency Internet service when our cable Internet goes down.  I have tested this setup and it works quite well, even with our VoIP services.

So, this has all been about food for thought when it comes to having backup services and plans in place in the untimely event of service disruptions.

Have you put much thought into your back-up strategies?