Plan for the 9's

Fonality’s data centers are engineered towards what’s known as four 9’s of availability.  That means 99.99% uptime, or no more than 4.32 minutes a month of downtime.  This amount of availability means we have to have redundancy at every level including multiple servers, Internet connections, and electrical power.  On top of that, every device in the network is on battery backup that is further backed up by diesel generators.  This level of redundancy is costly and requires some serious manpower to keep up with, but it is necessary to ensure that our customers always have dial tone.

 

 None of this matters however if the Internet connection at YOUR location goes down, or if the power goes out.  So what can you do to greatly improve the availability of your Local Area Network (LAN) without breaking the bank?  With a few simple guidelines, every organization regardless of size should be able to plan for the 9’s and sleep better at night.

 

Step 1 – Battery Backup

 

An Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing availability on your LAN.  UPS’s come in many sizes and range in price from $100.00 up to tens of thousands of dollars.  Most small to medium sized businesses can get away with a low to mid-range UPS, and you should expect to pay somewhere between $500 to $1,000 dollars.  You don’t need to have every single device on your network backed up with a UPS – only the most important devices.  When the power is out, you can probably do without your printer for instance, but your Internet connection should stay up.  The most important devices to put on battery backup in order to keep your phones alive are the ISP modem (the one that your carrier gave you when you ordered your Internet circuit), the router/firewall, the PBX itself (if a premise-based solution…if your PBX is hosted, there is no need to put a server on the UPS), and the phones (see Power over Ethernet below).  There are many UPS selector tools available online to help size and select the type of UPS that works best for your organization.

 

Step 2 – Power over Ethernet

 

All of the phones that Fonality offers come with an A/C adapter for power.  The problem with using the A/C adapter is that, unless all of your phones are in a very tight space, then you won’t be able to plug all of them into your battery backup.  To solve this issue, you’ll need Power over Ethernet switch (also known as PoE).  PoE means that your phones receive their power through the network cable rather than the power cable.  All Fonality phones are PoE capable.  This centralized power architecture has a number of advantages including fewer cables at each desk, easier administration, and of course all of your phones will remain online during a power outage as long as your PoE switch is on the UPS.  PoE switches come in many flavors, but my favorite is the Dell PowerConnect 3524P (starting at around $699).  It can power up to 24 phones, has the most bang for your buck in terms of features, and comes with a user interface that doesn’t take a degree from MIT to figure out.

 

Step 3 – Redundant Internet

 

The two steps above are usually sufficient to ensure as much uptime as possible, but if you really want to knock the ball out of the park in terms of redundancy, you need a 2nd Internet connection.  These days, the cost is pretty accessible for Internet connections, and there are entry level routers, such as the Cisco SRP541W that allow for dual WAN connections.  This means that switching between multiple DSL/Cable/Fiber connections is easier than ever. There are even some devices that can aggregate your connections so that the 2nd Internet connection isn’t simply for standby.  It can be used alongside the main connection so that you can take full advantage of both.  When shopping for a secondary Internet connection, just keep in mind that it doesn’t have to have the full power of your main Internet connection, but it should be sufficient for mission critical applications in the event of a failure.

 

By following these simple guidelines for redundancy, your LAN can have a sufficient level of uptime to keep your business operational in the event of various common outages.

 

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