Converting your small business phone system from a traditional system to one that’s hosted over the Internet can be a scary proposition when you hear all the horror stories of “early adopters” or the “do-it-yourself” companies like RingCentral or Vonage.  When you choose to work with a telecommunications professional with almost two decades of experience, like Phonewire, you can rest assured we know the technology better than anyone.

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Often times, we hear the question: What happens if my Internet goes down?  

The answer depends entirely on what you decide, but here are 3 simple examples to illustrate some options if you’re using either a premise based hybrid phone system or a cloud hosted VoIP phone system.  At Phonewire, we take business communications seriously and understand you have no room for downtime.

Option 1 – VoIP Transferring Options

Business ABC is located in St. Louis Missouri, with a high-speed “best effort” Business Internet service from someone like AT&T Fios or Charter Spectrum, and has 15 employees who work on-site.  They also have a 10 employees who are the mobile workforce who work from home in Chicago Illinois.

One morning, out of the blue, the internet dies. It’s the end of the world, right? Wrong. What could easily be set up here is called “fail-over”, that means if the Internet fails then the business phone numbers automatically roll over to another line. Here are some examples:

Transfer to Smart Phones

What these folks could do is route the main office numbers to an employee’s cell phone. Meaning, if the internet goes down, the employee’s cell phone would ring when a customer dials the office number.

We usually recommend routing the calls to either an owner, manager, or someone else who is reliable, frequently in the office, and is knowledgeable enough about the entire business to handle a variety of incoming calls.

The pros are it’s a simple & easy fix. There’s really not much to setting this up in terms of complexity or difficulty.

The cons are it really only works for companies that either don’t get a lot of calls, or companies with owners, managers, or senior employees who are really hands on and active at the office.

Transfer to an Auto Attendant

Another option is to transfer the calls to an auto attendant hosted in a data center. So, when a customer calls your number, the call is routed to an automated message which presents the customer with some options.

For instance, it could present the customer with options to connect with various employees or connect directly with an employee’s voicemail. If the customer wants to talk to someone, the auto attendant would transfer the call to a smart phone. If the customer wants to leave a voicemail, they’re sent right to an employee’s voicemail. One of the great features of VoIP systems is voicemails can be emailed immediately to the person, meaning they can quickly and easily access their voicemail, regardless of where they are or what device they’re using to access their email.

More robust systems can map extensions with employee’s smart phones, meaning if someone calls your business, punches in extension 123, and your internet’s down, the system will fail-over to a smart phone, and the customer will never know the difference.

An added perk here is that the staff can use their smart phone for outbound calling since many VoIP services for businesses have features that allow outbound calls to take on the appearance of your business. Meaning, if your employee dials out on their smart phone, the person they’re calling will see your business name and number on their caller ID.

The pros here are really in the fact that the customer usually won’t notice the difference, especially if the business is already using an auto attendant for handling calls.

The con here is this depends on the entire organization requiring employees to have smart phones to handle fail-over calls. We occasionally see employee push-back in situations like this if employees are using their own personal devices. If employees have mobile devices provided by the organization, then this is a non-issue as you (most likely) call the shots on what the devices are used for.

Transferring to Additional Office Locations

Same example as the last two, but now instead of one location with 15 employees, it’s two locations with 15 employees at each site.

In this situation, the business can simply transfer the calls to the other location when the internet dies at one of their offices.

Problem is, this solution doesn’t always work for everyone simply because of staffing issues. For instance, if you have your service department in one location, and sales in another, transferring services calls to the sales staff, and vice versa, isn’t a good idea. In a situation like this, you’ll need to ensure that staff at both locations can handle the same types of calls.

Option 2 – Backup Internet Connections

Same business as above, with one key difference. They have a second, “backup” Internet line for the business.

Simply put, this means that the office in question would have two internet providers. The advantage here is pretty easy to understand. Let’s say your Charter internet goes down, but you have backup Internet service with Spectrum or AT&T. In this case, you can fail-over your lines to the other provider.

If Charter Spectrum internet goes down, your calls are handled over the AT&T circuit. If AT&T goes down, your calls are handled over Charter Spectrum.

Again, your customer never knows the difference. Also, this keeps your system consistent for your employees since the phones in the office will always ring. Of course, if there’s a massive internet outage the mutually effects all ISPs then you’re out of luck, but the chances of that are slim to none.

So why doesn’t everyone choose this option when the get VoIP service at their business?

You need to have 2 high-speed internet providers (not just 2 modems from the same provider). As much as we like to think we’re in a technologically savvy area of the country, the reality is many businesses only have access to one high speed internet provider.

It can be, but isn’t always, somewhat of an IT challenge. You’ll need the right IT hardware and a static IP address on both circuits. And, they’ll all have to be configured correctly. For businesses who work with us at Phonewire, we can include our preferred “dual WAN” router product in your proposal that will manage both Internet providers and automatically provide the failover when needed. It’s really quite easy and our recommended solution, when 2 internet providers are available.

Option 3 – Dedicated VoIP Only Internet Line

This is really a similar option to example 2 and it can apply to one or multiple offices.

Some VoIP providers, like us here at Phonewire, can install a dedicated internet line to your office if you only have access to one high speed internet provider in your area. This is called an “MPLS Circuit”. In simplest terms, it connects whatever hardware you have in your IT or phone closet in your office to a data center that hosts your VoIP service for your business.

It’s literally a direct connection between your hardware and the data center that handles the behind the scenes stuff that makes the VoIP service at your business work.

It’s a virtually fool-proof backup plan, and guarantees extremely high quality communications.

But there’s one caveat that holds everyone back from pursuing this, and it involves your budget.

For our customers to get an “MPLS Circuit”, it generally costs anywhere between $300 and $525 a month depending on their location. Just note that this is a price on top of the existing VoIP costs, and your Internet costs. Point is, if you go this path, it can end up costing a more, especially for small businesses or organizations with tight budgets.

I make no bones about it; this isn’t the ideal option for everyone. In fact, from my personal experience, a business with less than 15 employees usually won’t go the “MPLS Circuit” route because of the cost, and would usually either stick with choices in example 1 or 2 as discussed above. However, larger businesses with 25 or more users on the IT network will often invest in option 2 or an “MPLS Circuit” for their VoIP cloud-hosted system.

In Summary

The biggest takeaway here is that there are options when you work with an expert, like us at Phonewire.

The fact of life is sometimes the phones just go down. It happens. When it does, whether it for an hour, a day, or God forbid longer, it’s sticking you and your staff between a rock and a hard place.  Fortunately, that’s an easily avoidable problem with a properly installed VoIP system.

You need dependable communications, and you need technology that will work for you in a jam, not against you. VoIP systems can do just that in a business setting, but it requires one of these options as part of the conversation.

To learn more about fail-over options on robost and reliable, business grade VoIP phone systems, you can contact us online, email us directly at help@phonewire.com, or call 618-628-1552.