The impact of digital convergence and improvements in technology have generated widespread adoption of VoIP phone systems by businesses and individuals. Businesses use them to substantially improve their business profile and improve communications efficiencies. All users use VoIP to substantially reduce their communications costs, particularly for long-distance and international calls.
There is one major difference between the traditional PSTN phone systems and digitally hosted VoIP phone systems. That relates to performance during a power outage. Power to PSTN systems is provided by the PSTN supplier and PSTN phone systems, therefore, they continue to work during a power outage.
Because a VoIP phone system is hosted on ICT infrastructure, either internally or on a hosted site, it is the responsibility of the infrastructure provider to provide backup power.
This brings several considerations into play.
Personal and Home Office VoIP
Most domestic VoIP systems are hosted through voice-enabled apps like Skype, Telegram, and WhatsApp. The user can either use a desktop app or a smart device connected to their internet connection by WiFi. Some larger home offices have a software PBX supporting a WiFi-based internal phone system and the specialised functions offered by VoIP. The handsets are usually softphone apps hosted on desktops or smart devices.
The key here is to keep the desktop, the WiFi and the Internet connection active. An obvious need is for a UPS which will continue to supply power for some time during the outage. The desktop and the WiFi and Internet interface equipment must be connected to the UPS. In some domestic configurations, particularly Fibre To The Home it may not be necessary to keep the desktop running.
The size of the UPS will depend on the power draw of the equipment and for how long you want to keep it running. A home office environment will need much longer uptime than a simple domestic configuration used for communicating with family and friends.
If you run multiple PCs in a larger home office network, try to limit usage to the one device supporting the software PBX. If the individual phone extensions are to remain active, they will need individual power support, either to the handset or to the desktop supporting the softphone app.
In some cases, the extensions are hosted using SIP on smart devices. Extension services will, therefore, last as long as the devices remain charged.
A fairly beefy UPS will not take up too much space and should keep the configuration running for a few hours. One thing – printers use a lot of power, so try not to use them during a power outage,
Another way, particularly in areas with regular power losses or poor power supply is to get off the grid and use solar power or an inverter and generator to supply domestic power.
Businesses are more than their VoIP systems, even though VoIP is very important as it is often the first point of customer contact with the organisation. It is essential therefore to include VoIP in the overall backup and power management strategy adopted by the organisation.
The first step is to decide what needs to continue if an when a power outage occurs. Is it just VoIP, or does the entire ICT infrastructure need to keep running? Remember if VoIP is to continue, you will need to decide which extensions are to keep running. If you are using Power over Ethernet (“PoE”), then keeping the appropriate switches up and running may be sufficient.
The steps to keeping VoIP running during a power outage will therefore include:
Creating a power management strategy. This will entail analysing business requirements and working out what is needed to be available during a power outage. Most businesses will have a disaster management plan prepared by ICT setting out what will keep running and for how long.
A good example is a specification for a Tier III data centre which comprehensively sets out the requirements to keep the show running, both in terms of power conditioning and power supply during outages. Keeping the Internet connection to your ISP running is essential.
What must be borne in mind is that if other elements of the corporate VoIP network are to remain operational, then power backup will be needed in distribution layer network rooms, and for access layer switches that provide PoE power to desktop handsets.
Implementing the strategy. It might look a good strategy on paper, but it needs the financial CAPEX budget to buy UPS equipment, generators and any other electrical equipment needed. There is also an OPEX budget component for installation and maintenance costs and ongoing running costs, for example, fuel for generators. Solar panels and oodles of batteries are a greener option than generators.
It is entirely possible to keep VoIP running during a power outage, but it requires planning, preparation, and some expense.