The Importance of Redundancy in Enterprise Communications


Written by Patrycja Leinekugel

 

The topic of redundancy is indeed quite a complicated matter. This blog post will not go into detail on the types of redundancy or the structural architecture of redundant systems. Nor will it explain technical terminology such as passive and active redundancy or cold, warm and hot redundancy. Since you can find a lot of material on redundancy on the internet, for example in form of articles, papers, expert reports and more, you always want to make sure to get advice from specialists that know the very specific needs for your individual system.

 

a hand holding a puzzle piece with "plan A" and "plan B" written on the puzzle

What is this Blog Post about?

The objective is to encourage you to think about your internal communication system and the infrastructure within your company. You may want to think about analyzing the system with the goal of securing the company infrastructure, your employees, business data as well as your own interests.

No specific solutions shall be suggested since every installation is different, also with varying priorities. Each system (on-premises, cloud / rented, purchased) needs to be evaluated individually with a correct and sensible risk assessment to get a suitable redundancy concept into place. We all so heavily rely on our modern communication technology with its infrastructure to function without failure. There are so many situations that we have absolutely no influence on. Think of the floods that hit Western & Central Europe in the summer of 2021; a natural disaster that caused horrific damage on a broad scale, for individuals as well as businesses.

In the following, we will be going through some questions that will allow you to review your corporate communications from different perspectives. Please keep in mind that these will not include security protocols and security mechanisms that would be required to secure your system and your PBX from attacks stemming from the internet. Rather, this is about providing additional mechanisms to ensure reliability of the system if primary hardware or software were to fail.

Too much Precaution or Necessity?

First, let us take a look at the meaning of redundancy since it has a veriety of different definitions. We encounter redundancy in information and communication theory and in engineering. So, what does it mean?

In information technology, the term redundancy has two meanings1. For one, it means that you can omit some parts of the full information without losing the essential information. The second is having a duplicate or backup system that takes over if the main system were to fail. Yet, are these two meanings compatible with each other? Two very different ways of looking at it: Information that can be omitted is unlikely to change matters or cause damage. However, omitting or deliberately not using additional resources can have devastating consequences if the system fails. Data can be lost or damaged. In the worst case, the entire infrastructure may fail, jeopardizing not only communication but also the entire business.

 

Does Your Infrastructure have a “Single Point of Failure” or is it Redundant?

A single point of failure (SPOF) is a vulnerability that may cause the entire system to crash or malfunction. If a component with a central function fails and if there is no backup in place, the entire system or critical parts thereof will crash because no redundant component can take over.

Such a single point of failure may also include your hardware. Have you considered the scenario of broken mains adapters or on a larger scale even a full power outage? Other scenarios may include damage caused by lightning, fire or flooding or technical defects, for example with the servers.
If businesses can no longer be contacted by customers, partners or the external workforce, this can have major economic and even existential consequences.

 

What Happens if Devices (e.g. Gateways) Fail?


One option is the hardware redundancy. However, this can be quite an expensive undertaking with tremendous extra costs. In addition to the extra hardware, you would also require more storage room, more energy and higher maintenance effort. Is such a model sensible? From the perspective of reliability, absolutely. The primary/standby concept should then probably be part of the standard equipment. There are various models here, also for companies with multiple locations. Since the costs are so very high with this redundancy model, you may ask yourself whether it is really necessary to have twice the number of components. Instead, reverting to the cloud might be a sensible option to back up business data. When discussing different models and concepts to come up with a suitable redundancy concept, following should be considered, among other scenarios:

 

  • fire / flooding
  • external damage (supply line)
  • overheating
  • power outage
  • technical defects of the devices used (servers / components)

 

Is Your Communication Infrastructure Protected and Fail-Safe?


Should the communication system fail entirely, the resulting costs can be immense. Depending on the external impact, the company’s reputation may also suffer. Aside from the economic impact, a missing or poorly implemented redundancy strategy may cause even more damage, depending on the business area or field of implementation. In hospital & medical environments, aviation & flight security or with the military, it is vital to have a redundancy system in place if a failure, disruption or malfunction should occur. With banks, offices and insurance companies, good customer service is also achieved by ensuring availability if customers or clients want to get a hold of someone.

Conclusion


Redundancy is indispensable for reliable internal and external enterprise communications and its advantages are undoubtedly enormous. You can find out which model suits your business needs best and what alternatives there are in this area from the manufacturer of the communication system implemented in your company. Remember to plan ahead so that you have a secure and reliable communication system. After all, your business success depends on it.
For more detailed information on different redundancy concepts & for a checklist with factors to consider, please also refer to the innovaphone white paper Redundancy: How Fail-Safe is Your Communication Infrastructure?

 

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