On October 9 last year, a fire broke out at a key Internet facility of SingTel, the largest telecommunications provider in Singapore. The excessive heat from the use of an unauthorized tool in a routine procedure was identified as the probable cause of the fire, according to the findings of the official inquiry.

Crucial network infrastructure was destroyed in the disaster, though what stands out was how a relatively broad swathe of services such as voice lines, broadband, and digital TV services – not just for the company, but that of its rivals StarHub and M1, were affected. Indeed, various ATMs and 18 branches operated by financial institutions such as DBS Bank and OCBC Bank also experienced a network outage.

All Under the Same Roof

When IP-based telephony was first created, one reason cited by organizations that were not willing to switch was the greater reliability offered by traditional fixed-line phones, or landlines. Though this isn’t something that is often mentioned these days, an erroneous mind-set on this front could still stop businesses from enjoying the full benefits of VoIP (Voice over IP).

Based on the above-mentioned incident, the widespread disruption could be narrowed down to how the exchange served as a central hub for all the affected services, regardless of whether it is voice, data, or video. Indeed, the scalability and bandwidth that digital communications offer have meant that more operators have switched to digital at their network cores, even for landlines. Moreover, all mobile phones in operation today are similarly multiplexed through a digital data link that leads from mobile base stations to backend telephony equipment.

Ultimately, it is self-evident that businesses can no longer stick to traditional phone lines and claim higher reliability over their digital equivalents – not when both are likely to be channelled through the same conduits or exchanges anyway.

The Reliability of Cloud

While in-house IP based telephony deployments once had its time of the day, many businesses today are now open to hybrid or even pure cloud deployments. Among other benefits, the latter offers the ability to deploy VoIP without having to make a substantial upfront investment for the requisite equipment, and is also more suited to a new generation of highly mobile employees who are completely at home with BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices).

Despite understandable concerns about the reliability of the cloud in the earlier days, there is no denying that cloud-based services have since formed an integral important part of many organizations. Today, many businesses make use of Google Apps or Office 365 for hosting their email and productivity needs, while cloud storage services such as Dropbox and SkyDrive are widely embraced by users. For small and mid-sized businesses at least, it is arguable that cloud services run by experts in their respective fields actually offer superior reliability.

While VoIP is no poorer in reliability and uptime than traditional land lines, the former delivers a range of capabilities that land lines cannot match.

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