Recently, a colleague who works in the public relation field and I decided to take on a task of collecting data relevant to a problem of interest. Specifically, we were seeking to identify hosted data backup providers that met a certain set of criteria. Normally, surfing a company website is enough for most people to find the information they are seeking but we needed to delve a little deeper which demanded a more involved research process.
I have become curious about certain hosted backup providers from a variety of positions including both an operational and business stand point. If you search the internet, you will discover that there are a large variety of service providers, big and small, that offer a broad range of data backup solutions. However, the solution I am seeking to learn more about is very specific.
Backing up data is a critical IT endeavor. When a system crashes, the loss in productivity can have a major consequence. What if one of the systems that crashed is an on premise VoIP system? Hopefully, a business employs enough redundancy to circumvent a total outage but failure of certain or multiple devices could possibly render a company reliant on a VoIP system that is unable to make or receive phone calls.
One way companies step around this problem is the use of mobile devices but it’s not a feasible option for all companies (i.e. BYOD is forbidden or company mobile phones are not provided.) Some cloud based data backup providers offer solutions specifically geared for VoIP systems which is fortunate for organizations that lack a mobile option. Such a solution could be a lifesaver for a business that makes or receives a high volume of calls.
During this short research endeavor, I also became more aware of another issue. This led me to another discovery that I feel will help me in future research campaigns.
Asking questions and talking to strangers
Have you ever worked in a business with a sale strategy that included cold calling customers to sell products or services? It’s not an easy task to complete. Still, it is an effective way to gain attention or collect information if executed properly. For example, regarding the American voting system, pollsters call voters and question willing people in order to collect data or feedback. This is perhaps the largest cold calling effort in the United States.
A good amount of secondary data is also collected during these efforts. One critical piece of information that can be taken away from pollster cold calling is the fact that very few people will take part in a phone poll. I discovered this firsthand when I tried to call cloud companies and ask about how they handled VoIP systems. What I found is actually what I couldn’t find, at least initially.
Poll findings and my findings
Several important situations are mentioned in the FAQ I linked to above. I question the authenticity (and origin) of the site above nonetheless, I feel like it reflects my experience. It is very difficult to gain the attention from a complete stranger, however there are certain ways you can increase your odds.
One issue mentioned in the site above is the targeting of a local demographic. Calling a company from a local number is more likely to receive an answer then a call from out of area. After testing the waters with very little success I realized I would need to try a different approach.
I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to simply ask a few questions so I cruised the Google Play store until I found a solution to my problem. What I found is the application Pinger – it allowed me to register a number in any area code and this intrigued me.
Pinger – a quick plug
The application itself isn’t too impressive. The interface is simple and doesn’t offer any frills which is a great as nothing is worse than a confusing GUI. I chose the application simply because of the product description – I wanted something easy to configure and the ability use a number generated from any area code of my choosing. Thanks to this app, a small investment for additional minutes and the power of VoIP, I was able to establish contact with a certain company of interest.
A great interview I can’t reveal
At this point in time, the conversation I conducted with my target is bound by confidentiality. However, I can say that I learned a lot. Combined with the research I conducted, I unveiled certain situations that should be taken into consideration, even with a service that seems infallible.
I later found a great example of a subject we discussed which paralleled a scenario my interviewee described. In the case of CallCentric, the service was completely disrupted by a DDoS attack in the past. This is perhaps the most common way a network is attacked. Like any web service, this renders data services virtually unusable as the network loses the ability to send or receive data packets, which in this case brings VoIP to its knees.
The representative of the provider I spoke with indicated that such scenarios are exactly why the company provides hosted services in addition to data backup. Losing data, whether production data, CRM information or email, is not a good situation and neither is the inability to use the systems that rely on this information. In the case of a VoIP system, whether an on premise solution or a hosted provider, it can be disruptive enough to have serious financial consequences if the service is down for any length of time.
A VoIP system that is down can prevent associates from making or receiving any calls. However, a virtual machine that runs an image of an IP PBX system and which can be booted in the event of a failure, can save the day. Though it may not help if an onsite network is attacked with a packet flood, in the case of a total failure, a virtual machine with such capabilities will alleviate the problem.
This is not a very common solution in the market of cloud backup providers but it should be. I imagine, over time, it will be more common to see virtual cloud service providers promote the ability to virtualize a phone system.