broadband Business UC voip

The View from My Window is All White #uksnow #voip

snowy view from our back window

With snow being today’s theme I thought I’d stick some pictures up.  The header photo (click to enlarge) is the view from my upstairs landing window into our back garden.  The kids were off yesterday and trashed the pristine snow. I was chairing a panel session at the ISPA conference in London.  The show must go on.

The conference was remarkably well attended considering that some people from “up north” were completely snowed in.

The point of this post, much as we like snow when it is at its pretty stage,  is however to show the picture of the Timico car park.  This is normally chock full with cars but we are in one of the areas heavily hit (the Lincoln Christmas Market has been forced to cancel for the first time ever). Not a problem though. Staff have been able to work from home using their VoIP accounts and broadband connections.  Sorted.

There is also an interesting story concerning one of our customers who has just recently installed VoIP in a couple of pilot sites. Because of travel to work problems and staff shortages they have shut a number of offices and wanted call diversions put in place by BT to direct traffic to their open offices. The offices piloting VoIP did this in a matter of seconds.  Those relying on BT to manually perform the divert have been told that it isn’t going to happen due to the huge demand caused by the snow! This certainly shows the right and wrong ways to perform Disaster Recovery.

I don’t normally use this blog to plug Timico but this one was too topically and relevant not to and really I’m just plugging the technology.

Here’s the view from the office window.  It has since started snowing again. The picture right at the bottom is my jeep when I got back to the trains station last night. Snow? Bring it on 🙂

timico carpark in the snow

snow covereed jeep at Newark Northgate railway station last night
snow covered jeep at Newark Northgate railway station last night
Business voip

Newark Telephone Exchange Loss of Service

The Newark telephone exchange suffered an outage today and quite a number of analog lines and ADSLs were down as a result. Fortunately Timico has a network strategy that incorporates multiple types of connectivity specifically to provide resilience when outages like this happen.

It did prompt me to check out how often BT has problems at an exchange and I found that in the last seven days there were nineteen major service outages. Anywhere  technology is involved is bound to lead to things going wrong.  If you extrapolate the last week’s outages to a whole year then you get a figure of nine hundred and eighty eight which says that approximately one in six of the UK’s telephone exchanges has a problem in any given year.

Whilst this is not a definitive number in my mind it is good enough to tell me that a business needs to have a disaster recovery/contingency plan to cater for network outages.  We mustr be unlucky in Newark because last summer we had another outage.  That time our ISDN lines were down for the afternoon.  Allegedly some equipment was switched off to prevent the exchange from over heating on a hot day!

Business security voip

Disaster recovery in action – Timico style

It’s not very often I get excited about an ISDN line going down. This is what happened today at Timico Headquarters in Newark. Apparently becausewe are currently going through normal summer weather (that’s normal hot not normal British wet) the BT telephone exchange in Newark began to overheat. The BT response to this was to switch off some kit includiong our ISDN lines. Uhuh.

However fear not dear customer. When you called in you probably didn’t notice because our Disaster Recovery plan kicked in and the ISDN numbers were diverted to VoIP ensuring continuity of service. Hooray!

It is not true to say that this was seamless. It did take us a few minutes to realise that the lines were down and then switch over but the time lost was minimal.

The outage happened at around 14.20 and normal service was resumed at just before 17.00 hours, presumably because the sun had gone over the yardarm and the BT engineers wanted to get away for a cooling thirst-quencher.

Apps Business storage backup & dr

Voodoo Engineering and Knowledge Base Software

No “black magic” shaman under employ can beat the benefits of information sharing via knowledge base software.

One of our sys admins when asked what he did to fix a technical problem would always say “voodoo”, giving the impression that it was all black magic. This might have raised a laugh, but in actual fact it wasn’t very helpful as he kept the fixes to himself and engineers around him did not learn from him. That engineer is no longer with us, and in the meantime we have adopted Microsoft Sharepoint.

Basically a wiki or information source, Sharepoint is very easy to upload data to and serves as an intranet for small and medium sized businesses. We use it as a knowledge base. Whenever someone comes across a technical problem that is likely to reoccur, the person involved in its resolution creates a page on the wiki. Others can easily navigate to this page and also search for specific subjects. Documents can be uploaded using Windows Explorer or any other file manager, so that the support site has grown very quickly to become a rich store of information tat includes vendor manuals and guides as well as self-generated material.

The same principle can, of course, be extended to any department in the company requiring document storage. The beauty of it is that the storage can be located anywhere and not just at the company’s premises so that it can form part of a company DR plan with very little effort.

broadband Business

Multi-Site Broadband VPN Deployments

If your company is deploying multi-site broadband VPNs you need to consider using a L2TP Private Wide Area Network. A PWAN employs Virtual Route Forwarding to offer complete security over a shared MPLS backbone.


The beauty of this approach is that you don’t need expensive MPLS connections – an ADSL line will do which can be a very cost effective way of providing security to remote sites.


Moreover there is a choice of PWAN with or without internet access. A company that needs only an inward facing network, for example for streaming music or messaging to stores completely removes the need for firewall support at each remote site.


For a slightly more sophisticated network with internet access and, say broadband VPN connectivity for mobile workers, only one centrally located firewall is needed (or two for resiliency).


This means that corporate resources such as billing platforms and CRM packages that would normally be located at the corporate HQ can now be located at a centrally positioned data-centre. This is then accessible to every site on the corporate network without the need to provide an expensive beefed up IP connection to the HQ and removes this as a single point of failure.


Typically not every ISP offers this kind of PWAN. It relies on BT Central pipes that support L2TP which the smaller pipes do not do. Larger consumer oriented ISPs that may well have the technology are potentially not interested in supporting what is essentially an unique circuit design for every customer.

Engineer voip

SIP trunks as part of a DR plan

DR is a hot topic these days as more and more firms rely on data that is not stored as hard copy. Virtual Servers are a great way of implementing a DR strategy for a business.


Another area that is gaining ground is in the use of SIP Trunks as part of a DR plan. Rather than completely replacing ISDN or analogue telephony connections with an IP equivalent companies are running with both.


The company will typically keep its inbound traffic running over ISDN and use SIP, with its typically lower cost call charges, for outbound. The beauty is that if the site loses its ISDN connection for any reason the business, with an appropriate level of support, can reroute its inbound numbers to an alternative destination which is has been pre-setup as an inbound SIP trunk. Likewise if the IP connection drops then the business can temporarily use the more expensive ISDN lines.


For a multi-site organisation this is a no brainer as remote locations can also be connected to the company headquarters using the same SIP trunks. The IP interconnect can be an ADSL line, or for larger organisations requiring more trunks and perhaps a higher level of Service Level Assurance, over leased lines.