Is IP or TDM Best for Disaster Preparedness?

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As a society, we keep score.


The Yankees are not as good as the Tigers. Joe Torre (now) is not as good as Joe Torre (then). The Mets are better than the Dodgers. Throw the As and the Cards into the mix, wait a few weeks, and we'll find out which team is best.


What does that have to do with IT?


Plenty. For years, IT folks have debated which is the winner in the far more serious game of disaster preparedness and continuity: VoIP or traditional time division multiplexed (TDM) systems.


On one hand, IP providers say that VoIP is the best bet because it adds great flexibility to the ways in which folks communicate. For instance, adding softphone functionality to a PC allows users to make business calls from any broadband connection. TDM phone users can only dream of such mobility. Thus, proponents say, business continuity is far advanced in an IP world.


TDM folks, of course, disagree. The biggest problem with IP approaches, they say, is that they commingle voice and data on a single network. That means that if one network crashes, the company is completely off the grid. Such "single points of failure" scenarios break rule one in network engineers' handbook.


There are two realities here. The first is that there are ways to leverage both networks so that either of these extremes is avoided. In such a scenario, companies gain the flexibility of IP and the inherent redundancy of separate voice and data networks.


The other reality is that this takes planning and investment. These are two things many IT departments -- or, more accurately, the folks who pay the bills -- are loathe to do. Will companies really design systems that optimize the advantages of both? Or will denial -- in the form of not addressing potential problems before they become emergencies -- keep companies from making the investment in well-engineered hybrid solutions?


Of course, some companies will be more proactive than others. The bottom line, however, is that most will not spend a lot of time, money or effort in finding the best disaster recovery networking solution.


That's a shame, since events of the past few years have made it more obvious than ever that being prepared for an emergency is a mission-critical task. These companies, like this year's Yankee team, look great most of the time -- but will be hard pressed to respond when a crisis erupts.