MCI Canada Inc. is beefing up its data centre, with the intention of providing Canadian businesses one-stop access to a range of services.
Chief among these is a business grade session initiation protocol (SIP)-based IP trunking service that can keep voice communication capabilities active during a disaster.
With conventional telecom systems, voice communication capabilities are tied to a physical location, so transferring them to home offices or other sites if a disaster occurs is difficult.
Voice over IP (VoIP) has a distinct advantage in this regard, an MCI Canada executive says. “Instead of buying a circuit from a phone company, you can plug into IP anywhere,” says Robert Quance, general manager at Toronto-based MCI Canada. “The dial tone will be provided by MCI Canada.”
Quance says a good disaster recovery plan encompasses both data – which companies are already taking steps to secure – as well as voice. And that’s where IP trunking plays a vital role. “With IP trunking, companies can survive a major outage of their PBXs at the office, and still have office phone numbers ring at home or on cell phones.”
Adoption of the SIP standard, which enables VoIP communications, is spreading across industries, Quance says.
Many enterprises already use IP trunking to reduce toll costs between different sites in their private networks. But it is also typical that VoIP communications outside the enterprise still involve a circuit-switched handoff to a traditional telco. “For business, IP trunking is what will link you to the rest of the world using SIP.”
The tipping point, he says, will likely be reached within two to three years, when most companies make the switch to “pure” IP by adopting the SIP standard.
SIP is more than an enabler for VoIP, since it provides a single pipe to data, video, and other multimedia, in addition to voice. “Every company will buy into this sooner or later. And we’re not afraid to compete with Bell and Telus.”
The benefits to customers will be choice, says John Wang, product manager at MCI. “You can have more than one supplier for SIP, with multiple trunks to multiple locations,” he says. “Everything will be logical, not physical.”
MCI Canada is also planning to launch some enhancements to its IP trunking services later this year, says Quance. “Many new things will be coming out, for example, integrating multiple city PBXs together, and some extra user-friendly features,” he says.
In addition to VoIP services, MCI Canada is expanding its data centre located at Don Mills and Eglinton in Toronto.
The company, which provides data centre and hosting services in major cities across Canada, has been recognized as a leader in hosting for the past three years by Stamford, Conn.-based analyst firm Gartner Group.
There are a number of risk factors businesses should consider when selecting a data centre provider.
The location of the data centre is a key factor, according to Quance, citing MCI Canada’s Toronto data centre as an example.
Quance says a site outside the downtown core was selected for MCI Canada’s Toronto data centre because the area’s high elevation protects the site from flooding. Quance describes it as “the hottest real estate in Toronto.”
Reliable backup and disaster management systems are also a must for any facility that hosts critical customer data.
Quance described some of these capabilities at the Toronto centre.
For instance, he says, each customer cabinet is equipped with two power sources, both backed up by diesel generators with a seven-day supply of fuel. If there is a power outage, back-up power systems kick in automatically, with a UPS to cover off the five-second delay in the switch. The centre is also equipped with a fire suppression system.
For human threats, says Quance, site access is controlled by a biometric finger reader and access code.
These features, he says, are the meat-and-potatoes of a data centre service that reduces its customers’ risk.
But outsourcing data centre operations to a third-party provider also has a set of risks.
Outsourcing relationships often fail or disappoint because companies don’t evaluate their own risks properly, according to the Gartner Group. To evaluate them, businesses should consider several questions:
• Are there substantial business changes afoot such as mergers, acquisitions or divestitures? What are the potential implications for data centres? Is there a plan to centralize business services in shared service centres?
• Does the data centre serve business partners, suppliers or customers? Could a third party jeopardize these relationships?
• What is the cost and impact of switching to an outsourcer and switching back or to another provider at the end of the term? What is the impact of asset transfer, especially software licenses and sites?
• Can outsourcing create more problems than it solves? What is the potential impact on flexibility? Will users and customers get more or less value from the new service delivery?