Reliability is essential with any VoIP system, especially business VoIP. While VoIP runs over the Internet, power outages, natural disasters, and other factors can often result in system downtime—meaning system inoperability. That being said, many business VoIP providers have moved to implement a number of redundancies to ensure users’ systems are up and operational as quickly as possible; however, regardless of the measures taken, no provider’s service is 100% immune to downtime. While this may seem discouraging, users should know that while downtime is inevitable, there are different periods of inoperability. To help users account for inoperability, many providers claim  uptime percentages—which denote the amount of unscheduled time users’ systems are down over the course of year. Now while these numbers can be helpful, what do they really mean?

Uptime percentages are typically somewhere around 99.9…%. While this percentage may seem like a solid number, the digits after the decimal point typically indicate significant differences in time. As such, users should know these differences in order to better select a provider, as well as anticipate short periods of inoperability. For example, typically, 99.999% uptime is equivalent to 5.26 minutes of unscheduled downtime per year; 99.99% is equivalent to 52.56 minutes a year. The best way to secure this information is by contacting the provider directly; however, in doing so, users should be aware of possible variances.

With these projections in mind, users should note that uptime percentages typically account for unscheduled downtime; therefore, users should always ask providers if their projected percentages are all inclusive.  In order for providers’ uptime numbers to be accurate, they should include maintenance and upgrade time. If the uptime percentage doesn’t include maintenance and upgrade times, users are looking at more downtime in addition to the percentage. Users should also be aware of when these downtimes typically occur—i.e. providers should conduct maintenance and upgrade during low usage times such as holidays, off-hours, weekends, etc. In addressing these factors, users can better determine the operability of their system, as well as which provider is best for them.

As stated above, 100% uptime is impossible regardless of redundancy; however, this doesn’t mean providers should not offer sufficient options. While 100% is unattainable, 99.999% is not. This percentage, which is commonly referred to as the five nines, is widely considered to be the best achievable uptime percentage; however, it’s incredibly difficult to achieve this. That being said, it may be wise for users to approach a this downtime with caution. In striving to achieve this incredibly high standard, providers need to supply multi level redundancies (alternative routes for users’ data). Uptime is essentially hinged on providers’ redundancies; therefore, providers need to implement multi level redundancies such as various physical data center diversity (data centers in multiple locations) to ensure minimum downtime.