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Business VoIP vs Cloud PBX

December 30, 2011 2 comments

As different types of technology are constantly introduced to the market, it is easy to get confused about what solutions have certain capabilities and features. To help break it down, this article will detail the key differentiators between business VoIP and Cloud PBX.

Business VoIP utilizes voice over IP technologies that allow calls to be made over an IP network such as the Internet rather than a traditional PSTN. VoIP phone systems are typically used by small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) and offer users a cost-effective way to make and receive calls, while simultaneously gaining access to multiple features that seamlessly integrate with the company’s resources over the Internet.

Outdated phone systems required circuits to be switched by PBX equipment and phone lines to be connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). However with business VoIP, the system can quickly convert the signal digitally and sends it by voice data packets through an Internet Protocol (IP). In addition, VoIP can also utilize the PSTN which enables calls to be connected to l land lines, according to a recent piece.

VoIP technology is extremely important as it combines voice and data into one unified network. This helps to dramatically increase mobility, as the system can be accessed wherever an internet connection is available.

Some features typically associated with business VoIP are advanced call forwarding and electronic messaging, auto-attendant, three-way conferencing, Advanced Call Distribution (ACD), call routing and more.

On the other hand, Cloud PBX is a phone service that is connected via the internet, and the phone service provider is required to maintain and manage the overall cloud PBX system.

Cloud PBX boasts many capabilities that go above and beyond what a conventional telephone system can offer such as caller ID, voicemail and call routing.

A huge reason to implement a Cloud PBX solution in your business is the increased scalability it offers. “It is enough if you initially buy the base system and add extensions and features as your business grows. With normal telephone systems it is necessary to pay more or install additional wiring to add another phone line, but this is not the case with a Cloud PBX system,” the article revealed.

Cloud PBXs also enhance mobility, as they work no matter where you are and can call a mobile phone directly.

Moreover, there are several different types of Cloud PBX systems including Public Cloud PBX, Private Cloud PBX, and Hybrid Cloud PBX. Each of these Cloud PBX systems rely on business VoIP technology to work successfully.

Originally posted at: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/business-voip/articles/249301-how-business-voip-cloud-pbx-differ.htm

Unified Communications: A Lesson You Don”t Want to Learn the Hard Way

October 31, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the costly and painful lessons some large to mid-size enterprises (LMEs) discovered in their rush to install the latest and greatest technologies is that unified communications (UC) isn’t just another application that can be easily bolted onto a standard network. Instead, to get the most from UC you need a Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) network that’s been optimized for converged voice and data. That network also needs to be “application-aware,” and designed for use in the cloud in order to deliver cloud-based application effectively.

That’s why, despite the many potential productivity and collaboration advantages UC offers, many distributed enterprises have been reluctant to commit to it. Their legacy infrastructure, which they are reluctant to give up, makes it exceedingly difficult to actually unify communications across the network. Also, the sheer complexity of converging voice, data and video communications (and managing all of the vendors supporting those systems) means that many companies lack the staff and budget to get the most out of their existing communications infrastructure.

But today, what many companies don’t realize is that a cloud-based approach, combined with a hosted application-aware network, can easily address many of the issues that may be delaying their efforts to move forward into unified communications, including:

  • Legacy MPLS network services and a multitude of service providers
  • Legacy TDM PBX equipment that they intend to keep in service
  • On-premise IP PBX systems that they also intend to keep in service
  • Contact center platforms and services that must be incorporated in a unified communications solution
  • The need to add new locations in places where they don’t yet have the infrastructure built out

The good news is, they can upgrade without completely overhauling the network. By taking a hosted approach, LMEs can more easily deploy a converged, all-IP network as a fully managed infrastructure – one with unprecedented application performance, flexibility and resiliency, and with a level of insight into its network health that was never before possible.

Of course, the thought of moving their communications into the cloud is still unsettling for some CIOs. To allay those fears, hosted systems can and should provide LMEs with better visibility and control, not to mention much more enhanced security from external threats though centralized managed security on a single communications platform.

LMEs must balance the competing needs of the Customer Relationship Management, Supply Chain Management, and other ERP systems without adversely affecting business performance. An application-aware network enables companies to achieve the most effective, dynamic bandwidth allocation without the need to over-provision dedicated Internet access and other services. The high-quality, QoS-enabled network connectivity of an application-aware network ensures that the company has the bandwidth it needs at all times, especially for the most important, time-sensitive applications.

The lesson here is that the hosted application-aware network is making it possible to deliver true unified communications and improved network performance while leveraging legacy technologies. Which means unified communications today can finally deliver real-time communications, centralized applications and cloud-based services much more efficiently and effectively across even the most widely distributed enterprise.

Originally posted at: http://unified-communications.tmcnet.com/topics/unified-communications/articles/233274-unified-communications-lesson-dont-want-learn-hard-way.htm

Protect Your VoIP System from Fraud

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

If your implemented VoIP system was exposed to fraud, would you know it? According to many experts, instances of VoIP fraud, or what is now termed “phone phreaking” in which hackers manipulate the switches and settings in a phone system, is on the rise.

As reported by cloud expert Jeffrey Kahn, three Australian business’ enterprise VoIP networks were recently compromised after they failed to change passwords and cap international calls. This neglect eventually led to opportunists hacking their VoIP networks and thus flushing them out of a whopping $49,200.

Because the majority of VoIP networks interface directly with a data network, a poorly designed network can expose a business to denial-of-service attacks, fraud, computer viruses, spam and eavesdropping. Luckily, there are precautionary steps businesses can take to thwart the potentially costly devastation caused by this recent VoIP plague sweeping the globe.

First and foremost, go with hosted VoIP: The more equipment and hardware a business has in-house, the more susceptible it is to potential fraud. Therefore, a hosted VoIP solution can prevent vulnerabilities as the softswitch is already in a secure data center as opposed to a random office space. Of course, it is important to ensure the hosted VoIP provider you choose has robust security measures in place. A hosting service provider will also be sure to keep up with security updates.

Separate VoIP and UC network traffic: A network can be protected once this traffic is separated into three planes, with their own dedicated protocols. Kahn also recommends encrypting protocol data between the endpoints.

Demarcation points: Normally implemented through data firewall devices, demarcation points between “trusted” and “untrusted” domains can ensure network security. Kahn recommends using enterprise session border controllers (E-SBC) for VoIP, however, as it performs various functions including protocol mediation, media transcoding, and overseeing interoperability between different vendors’ VoIP and legacy TDM kits. E-SBC deployment also comes with DoS attack prevention, call admission control, and signaling and media encryption.

Protect endpoint devices: As the Australian businesses learned, it’s pertinent that passwords of all the components of a system are changed.

Use VLANs: In order to fend off a DoS attack, businesses should opt for a VLAN or intrusion prevention systems for extra precaution.

Enforce a security policy: To ensure users don’t fall for phishing scams and/or participate in activities that could compromise network security, users must be aware of certain regulations, for example, keeping passwords secret and knowing what applications are safe to download.

originally posted at: http://hosted-voip.tmcnet.com/topics/hosted-voip/articles/211340-protect-voip-system-from-fraud.htm

HP Rolling Out UC Consulting Services for the Enterprise

August 9, 2011 1 comment

Hewlett-Packard is partnering with a number of unified communication technology providers to bring next-generation collaboration tools to the enterprise.

Through its partnership agreements with leading UC firms like Microsoft, Avaya, Polycom and Alcatel-Lucent, HP will provide solutions and consulting services that help companies integrate telephony services with communication applications.

The HP Network Readiness Services for UC offering will combine technology solutions and consulting services to help companies eliminate the network barriers that prevent UC adoption. Enterprises can lean on HP’s expertise to confirm whether or not they need to upgrade their network to provide the necessary bandwidth for UC.

These services can be provided in conjunction with HP’s new Virtual Workplace Solution, which includes a platform that integrates a host of UC services to secure clients’ intellectual property. The solution also provides virtual architecture designed to accommodate the modern mobile workforce that is on the road more than in the office.

HP’s consulting services will help make the transition faster and easier for enterprises and employees, says the computing giant.

The final piece to the puzzle is HP’s Voice Transformation Solutions, which help companies evolve their infrastructure by combining Voice over IP (VoIP) and legacy phone systems using SIP Trunking, according to Network Computing. The voice transformation solutions can help bring next-generation voice, data and video offerings to enterprises without the need to completely rebuild a company’s infrastructure.

“Clients need to understand how changes to their work environment can impact communications,” Rich Skoba, director of the Global Unified Communications Portfolio at HP, noted in a statement.

“By collaborating with HP, clients can leverage HP’s methodology and testing of multivendor UC solutions to create their unique Unified Communications journey, transforming their communications infrastructure to address needs today and into the future,” he added.

Enterprises that tap HP to help deploy UC solutions can choose from one of several vendors, and then leverage HP’s consulting and support services to customize the offerings.

Originally posted at: http://unified-communications.tmcnet.com/topics/unified-communications/articles/200541-hp-rolling-out-uc-consulting-services-the-enterprise.htm

Session Border Controllers a Must for Security in the UC Environment

August 1, 2011 3 comments

With the push for mobility and cloud computing within the corporate environment, the implementation of Unified Communications (UC) has grown. Companies are leveraging Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to keep all voice and data on the same network, and smartphones are becoming the communication tool of choice. With the conveniences offered in these platforms, the risks are also significant. As a result, IT teams need to examine the benefits associated with session border controllers.

The risks that are inherent in a UC environment are heightened with the use of the smartphone. For one thing, the device itself acts as a mobile endpoint that can physically contain data. It can also be exposed to non-compliant situations and software applications that are not approved for the network. The WLAN or cellular network in place to transport information could include non-protected networks. And, a lack of proper session border controllers creates an opportunity for access management issues as a result of interconnects between mobile endpoints and the UC infrastructure.

Certain threats to the network that session border controllers can inhibit include SIP scanning which includes tools to call every device on the PBX until a hackable device is found; VoIP hacking where toll fraud is conducted directly through the UC tools; VoIP-based phishing (Vishing) that makes trusted contact information vulnerable to hackers seeking personal details; SWATing or the use of spoofed Caller IDs to call emergency services and eavesdropping where voice communications are insufficiently encrypted and can be overhead or intercepted.

By placing session border controllers at key points within the network, organizations that struggle with UC threats can build the necessary infrastructure to support flexibility and mobility, without putting the network, applications or users at risk. Session border controllers also add protection to the smartphone, so companies can enable their employees to achieve the necessary life balance while on the road.

Best-in-class companies today, according to Aberdeen Research, do not simply build healthy firewalls or patch management capabilities. These steps are important, but these steps alone ignore the complexity associated with endpoints and communications. The proper placement of session border controllers reduce security incidents and help to eliminate audit deficiencies.

It is important to remember that the implementation of UC strategies is not just to aggregate all communications capabilities. This approach is also designed to improve overall business outcomes and increase collaboration throughout the organization. Session border controllers help to drive this collaboration and necessary business operation improvements by providing the safe network users demand. When the company understands the importance of UC security, they are better suited to improve the overall working environment.

Originally posted at: http://session-border-controllers.tmcnet.com/topics/session-border-controllers/articles/199437-session-border-controllers-must-security-the-uc-environment.htm

Telecommunications Needs SIP Trunking for Optimal VoIP Management

July 30, 2011 Leave a comment

In VoIP telecommunications, the SIP trunking component is in high demand. This specific element gives users a low-cost option with centralized lines into a business with faster disaster recovery or failover. It also has the capabilities to carry unified communications across boundaries. This ground-breaking business solution will not be successful without a thought out VoIP management program.

SIP trunking, however, is not easy. Many service providers and enterprise customers are discovering the difficulties associated with its installation and process, according to this Channel Partners Online report. The best assurance to have a positive end result is due diligence with productive VoIP management.

There are case studies from ITSPs and manufacturers that are readily available to help improve the implementation process. It is also important to communicate with these providers throughout the installation process and learn from their experiences. Troubleshoot problems that have occurred and learn from those past problems. In VoIP management, it is best to understand interoperability testing and industry standards.

Doing your homework will greatly benefit your VoIP management system and the implementation process. In the beginning, problems were created when SIP trunking was installed too quickly with quality, service and ongoing management seriously lacking.

Too many companies are not taking the time to plan, test or monitor their installations. A chief executive officer with a telecom installation company said that SIP trunkings are nowhere near ready to make the leap in challenging digital and analog installations. He said a large service provider company told him he has never been so busy replacing new SIP trunks with ISDN lines.

Customers expect technological advances to be superior to their existing systems. Without a solid plan, installation of SIP trunks cannot go as smoothly as existing digital and analog installations. This is just another example of why it is so crucial to have a VoIP management solution. In lies the problem of who is to blame, the installation company or the ITSP.

ITSPs should work with a business to get the best SIP trunk solution possible. Determine what the needs are and what level of service is best. Ask for a trial run to better ensure this is the best VoIP management solution for you.

Make the ITSP work for you. Test every aspect of the support staff whether it be call transferring, conferencing or technical support. Installation can be without error and requires the exact configuration of the PBX and session border controller/edge device.

With such a complex system, VoIP management has to be taken seriously. Checks of all operations and functions should be tested and monitored often.

Originally posted at: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/voip-management/articles/201855-telecommunications-needs-sip-trunking-optimal-voip-management.htm

ADTRAN’s UC Appointment Reminder Lauded by TMC

June 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The Technology Marketing Corporation conferred the 2011 Unified Communications Product of the Year Award on ADTRAN’s NetVanta Unified Communications Appointment Reminder.

ADTRAN has proven it is committed to quality and excellence while addressing real needs in the marketplace. Unified Communications is pleased to grant a 2011 Product of the Year Award for the NetVanta Unified Communications Appointment Reminder,” said Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC, in a press release.

A premier provider of converged access and unified business solutions, ADTRAN was lauded for its contribution to the Unified Communication space with an application that automated the process of issuing reminders for appointments.

Built on the NetVanta Business Application Server, the automated notification application informs clients or healthcare patients
about scheduled appointments either by phone or e-mail. Not only does it confirm but also allows rescheduling of appointments.

As the application is integrated into the database system, appointment reminders are sent automatically without the intervention
of staff. Freed up Resources can hence be utilized for other more important things.

Bob Hinkle, vice president of product management, ADTRAN Enterprise Networks Division said in a statement, “ADTRAN’s Appointment Reminder is just one way businesses can use NetVanta Unified Communications to streamline office tasks, increase productivity and, in turn, increase profitability.”

Hinkle also added that the application suited the needs of many companies that were looking for ways to streamline operations without the additional headcount. He also mentioned that the The NetVanta Business Application Server provided flexibility to optimize business activities and to reduce costs.

Originally posted at: http://communication-solutions.tmcnet.com/topics/communication-solutions/articles/189732-adtrans-uc-appointment-reminder-lauded-tmc.htm