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Unified Communications Magazine September 2007
Volume 1 / Number 2
Unified Communications Magazine
Zippy Grigonis

What We Learned From the Skype Outage

By Rich Tehrani, Publisher's Outlook


As organizations move to VoIP and other forms of IP communications, it is imperative they realize the world of IP is far different from the PSTN and circuit-switched networks of yesterday. Whereas the Internet Protocol is designed with enough resilience to withstand a nuclear attack, IP networks need proper management to be able to continue operating under a variety of circumstances.


The concept of the "always-up" IP communications network was certainly in the spotlight recently as TMCnet's Tom Keating broke the story of Skype (www.tmcnet.com/1069.1), the world's most popular IP communications software company, having a major network outage. He surmised that a recent Microsoft upgrade to its operating systems was responsible for the outage.


A few days later, Skype explained (www.tmcnet.com/1070.1) that indeed, Microsoft's operating system update coupled with a bug in the eBay division's software was to blame for leaving millions without IP communications.


This outage has made some journalists jump to the conclusion that VoIP is somehow no longer reliable. In reality, a software bug stopped the Skype system from functioning properly and this had nothing to do with VoIP's inherent reliability.

Still, when leveraging the benefits of IP communications you must also be aware of the responsibilities that come with the technology. Yes, you now have some responsibilities you may not have been aware of. Much the same way you now know to put a UPS on your email server, you must ensure that adequate network management and security are in place when you regularly use VoIP.


In other words, take this outage as a learning experience. Learn to test your VoIP network. Learn to monitor your IP communications network. Learn to build redundancy into your IP telephony network. It is far better to be prepared than to be left without your vital communications systems. For example, do you have redundant broadband connections coming onto your premises? Even the smallest of the small SMBs can afford a cable modem and DSL line to ensure they are always connected and taking customer calls.


But even a network capable of handling myriad conditions cannot solve the problems of a service such as Skype. After all, what do companies do if their primary IM software dies in the middle of a crucial trading day? Or in the middle of an important meeting or conference call?
What is your company's backup plan?


Typically, companies have not used a backup plan for IM and VoIP services because, frankly, they didn't see the need.

Skype's recent misadventures show how perilous it can be to rely on a single service provider for anything. If redundancy exists you should be aware of it and ensure your organization is prepared to switch IP communications providers in case one goes out. Such a strategy may not even cost any money but it will cost you some time. But the time you spend to ensure that IP communications is working is critical. After all, if you are tasked with ensuring that your company's communications are working, can you afford not to be prepared? Even if you don't use Skype, you need to be covered in case a similar problem happens to other providers.


One way to stay on top of the happenings in the world of IP communications is to read influential blogs such as Tom Keating's VoIP Blog (www.tmcnet.com/1071.1), Andy Abramson's VoIP Watch (http://andyabramson.blogs.com) and On Malik's GigaOm (http://gigaom.com/). Additionally, be sure to check in daily on TMCnet and be at the IP communications industry event, Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO September 10-12 in Los Angeles, CA (www.itexpo.com) where over 7,000 IP communications decisionmakers will be in attendance from around the world.


The communications revolution continues and there is no substitute for a stellar education, which can help your company get all the benefits of IP communications with little or none of the pitfalls.



Unified Communications Communications Magazine Table of Contents

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