ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells
May 2007
Volume 10 / Number 5
Disaster Preparedness

VoIP and Continuity Planning - Is VoIP
the Answer for Your Organization?

By Rich Tehrani & Max Schroeder, Columns: Disaster Preparedness

In 2005, more IP telephony systems were shipped than TDM (Time-Division Multiplexed) phone systems. Yet despite the acceptance and thousands of installations worldwide many companies and individuals are still not clear on what they have to do to implement VoIP. Is their network ready? This is a key point as having a network that handles a complex data workload does not guarantee that it is fully ready for VoIP.

3Com has been changing the way businesses speak since it brought the first IP-PBX to market in 1998. More recently, IBM (quote - news - alert) and 3Com (quote - news - alert) have made several announcements including a March 30, 2006 announcement outlining plans to offer the 3Com VCX™ suite of IP telephony solutions on IBM’s “all-inone” System i business computing solution. The March 26, 2007 followup was a delivery announcement of the above bundle so it looks like 3Com is still moving technology forward.

We decided to contact Michael J. Leo, Director, Convergence Marketing for 3Com to get his views on the subject of what makes a network both VoIP-ready and in compliance with a business continuity plan.

RT: Rich Tehrani • MS:Max Schroeder • MJL:Michael J Leo

RT: Michael, what would be your simplest example of what characterizes a voice-ready network?

MJL: I can condense it down to 3 critical characteristics:

Promoting Simplicity - Simple-to-manage is a plus for any network but a voice-ready network also needs to be able to scale as the business grows which requires an intrinsically simple architecture.

Ensuring Quality - The latest codecs now position IP phones as having audio quality surpassing analog or non-IP digital phones. However, the network must deliver sufficient bandwidth to attain business-level clarity and immediacy.

Guaranteeing Security - Many companies are unaware that a VoIP network is prone to the same security vulnerabilities as their data networks. Both at the application and Infrastructure levels since the VoIP systems are typically running on common operating systems and networking protocols, including SIP. Along with the constant protection of both Application and Infrastructure it is just as important for the security component to provide resilient QoS for voice traffic. Users also need to be aware that network threats are not always coming from outside their networks. In fact, over 70% of today’s treats are coming from inside their networks. You need to provide overall security protection for known and yet to be disclosed “unknown” (Zero Day Threats) for both your wired and wireless networks.

MS: Perhaps you can expand on the security guarantee aspect of VoIP in business continuity architecture.

MJL: The first step in any business continuity plan regardless of the depth of the plan is to ensure the integrity of the nucleus. For example, a failover site with the same architecture and populated with the same data as the primary site will probably generate the same results. A second consideration is that maintaining voice communications is essential in many time-critical disaster scenarios. The concept of true multi-site survivability is that all telephony features, not just the basics, should remain viable in the event of a WAN failure. Taking advantage of the additional bandwidth for VoIP creates new challenges in delivering a high level of QoS within a legacy data network. Companies need to consider deployment options and solutions including security that will continuously provide acceptable bandwidth for time-sensitive applications. Providing traffic prioritization and bandwidth shaping for VoIP traffic needs to be considered mandatory to have quality voice traffic.

RT: Once past the minimums, what advanced security measures need to be evaluated?

MJL: IP telephony voice traffic must be shielded from eavesdropping and introduces additional device types. Plus shielding attacks originating inside the network. Therefore, many organizations must expand beyond the standard perimeter defenses and desktop antivirus software. Organizations with wireless connections also must integrate Wi-Fi protections into the security mix.

Lastly, all of the above must be balanced against network and application performance, quality of service, reliability and bandwidth utilization levels. The most prudent course in migrating to VoIP is to do a full audit when still at the concept stage. Stage two is to develop a voice transition strategy that includes costs and budget constraints, the impact of possible downtime on users and interoperability with other telephony equipment.

Again, we see that planning for a disaster or business interruption can be achieved successfully, cost effectively and as an integral component of day-to-day business operations, if done properly. With today’s IP solutions even the cost is within the scope of most enterprises.

Max Schroeder is a board member of the ECA, media relations committee chairman, and liaison to TMC. He is also the Sr. Vice President of FaxCore, Inc. (news - alert)

Rich Tehrani is the President and Group Editor-in-Chief at TMC and is Conference Chairman of Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.

If your organization has an interest in participating in the TMC/ECA Disaster Preparedness Communications Forum, please contact [email protected] or [email protected]


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