Take the headache and heartache out of VoIP

Rob Falkner
08 Nov 2006

No matter what size network an enterprise is running these days, large and small alike are faced with increasing technical and financial challenges. These include dealing with a myriad of networking components, never ending security issues, the unquenchable demand for new network services -- such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and IP television --as well as balancing this demand with the ongoing pressure to reduce capital and operating expenses. Increasingly, enterprise CIO's are deciding to outsource the operation, support and maintenance of their enterprise network to a third-party. The driving force behind this shift is new market innovations, such as the convergence of voice and data, which makes network operations more complex.

The term "Hosted VoIP" means a number of different things to different people. One key data point is that the "who" of hosting should be transparent to the end user. It can be a service provider or a third-party offering the hosted solution. The hosting can be offered in a completely separate facility sometimes called a Global Network Operations Center (GNOC) or can be offered directly on the carriers' or their customers premises. One key point is that whoever is providing the hosting actually owns the equipment and this in-turn significantly reduces the amount of CAPEX for the Enterprise. Enterprises will ultimately choose the optimized hosted solution based upon their own network needs, core technical competencies and capabilities as well as desired services.

While the hosting infrastructure architecture can be designed in a variety of ways technically, one of the parts of the decision process is who should perform the hosting. Obviously an enterprise needs to carefully select a trusted partner. Just as any outsourcing decision, handing over an important function of network operation needs to be a well-thought out process. Enterprises need to take into consideration the performance record of their partner, their partner's commitment to new services development and deployment, as well as their customer support and business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

For many enterprise CIO's - especially those involved with large enterprises - outsourcing on a scale this big might be considered a loss of control and a decision that could compromise overall quality. However, as technologies such as VoIP continue to evolve to new and even more challenging applications, it may be easier for enterprises to keep up by using a third-party provider.

New technology introduces complicated technical issues and VoIP specifically has two very relevant concerns that need to be addressed immediately -- security and quality of service (QoS). Both of them can be addressed in the network, however since both continue to evolve on a sometimes-weekly basis, they can become very cumbersome issues. This makes it quite difficult for an IT organization, that is already over tasked with regular network issues, to identify and resolve without significant investment.

The industry often chooses to focus on the positive features of VoIP "” shared IT infrastructure, and plug-and-play adaptability. While these key elements take advantage of the flexibility of IP they are also what make it more susceptible to possible outside attack. Unlike a traditional circuit based telephone network, a VoIP network is vulnerable to the typical IP infrastructure issues, including interference from denial of service (DOS) attacks, viruses and worms. These attacks can lead to the major outages that sometimes occur with data networks - taking the network down for hours or even days.

There are also a variety of attacks that specifically target VoIP networks.

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