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Making the Switch: A VoIP Adoption Checklist

shutterstock_54629416smFor any business contemplating the switch from an old-fashioned public switched telephone network (PSTN) system to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), it’s easy to focus on the shiny new functionality and convenience and overlook the potential complications such a transition inevitably entails. To help avoid difficulties and maximize the benefits, here is a checklist of five things to consider before moving to a new VoIP system.

 

How Many Users?

Whether considering hosted VoIP or a premises-based system, it’s important to take into account the size of the user base before signing a service agreement or provisioning the hardware. Ensure that the service provider is capable of accommodating the number of users on the system in addition to enabling potential growth. To that end, it is a good general guideline to add 20% to the maximum projected user count for the next 12 months when calculating how much capacity the new VoIP system will need to support.

How Much Data?

In addition to considering the number of users on the system, it is important to have a reasonably accurate idea of how much data each of those users will require, and to ensure that the network infrastructure can carry that load. On top of being able to deal smoothly with normal bandwidth requirements, a good service provider must be able to handle abnormal surges in the amount of traffic passing through the system.

Upward Mobility

Most workplaces now are mobile, with a great deal of communications and other work being performed on mobile devices. This is largely due to the fact that the vast majority of people now use mobile devices in their personal lives, and they like to continue doing so at work. It is generally better to plan for employees’ preferences to use their personal mobile devices and implement those devices properly than to allow them to be used haphazardly on the VoIP system.

Relationship Worries

Aside from the technical aspects of setting up a new telecommunications system, the relationship with the service provider is an important consideration. Look for signs that a VoIP service provider is professional and values its clients. A service provider who takes unduly long to respond to questions or continuously attempts to up-sell potential customers before they’ve even sold the service is probably not a good choice.

Hidden Costs

It’s quite easy to look no further than the startup costs when considering the effects of switching to VoIP, but a more sound approach is to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO), which includes both startup and operating costs. Hosted services might involve lower startup costs than premises-based systems, but the operational expenses are sure to be higher.

Making the switch to VoIP services can be a daunting task. By considering these five areas, the process is more likely to be successful.

Understand VoIP Security Vulnerabilities and How to Combat Them

shutterstock_165758546smVoice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers substantial benefits to businesses, but the same IP technology that creates these benefits also introduces potential security vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity has become an increasing focus for companies across the United States and around the world as hackers try to exploit the growing use of IP to gain access to networks.

Budget resources are increasingly being dedicated to fending off threats, but breaches continue to expand. Companies must take security threats via VoIP seriously and take steps to counter those potential attacks. Consider the following threats and mitigation measures.

Types of Threats

  • Call Interception. VoIP by its nature involves the transmission of voice interactions over IP links, and bad actors will look for opportunities to intercept those transmissions. This requires the hacker to fully access the signal transmission between point A and point B. Typically, the intent of this type of breach is to interrupt the call by diminishing call quality via transmission delays or echoes or uploading sound packets to a server. Authentication and encryption tools are the most effective way to combat this type of threat.
  • Identity Misrepresentation. Hackers may attempt to access VoIP calls so they can eavesdrop, sometimes with the intent to steal information. This is particularly worrisome when sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, is transferred across VoIP links. Typically, hackers will seek the path of least resistance when attempting to access a network, so basic security features such as authentication and encryption may serve as an adequate barrier to entry for most hackers.
  • Theft of Service. An increasing concern for VoIP systems is hackers gaining access to use service, then leaving companies with the bill. These attacks are often carried out outside of business hours, so the breach is less likely to be detected and shut down right away. This threat is best mitigated with software-based measures, firewalls, and good security hygiene, including strong passwords.
  • Disruption. Denial-of-service attacks are another growing area of concern. These attacks seek to interrupt normal business communications by flooding call centers or transmission lines with fraudulent calls. When this occurs, calls from legitimate callers often are unable to get through. Firewall solutions that are built to identify and block fraudulent calls are the best defense against service interruption attacks.
  • Physical Attacks. Sometimes bad actors will go to any length to disrupt service and wreak havoc on a company’s operations. While attention is often focused on thwarting virtual attacks, physical infrastructure can be left vulnerable. Criminals may cut off a power source or damage hardware, rendering the network temporarily useless. It is crucial to take physical security at data centers as seriously as virtual security by ensuring equipment and data centers are secured and inaccessible.

Protection Measures

While the threats may be somewhat different for VoIP, the steps companies can take to safeguard their systems are the same common-sense approaches recommended for traditional computers and networks. Install and maintain firewalls, ensure communications and transactions are encrypted, and implement user authentication techniques along with basic security hygiene policies.
Companies also should work to stay ahead of threats by studying security trends and deploying best practices recommended to combat or prevent those threats. Businesses should work as a team with their VoIP vendor to ensure both virtual and physical assets are secure and hardened against potential attacks.