Ensuring Quality of Service with VoIP

VoIPOne of the key benefits of moving to a unified communications (UC) framework is the ability to swap out old, limited PBX-based systems for the flexibility and added functionality of a VoIP system. It is important, though, when choosing a service provider for a UC solution, to make sure they are able to accommodate the Quality of Service (QoS) needs of the business and deal adequately with issues such as jitter, packet loss, and latency.

QoS

QoS is an umbrella term for a number of protocols and technologies designed to guarantee the quality of data flow over a network. Generally this involves prioritizing certain types of network traffic over others to ensure that network services such as VoIP, which are susceptible to latency, aren’t adversely affected.

Latency

Latency is the delay between when a data packet is sent and when it is received. It’s basically the time it takes for data to get from one point on the network to another. It is affected by a number of factors, including conversion from one data type to another, physical distance between the two points, the number of hops or redirects along the route, and encryption. This has some pretty obvious implications for VoIP traffic, particularly in light of its real-time requirements. Round trip latency of more than 250ms is noticeable to users, and the IUT recommends never exceeding 300ms.

Packet Loss

Packet loss occurs when a router receives more data than it can pass through at one time. This can be a frequent occurrence with VoIP traffic simply because of the volume of data generated by real-time voice communication. The effects of packet loss on a VoIP call are usually noticed as stuttering sound, a “tinny” metallic quality to the other person’s voice, or outright dropped calls. Packet loss of more than 1% is usually considered unacceptable. High latency levels tend to exacerbate packet loss.

Jitter

Jitter is a variation of latency where the timing of packet arrival at the destination is inconsistent. This doesn’t affect most types of internet traffic very much – it’s unnoticeable when loading a web page, for example – but can seriously affect VoIP calls. Generally, jitter results in delays in the conversation, similar to a “buffering” effect. Unless excessive it doesn’t hamper communication as much as the other issues discussed here, but it can be frustrating for users.

By giving VoIP traffic a higher priority level through QoS protocols such as Class of Service and Type of Service, issues such as latency and jitter are kept to a reasonable level. Policy-based network management and bandwidth reservation also help. A good cloud services provider will be able to provide the right combination of these strategies to ensure the necessary QoS.

 

Dynamic, Evolving Solutions to IT Security

ITIn the last year alone, IT security has seen an increase in corporate attention and funding, yet security breaches increase. How could this be?

In short, cybersecurity is not simply a concern you can “throw money at” and expect to go away. The only approach to IT security must be one that is dynamic and ever-evolving. Here are three common mistakes that cause threats to a business’s cybersecurity:

Outdated Defenses

More enterprises now invest in IT security personnel and software than ever before. Yet while IT departments keep an increasing focus on end point defenses, it is imperative to remember that processes that prevent data breaches today will not be effective or relevant forever.

Cyber attackers evolve, and cyber attacks grow more sophisticated. Recent IT security breaches have come from spear phishing e-mail scams, which can compromise an entire corporate network if just one employee is tricked by the scam.

This is why it is important to stay on top of the current threats to a company’s IT security, while also anticipating that new or evolved threats will certainly arise in the future. Anyone who has dealt with a next-generation malware virus knows this: there is nothing more damaging than a malware attack when the antivirus software signatures aren’t available yet.

Tunnel Vision: Compliance Requirements

One marker of IT staff success is compliance with security requirements. But that is only one marker. Too many companies face a crisis after IT security professionals develop tunnel vision, proceeding as if compliance guarantees prevention of data breaches. All too often this is not the case, despite industry periodical CIO’s report that 58% of the companies plan to invest more in meeting compliance in the next year.

This is because cybersecurity threats evolve at a faster rate than compliance standards. The vigilance of a company’s IT team must move beyond compliance. A dynamic cybersecurity strategy goes beyond compliance standards and anticipates the evolving nature of security threats.

Adapting New Tech, Not New Security

Third-party cloud storage sites and file sharing apps can make a business more productive and increase employee communications. That is, as long as these channels are secured. Too often, companies embrace new technologies without first laying the groundwork to protect that data. This can have disastrous consequences after a security breach.

A Dynamic Solution

Moving forward, some strategies to bolster the IT security of a company include:

  • Assess which clouds store company data, and evaluate how secure they are.
  • Embrace encryption-based data security, as well as access controls. This doesn’t just mean on laptops and desktops; every cloud and site of Big Data must be encrypted.
  • Have IT professionals work beyond meeting compliance standards to stay on top of ever-evolving security threats.