Managing business operations in today’s virtual environment is an ongoing challenge. As more and more customers rely on the global access created through internet options, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become a standard technology for many companies due to its incredible features and cost-effective benefits. But the emergence of new technologies also often means an increase in new ways of criminal hacking. Though hackers cannot be prevented 100 percent of the time, companies can certainly neutralize the threat to a great extent.
As so much sensitive information is transposed through Dual-tone Multi-frequency (DTMF) tones, a security breach over a VoIP system can spell disaster in more ways than one.
In fact, almost any business that performs operations through Time-division Multiplexing (TDM) and Internet Protocol (IP)-based voice frameworks through VoIP are susceptible to phone hackers (sometimes referred to as toll fraud). Not only are payments and financial information at risk, but confidential data collected from healthcare providers, engineering companies, and corporate structuring plans (like downsizing or mergers) are also in danger from phone hackers.
Simple. There is just no substitute for the cost-effective benefits of VoIP. And the eruption of VoIP usage has shown up on hacker radar because previously IP-based communication was centralized on local networks, which were typically protected from the public internet. However, that’s ancient history as more and more of VoIP traffic is routed through un-encrypted, public internet services by telephony providers.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there are many tools available now which make it simple, easy, and untraceable for hackers to infiltrate confidential phone conversations. Practically anyone with a little bit of tech savvy and basic research can start collecting and storing voice information from external IP networks overnight.
The Best Offense Is a Great Defense
Because of these increased risks, companies must rethink their supplier’s encryption protocols and safety measures. What may have been adequate when the VoIP was incorporated is most likely now out of date.
Here are the top five things to consider when questioning a VoIP supplier about the systems they have in place to combat phone-based cyber-crimes:
- Ask providers about their Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking services. The system should feature automatic deactivation of any components that aren’t secure, as well as encryption capability for all calls.
- Companies that routinely record calls (a necessary quality control procedure for many businesses) must ensure that their telephony system conforms to ISO protection requirements outlined for storing sensitive information.
- For any payments conducted over the phone, companies must adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Also, it is vital that the VoIP provider allocates encrypted connections for payment data.
- Find out about Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols. Protecting client/server applications from tampering or spying between transports is crucial for secure communications.
- Depending on the risk of remote access susceptibility, consider a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS). This creates a direct access circuit that is only available for designated voice traffic.
The incredible cost benefits of VoIP through external IP networks are great. But knowing the heightened risk of phone hacking through open (or public) network VoIP can help companies prevent devastating breaches in data security by neutralizing the threat of confidential information from being intercepted.
Businesses nowadays often want their employees to constantly stay in touch with the office or the customers through their mobile devices. However, while workplace responsibilities are important, employees also usually want their personal emails, music, books, games, contacts, and other apps within reach. Carrying two devices, one for business and the other for personal use, seems absurd in this day and age. Today, smart phones, tablets, and other convenient pocket-sized technologies condense everything a user loves into one compact device that’s easy to carry. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach saves companies the trouble of having to buy each worker a device, but billing can be a nightmare when it comes to deciding who’s paying for what and how much. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking is the answer for separating personal use from professional use on the same device, and its implementation can save businesses time, money, and aggravation.
The Need for SIP Trunking
When employees route calls and emails from the office through a personal device, they are stuck with paying for the connection and any other data downloads. If they want to avoid paying for business usage on their personal accounts, they need to carry two devices, which isn’t convenient or desirable. For a business, this can translate into poor communication, which ultimately affects productivity.
Setting up a stipend for such purposes is complicated at best, as usage will vary from employee to employee and from time to time. The additional problem of sorting through itemized bills to differentiate between personal and professional use of the mobile device is an enormous waste of time and resources. SIP Trunking easily resolves both issues.
The Advantages of SIP Trunking
Most people want one mobile device for both their career and personal needs. Employees often need to be professionally available at almost all times, so they must have the power to connect to their organization, colleagues, and customers. Softphone applications are the answer to dividing connection usage and billing. In recent times, softphone applications have improved tremendously, and can now provide reliable, quality communication over a mobile or wi-fi connection. Registered to the company business, the softphone application allows an employee to connect remotely for calls, emails, etc., and then bill the company for that usage.
Besides saving employees the trouble of carrying multiple devices or spending their own money on business expenses, SIP Trunking makes it easier for employers to determine productivity and hold employees accountable for the use of company resources. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that a softphone application is only a means to an end. Much like paying for travel and food expenses, businesses must determine their own usage budgets per employee and how much will be reimbursed.
The BYOD trend in the business world is now the answer to carrying around different devices for business and personal use. As technology has streamlined wants and needs into singular device options, distinguishing between home and office billing has become increasingly important in order to ensure optimal use and fair expenditure breakdowns. SIP Trunking connects everyone in the company to the global communications network. It solves yesterday’s technology problems and increases productivity, while also resulting in happier employees who can feel like they have it all today.
The often debated topic of net neutrality is usually approached from the angles of online censorship and web services, but there are also very real ramifications for the Internet-based industry of VoIP telecommunications. Put simply, “net neutrality” is a principle by which internet service providers cannot discriminate against the data that they transmit. Under net neutrality, all data is required to be transmitted with equal fidelity and at the same price. Without net neutrality, an ISP can alter its pricing structure and bandwidth prioritization based on type and source of traffic.
There are two sides to net neutrality: charges to the consumer and charges to the content provider. Without net neutrality it would be possible for an ISP to charge someone more for having VoIP telecommunication services with another telecommunications provider. Further, the ISP would also be able to prioritize the data sent to and from this other telecommunications provider as less important, thereby lowering overall call stability. The ISP would also be able to charge VoIP companies more regarding the amount of data it transmitted. This could increase the overall price of VoIP communications.
Many companies do not contract services for VoIP telecommunications directly with their Internet Service Provider; commercial VoIP services tend to be contracted specifically through telecommunications companies, while residential services are more likely to be contracted through an ISP. Should ISPs desire to limit this type of traffic or promote their own commercial services, a lack of net neutrality could become costly for corporate VoIP clients. Other clients may see the stability or the speed of their telecommunications service slow down drastically.
Restricting external VoIP services in this way may seem unlikely, but it’s exactly what many individuals are concerned ISPs will do regarding streaming video services, which have become competitive with the television services provided by cable-based Internet service providers. At the same time, Internet Service Providers are assuring consumers that a lack of net neutrality will not significantly alter their product offerings .
By now, most people are familiar with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) thanks to software programs like Skype and Google Voice. But how many of us know exactly how VoIP systems work, and what benefit they have for your personal and business needs?
What are VoIP Systems?
Most simply put, VoIP systems take analog signals and turn them into digital ones that can be sent over the Internet. This might not sound so amazing, but when you consider what you can do with it, it becomes pretty impressive. Instead of paying your phone company (analog) a large amount and then having to shell out on top of that for Internet (digital) as well, you can make calls through the Internet, saving yourself a lot of money. Here, we’ll take a look at three different ways you can use VoIP to your benefit.
Analog Telephone Adapter
An Analog Telephone Adapter, or ATA for short, is a device that connects your analog phone to a digital phone system- VoIP. All you do is plug your phone into the ATA with the regular telephone jack, plug the ATA into the wall for poewr, and computer via ethernet or USB, and you’re good to go. The ATA will take the analog signals from your phone, digitize them, and have you connected to VoIP faster than you can say. It’s an easy and basic way to keep the phone you’re familiar with, but get all the benefits of VoIP. This method is usually seen with individuals in their homes.
The next progression in VoIP is using an IP phone where your phone connects directly to VoIP without the need of an intermediary device. Usually, you’ll connect your phone to your router with an ethernet cable. By using an IP phone, you bypass the public switched telephone network (PSTN) directly, making calls over Wifi. One downside is that when your Wifi goes, so, too, does your ability to make calls, but Wifi stability has been increasing to the point where a Wifi outage is rare and usually only happens in power outages, such as those caused by storms or fallen trees.
This method is the easiest and most inexpensive way of using VoIP, and probably the most familiar, too. If you’ve ever Skyped with someone with both of using laptops, you’re already familiar with computer-to-computer VoIP. Essentially, computer-to-computer just takes a software program (like Skype) and connects you to VoIP either on the Internet or a Local Area Network (LAN). Other than paying your monthly Internet bill, the only other thing you need is a computer with audio input and output so you can hear and be heard. The only thing to watch out for is how much bandwidth you have- how much data can be sent per second. You can still use VoIP with a bandwidth of 50 kbps, but the quality isn’t going to be very great. For better quality, using 100 kbps or more is better. To put this in perspective, streaming a a movie on Netflix with the best audio and video experience calls for about 5 Mbps, so 100 kbps isn’t that much at all.
Hacking is a term we relate as a potential danger for our personal banking information, social media accounts, etc… Unfortunately, hacking goes beyond our individual assets and can affect the businesses we operate and utilize on a daily basis – no business is safe being hacked, including Billion dollar companies and banks (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and even the Government is at a constant risk). If you are a business owner and/or IT administrator of any sorts, it is extremely imperative that you defend and secure your companies’ PBX phone system. We have all heard of the hackers that break-in through your voice mail due to poor password protection and give themselves international privileges on your company’s dime, but, what about the new age of VoIP phone systems hackers? Are you prepared to combat the new wave of one-click internet hackers out to get you for every penny you’ve got? Be prepared for both!
Here are a few tips from the experts we work with on securing your PBX phone system.
– Understand your provider.
According to Carl Wallin of Acticor Technologies (a phone vendor in the Twin Cities – check them out @ www.acticor.com), hacking has become a huge issue over the past few years – especially with the expansion of VOIP. One of their current customers’ phone system was hacked and as a result they were billed for over $8,000.00; unfortunately, the provider they were with at the time gave no lea-way or “grace”, so-to-speak, in that type of situation and the company was left to pay for the entire bill. Wallin suggests knowing what your provider’s protocols are in those particular situations: “speak with your voice provider ASAP regarding their preventative and quantitative measures for detecting and combating hackers. There are definitely providers I would not suggest for these exact reasons, and others that have developed and maintained software for these circumstances and are better equip to handle a disaster before it occurs, as well as prepared to tackle the aftermath of the hacking calamity if something were to transpire”. The Allworx system, provided by Acticor, addresses the issue of hacking and has impeccable software to protect against the lurking dangers of outside influences on your phone system.
– Understand the target.
Hackers do not generally target any of your “regular” phones – they target your 3rd party, generic extensions…your break room PBX, conference PBX, Android/I-phone applications, etc… Be sure to password protect ALL equipment used for your business, and speak with your providers about what they do for hacking detection and prevention. Default passwords just do NOT cut-it anymore. It’s time to move beyond the default password (you know – the 1234 or 0000) and create a sound password that is not easily detected or hacked by a computer.
– Understand Security Audits.
Regularly check and maintain security authorizations on your network and your PBX phone system. Be sure to remind your employees on a scheduled basis to implement a new password for both their phone (voice-mail) and their internet security check-points. Hospitals, as well as banks and other businesses requiring immense protection due to protocol and patient/customer privacy should be sure to place prompts on their employees’ system to activate a password change every few months.
Speak further with your telecom agent, phone provider, and vendor to make sure you and your company are protected from hackers and unwanted billing.
Fires, floods, tornadoes, oh my! Let’s face it, as business owners and representatives there are many outside factors in which we have little-to-no control over that can create a dip in profit for a few days, or eradicate an entire business structure in a matter of minutes. It’s important to prepare for disasters and protect the assets of your company and your customers. Equipping your company with a pragmatic recovery plan requires knowledge of probable complications that can occur, as well as the necessary steps to implement and test before a disaster strikes. Here are a few questions and points to mull over while preparing your company for disaster:
How much money are you willing to spend to protect your business?
Although no specific number can ever represent the dream of your business, the people, or the work put in, it’s time to get realistic and determine how much of a budget you can carve out to plan and implement a concrete disaster recovery plan.
How much money will your company lose on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis if and when a disaster occurs?
Be sure to weigh the difference of your companies’ profit with how much money to put into a recovery plan. A small business who can survive a while on their existing customer base may only need to endure a small cost for a few recovery operations; however, a larger corporation, hospital, bank, and so on, will need a more complex blueprint, therefore, requiring more of a disaster recovery budget.
Total Recovery Considerations
What are the most important business assets that need to be accounted for and replaced in order to restore your business and maintain the least possible downtime?
Think about your daily operations and what is utilized in order to minimally and maximally function.
– Office Space: If you already have or will need back-up files hosted in the cloud for all of your business data, how will you access that data? How will your employees?
Consider a budget for a small office space in the case of an emergency that your key employees can work from if need be.
– Equipment: What if all of your phones and computers are damaged? Do you have recovery for your equipment ready in the event no repairs can be made or all equipment is lost?
Perhaps educating yourself on VoIP phone systems will allow you easy and quick access to a phone system for as many employees as necessary. A product such as Velocity Telephone’s Virtual Office can be effortlessly procured in the case of an emergency and will allow for quick voice uptime with an easy plug-and-play functionality. Check out a review on the Velocity Telephone Product: http://www.integratedcom.net/virtual-office-voip-review/
So you have a disaster recovery plan in place. Your employees have all been notified where to go in the event of an emergency, your carrier has provided you with redundancy in case the power shuts-down, and you’ve got Dave Johnson on standby incase mother nature strikes and you need new phones a.s.a.p. Now what?
Quite simply, test. Practice really does make perfect. Be sure to keep your employees safe first and foremost by providing drills for different disasters. Next, make sure to coordinate with your telecom agent and test your voice and data redundancy. Lastly, touch-base with all of your equipment vendors, customers, etc… to provide them with who to contact in case of an emergency, and how you will contact, inform, and connect with them when a disaster occurs.
Contact us for more information on the types of voice and data back-ups we can offer your company to help you protect your best assets in the face of disaster.
What is VoIP?
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) literally translates to a call being made over the same set of rules as the Internet uses; a phone call over your Internet connectivity. However, VoIP is no longer strictly operable through means of the internet alone, like it once was; rather it operates with the same protocol (a set of rules) as the Internet does.
VoIP capable products are considered “plug-and-play” and allow for a phone system to be plugged directly into your data network, allowing your employees to make phone calls from the data connection; keep in mind if you have high call volumes you may want more bandwidth depending on the call quality. While more bandwidth may not be necessary for call quality, ensuring that your voice comes before all other data will ensure business operable call quality.
Many telecom service providers are seasoned and well equipped for the VoIP future that ensues. These providers offer a phone system in order to use VoIP technology, referred to as IP phones. There are many types of IP phones, servicing businesses from a one-man shop to a multi-billion dollar organization with many complex needs and services. (Refer to http://www.integratedcom.net/virtual-office-voip-review/ for a review on a VoIP phone system).
Your VoIP capable phone system also allows for your employees to take their IP phone-set ANYWHERE to work and/or make calls and bypass the long-distance toll by using their new plug-and-play phone and utilizing data connectivity to make their calls – an inter-operable product that works over multiple networks. How is this possible? Your IP phone system comes equip with its own IP address and can be accessed for use at any time and any place by means of the cloud – your service provider will allow for the phone to search the cloud to find the appropriate IP address, allowing for voice service through VoIP.
Be sure to gather information on the different VoIP products to find the one that best fits your company’s current and growing needs. VoIP is a service in which is becoming more relevant and readily accessible, and one we highly recommend here at Integrated Communications.
Ethernet Over Copper – Business Internet (with speed)
The advancements of business internet connections are insurmountable. Just when we get used to a network connection that will bring us reliable speed, another product is released that claims MORE reliability and bandwidth, and all for a cheaper cost. No matter what situation your company is in – needing more bandwidth, having to cut costs, or wanting dedicated-lines without extreme build-costs, Ethernet over Copper (EoC) is a product worth investing in.
EoC is at a comparable price-point to your current T1s; furthermore, offering many of the same benefits of fiber optic internet. EoC is a symmetrical, dedicated, and secure product – definitely a viable market option.
Compare and contrast EoC to other business internet services available:
*Based off of major metropolitan areas (click on image to enlarge)
Fiber connectivity has some serious benefits for companies of ALL sizes and necessities. While the cost to build fiber can be extensive (depending on location and availability) the benefits are insurmountable. Here are a list of the top 5 benefits of fiber optic Internet for your company:
1. Security – Fiber is the MOST secure network: for example, it is quite possible to attach to a copper line in order to hack into the system, however, fiber connectivity is made out of glass, and the only way to penetrate the system is to break it, which would cause the whole system to go down and in turn would alert you that you have been hacked – rare disruption of connectivity.
2. Speed – Fiber optic internet runs at the speed of light – the fastest transport medium allowing for quick and instant data retrieval.
3. High Bandwidth – Symmetrical bandwidth (same upload speed as download speed) allowing for much longer transmission distances and high signal rates.
4. Private Connection – No other businesses run off the same line as you, hence a PRIVATE connection.
5. NO Electromagnetic Interference – If and when the fiber optic cables need to be run in close or nearby proximity to electrical machinery (especially ones with high-frequency noises), fiber connectivity allows the control signals to be carried without error or interference, making fiber a number one choice for factory and machinery companies.
Contact Integrated Communications for more information regarding fiber optics Internet and it’s availability for your company @ (763)201-8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever wonder about a product, its key features, other companies’ opinions, etc., BEFORE you go out and purchase it? The truth is, oftentimes businesses are wowed at demo’s with fast-talk, and lots of intrigue but never really have the chance to dig deep into a particular product. So, before you go and spend your businesses hard-earned cash on a less-than-ideal investment, be sure to get full reviews from un-biased persons, such as ourselves, and educate yourself on the product before you purchase it.
This month we will be reviewing Virtual Office – a voip Velocity Telephone product, and one we currently use at our own office! Besides product information, we will also provide personal likes on the product we use straight from the employees at Integrated Communications, as well as information on how you can schedule a demo for this business phone at your company.
PRODUCT: Virtual Office; a Hosted VOIP system
COMPANY FIT: This product can fit companies of a large scale, from a 1-2 person at home office to a multi-site company with thousands of employees
FEATURES: Multiple line appearances, call transferring, 3-way conference call, mute, hold, forwarding, speed dials, flexibility in users – limitless expandability, and functions in many works spaces (including home offices, call centers, and virtual call centers), multiple handset options for virtual office, call recording, call blocking, system-wide busy lamp, unified messaging, caller ID, outbound call rejection, video-conferencing capability, admin login user information for customization of product, internal and external conference bridging, call center packaging options, and many other unique packaging and feature options to fit most business needs
HANDSET OPTIONS: Virtual office comes equip with 4 different handset options; Grandstream GXP2124 is a top choice phone featuring 4 dedicated line keys, HD audio quality, integrated web applications, back-lit LCD, key extensions, and many other customizable options and features; Grandstream GXP285 involves easy installation, hand-free duplex speakerphone, 2 call appearances, and is the most cost effective handset for small businesses; Grandstream GXP2100 is an easy-to-use 4 line telephone, supports integrated power-over-ethernet best for both small businesses and enterprise customers; Grandstream GXP2120 comes equip with a high resolution graphic LCD, best fit with executive offices and advanced enterprise users
EMPLOYEE REVIEWS: The users at Integrated Communications appreciate many of the products features, and all seem to have our personal favorite; a few key features liked about the Virtual Office Grandstream GXP2110 product includes:
– We are able to plug the phone in anywhere with an Internet connection and it configures up and works
– We enjoy the convenience of being able to forward to our cell-phone, but the message left will still be on our work phone rather than transferred over to our cell phone messaging system – it helps with keeping work and customers in an organized place but allowing us to pick-up the phone whenever and wherever to better assist our customers
– Users can be in charge of their own system with instant access to a web portal designed for easy-use
– Any call unanswered by a single user is placed in their missed-call cue, it’s a great way for us to keep track of who’s called in to the company
– I’m able to view call logs for all users at the company
– With virtual office we never have to pay another maintenance fee
– The company is covered for all software updates and handsets that need to be replaced
– All of the employees are given individual DID’s with our current main number
– The use of desk-top faxing is convenient and fast
– Users can twin their cell phone and their desk phone to ring at the same time
– We do a lot of conference calling and it’s nice to have the capability to conference in up to 4 people
Contact Integrated Communications to learn more about our personal experience with the Virtual Office product, for pricing options, and to see the phone system for yourself today – also call if you are interested in learning about other business phone options, network solutions, or to get reviews on any product you may currently be interested in!
Integrated Communications: (763) 201-8000