Every growing enterprise faces choices about the best telephony solution to meet its needs. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking or a hosted private branch exchange (PBX) are both viable solutions, but a business must determine which is more suited to its particular requirements.
Exploring the Similarities and Differences Between SIP Trunking and Hosted PBX
At first glance, SIP trunking and hosted PBX seem very similar. Both are IP-based systems and offer the same basic services such as:
• streaming audio and video;
• VoIP telephone connections to include local, long distance, and toll-free lines;
• support of both mobile and fixed phone systems; and
• support of data transmission for email, fax, text messages, and Internet access.
However, one of the primary differences between the two is that a SIP trunking system requires fixed assets and support, whereas hosted PBX does not.
Hosted PBX is generally a service provided by a vendor that requires neither an investment in equipment nor staff to oversee the system. This is a lower cost solution, but it is completely dependent on a third party for the operation of a vital business asset.
A SIP trunking solution requires an initial investment in expensive equipment and infrastructure as well as the ongoing cost of maintenance and service professionals. But despite these costs, this investment can lead to long-term flexibility and room for growth.
Smaller businesses will often benefit more from hosted PBX. Essentially an all-in-one telecommunications provider, the hosted PBX vendor delivers a hands-free telephone system that meets a small business’s needs without the cost of equipment and dedicated staff. Additionally, because hosted PBX is cloud-based, a small business has the option to switch providers without any significant interruption of service.
But as a business grows, it often needs much greater use of bandwidth and therefore requires more resources. A hosted PBX service can be expanded to compensate for the greater needs of a larger business, but this is usually accomplished at a higher cost. Eventually, there comes a point in a business’s growth when it becomes more efficient to opt for a SIP trunking solution.
A larger business with a SIP Trunking solution is able to manage its critical telecommunications system in-house and does not have to rely on an external supplier. This affords the business a level of self-reliance and allows for more overall bandwidth as well as room for growth.
Ultimately, it seems that both SIP trunking and hosted PBX systems have a future in enterprise telephony. Both systems are well suited to a particular clientele and have enough overlap in customer base to allow for healthy competition. Choosing between SIP trunking or hosted PBX is a matter of analyzing a business’s current and long-term needs.
Traditional voice services have had their heyday. Today, developing technology trends are shaping a new future for business communications. Automation, the Internet, mobility, cloud, and more are triggering shifts in new services that meet changing customer demands. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking is emerging as not just an option but a compelling choice for the modern business.
Focusing on the benefits
Even as voice converges with text, image, video, desktop, mobility, and social media technologies, many network administrators still fear the unknown. Their priority is to maximize and protect their investment so it’s understandable that many proceed with caution. However, in order to steer their business forward, network managers should consider what could go right.
For instance, SIP Trunking has many benefits if best practices are observed.
- Savings. In an SIP environment, IT managers start realizing savings when they phase out costly infrastructure. SIP Trunking eliminates Primary Rate Interface (PRI) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) rentals. Businesses can also save costs by using centralized public switched telephone network (PSTN) access. This can eliminate costs for maintenance, operations, and unused services.
- Scalability. SIP eliminates the problem of having too many channels when they are not needed and too few channels when more are needed. It can be scaled up or down on a per-channel basis to suit specific business needs. It also enables businesses to add trunks as demand dictates.
- Flexibility. As a Unified Communications (UC) package, SIP offers significant flexibility with an array of collaborative options. End-users can enjoy web, voice, video conferencing, instant messaging, chat, voice traffic re-routing, and mobility options.
- Reliable disaster recovery. Security and recovery can be major fears. SIP Trunking features reside in the IP provider’s network in multiple sites, not in the customer’s premises. Should a disaster occur, businesses are assured of timely disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity. This allows calls to be redirected to locations not affected by the disaster, ensuring a recipient for each incoming call.
Hurdling the obstacles
While SIP is a versatile technology, moving to an SIP model has its own challenges. The most common one is interoperability issues. Different vendors interpret SIP specifications differently. This can create complications when integrating legacy systems with the SIP provider network. A good provider should re-evaluate the customer’s existing architecture and suggest modifications that can support the new services.
Bandwidth capability is an important consideration for SIP connection. Bandwidth determines the quality of calls. The wrong amount of Internet bandwidth and such issues as latency, packet loss, and jitter can result in echoes, garbled messages, and call disruptions.
Connecting to the Internet exposes any network to security threats. Brute force and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are common issues that can cause entire networks to crash. Solid firewalls, session border controllers, and other security devices can help ward off such attacks.
For IT executives, transitioning to SIP Trunking is a critical decision. Decision-makers should consider an SIP deployment that can support present business needs and easily adapt to unforeseen collaboration services well into the future.
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.