IP Phone

IP Desk Phones – A Phone is Just a Phone Right?

Being nearly 3 months into my new role at AudioCodes it’s been a steep learning curve given the breadth of products and markets we address.  Before I started I was curious as to why AudioCodes were making such significant investments in the IP phone range, given we were primarily known for more traditional telecom appliance products such as gateways, SBC’s etc.   Would it simply be the case that we have to demonstrate that we can offer bigger screens or better buttons at a more competitive price point?  The answer was actually one that I was not expecting.

IP Phone

From a user’s standpoint you could say a phone is a phone as long as it’s intuitive to use and allows them to make and receive phone calls in various environments (Skype for Business, normal SIP etc).  The call quality expectation is pretty much a given these days (HD voice etc).  Yes there’s lots of cool things they can do such as integration with the desktop (BToE – Better Together over Ethernet) but as long as they allow users to make calls then they could be considered much of a muchness and it comes down to personal preference and what people are used to.  But who has given any thought to the poor old IT department that are tasked with supporting 1000’s of end points that could be scattered across the globe?

With the increased offerings of cloud telephony (e.g. Microsoft’s Skype for Business Cloud PBX offering) the adoption of IP phones is accelerating and with many global businesses and more and more people working from home, this presents significant challenges for those in IT.  And challenges mean expenses. IP phones by their very nature can be somewhat more complex under the hood and to the average user that is asked by the IT department to confirm firmware versions, IP addresses etc., it can be daunting.  So it could be argued that the true value of today’s IP phones is the ability for the IT departments to have control over the entire estate so they can proactively manage a global deployment.  So remotely provisioning, updating firmware versions, changing languages, time zones, signing phones in that have been accidentally signed out (think of a phone sitting on unmanned reception desk), sending messages directly to the phones that the users can see etc.   Total end point control.  If you analyze the potential savings the IT department can make by reducing the help desk case load this can be a far more interesting number than the price difference of one phone vs another.

IP Phones Management

So to answer my own question, now that I’ve had time to explore the AudioCodes offering, yes we have a nice range of IP phones, but in my opinion there is great value in the management tools that are available to complement them.

Come as see us next week at UC Expo if you like a demo that will warm the hearts of the IT department.

Skype for Business in the Cloud

Migrating to Skype for Business Cloud PBX the Smart Way

Using a Hybrid Solution Offers the Best of the On-Premises and Cloud-based Worlds

Skype for Business in the Cloud 

Moving towards Cloud PBX

The rapid rise of Microsoft’s Skype for Business is a strong incentive for enterprises to consider deploying the popular Unified Communications suite. The Company’s most recent announcements regarding their on-line version and the replacement of on-premises based PBX with Cloud PBX are also compelling in a period in which the trend to the Cloud is almost universal. However, despite the technical and business advantages of Skype for Business UC, there are many reasons why organizations might want to hold on to a legacy voice system on a temporary or permanent basis. Reasons vary and can range from the need to maintain specialized functionality such as contact centers or alarm systems to investment protection for legacy equipment, to the current functionality gap between the on-premises and cloud-based offerings and even objective availability and regulatory requirements which may mean that Skype for Business Online may not be available at various locations around the world for the foreseeable future.

Planning the Migration to the Cloud

As such, in almost any scenario in the coming years, most enterprises will likely be implementing a migration strategy from a legacy TDM or IP-based PBX system to Microsoft UC, as for all but the smallest of organizations, a full switchover is simply not practical. A smart approach would be to gradually migrate workers who can benefit from the cloud today while keeping other workers who need the full feature set or have other reasons requiring on-premises PSTN connectivity as described above, on the local Skype for Business Server in the near term.

Perhaps the most important thing an enterprise should do in this regard is to develop a voice migration strategy. Such a strategy would compose of several stages including assessing corporate requirements (typically in the headquarters), building an infrastructure that meets those requirements, migrating relevant users to the cloud and finally, expanding that migration by assessing the needs of branch offices, building a corresponding infrastructure and migrating branch users to the cloud as required. By deploying a hybrid system such as AudioCodes’ CloudBond 365, enterprises can benefit from the essential functionality required to ensure a smooth migration to Skype for Business enterprise voice. This can include:

  • Hybrid and pure SBCs which ensure full interoperability between Skype for Business and legacy systems
  • Active Directory integration which enables administrators to control how calls are routed during the migration
  • SBC provided secured SIP trunking connectivity for after the migration is completed

Migrating Smart with a Hybrid System

A deployment of Skype for Business which mixes on-line and on-premises functionality will lay the foundation for a smooth transition to the full cloud solution down the line. The best way to protect the enterprise’s current investments, ensure a full enterprise voice feature set, guarantee that all company branches around the world are serviced and comply with regulations, is with a hybrid solution which offers the best of both worlds and allows the benefits of Unified Communications today with a secure and smooth migration to voice in the cloud when the time is right in the future.

To learn more about how to migrate to Cloud PBX, read AudioCodes’s Application Note: Getting the Cloud Right: A Practical Guide: Migrating users to Cloud PBX with AudioCodes CloudBond™ 365

Make sure to visit us at UC Expo on April 19-20 in London, UK stand #K1016!

Telephone-Exchange

Simplified Call Routing for Complex Networks

What makes VoIP level routing hard to manage?

Telephone-Exchange

One of the main achievements in the world of data routing over the last two decades is the emergence of the distributed routing architecture.

Using various routing protocols (RIP, OSPF, EGRP, BGP, etc.), networks are created and modified dynamically and automatically. VoIP routing is much more complicated than data routing, but with no routing protocols.

Traditionally, enterprise VoIP networks are controlled by the IP-PBX and call routing is typically based on static routing tables. The situation becomes complicated for off-net calls. The IP-PBX deals with such calls by directing them to the nearest media gateway or session border controller (SBC).

In the case of multi-branch organizations, a single VoIP network may have several IP-PBXs from different vendors, as well as media gateways and SBCs. Each IP-PBX, SBC and gateway in the network has its own static routing table resulting in a distributed system in which the included elements do not communicate with each other.

In theory, one could configure all the network elements once and leave everything unchanged. In reality, however, organizations’ VoIP networks are constantly evolving due to a variety of factors: mergers & acquisitions, new locations, integration of new & old IP-PBXs (or even legacy PBXs) and integration of SBCs and gateways. In addition, there is the organic growth of an organization and the accompanying technology evolution, such as introducing unified communications to the network and consolidating IP-PBXs. All of this makes managing the organization’s VoIP network a nightmare. A static approach is no longer fit for the job – there is a need for a centralized routing management system.

Centralized VoIP Routing System

System administrators should be able to design and modify their voice network topologies and call routing policies from a single location, resulting in significant time and cost savings. Time-consuming tasks such adding a new PSTN or SIP trunk interconnection, adding a new branch office or modifying individual users’ calling privileges should be carried out simply and rapidly.

The AudioCodes Advanced Routing Manager

AudioCodes-Routing-Manager-Dynamic-Creation-of-Logical-Network-Topology

AudioCodes Routing Manager (ARM) is a holistic, scalable, dynamic routing manager based on software-defined networking (SDN) principles. The AudioCodes Routing Manager decouples the device layer from the network routing and policy layer, automatically creates complex VoIP networks, and simplifies routing rules, monitoring and management configuration.

  • The ARM learns about the SBCs and gateways in the network automatically and dynamically. Every change in connectivity and configuration is reported to the ARM. Gradually, the ARM builds up a complete picture of the network topology, connectivity and health.
  • The ARM also assists with the design and creation of the VoIP network. With the ARM, a network can be created with one-click. The administrator can choose between mesh, star or dual star formations and all the connections are automatically configured in the SBCs and gateways. This can significantly reduce the time needed for professional services as there is no need to configure hundreds of classification rules, trunk groups, profiles and routing rules. And all of this is provided through an intuitive and simple graphical user interface.
  • The AudioCodes Routing Manager also looks at user attributes to optimize routing calculations. It imports and aggregates user information and huge dialing plans from different sources (e.g. LDAP server and CSV files) and groups users and dial-groups for routing calculation and implementation of number portability.

The AudioCodes Routing Manager is a critical solution. It reduces the operational time spent on designing and provisioning the network topology; it dramatically reduces OPEX by avoiding routing configurations of many VoIP network elements; it lowers the need to rely on telephony experts; and it reduces the time spent on adopting evolutions in the network.

Learn more about the ARM: http://www.audiocodes.com/audiocodes-routing-manager-arm

The ARM was recently featured in an article on No Jitter: http://www.nojitter.com/post/240171460/audiocodes-tackles-simpler-session-management