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Managing Heterogeneous VoIP Networks

The Nightmare of Managing Heterogeneous VoIP Networks in Medium to Large Enterprises

There is an Answer

Managing Heterogeneous VoIP Networks

Managing heterogeneous VoIP networks in medium to large enterprises can be a nightmare. Due to the large number of vendors participating in providing the solution, there can be problems at every stage of the implementation and maintenance issues can arise in a variety of aspects including:

  • Network design and configuration
  • Device discovery
  • Distributed routing & policy enforcement
  • Distributed PSTN breakouts
  • Multiple VoIP network elements configuration: SBC and MGW
  • Multiple dial plans: SfB, IP-PBX, SBC and MGW
  • SIP interworking between IP-PBXs A large number of end user policies

Distributed networks present numerous challenges and when it comes to heterogeneous networks where the devices and applications are provided by different vendors, the situation is even worse. Unified Communication systems (e.g. Skype for Business) and the various components in the network such as IP-PBX, SBC and MGW, each have their own static routing, manipulation and dial plan tables. In actuality, we are talking about a distributed system whose elements don’t communicate with each other.  As for troubleshooting, there is no single throat-to-choke and each vendor puts the blame on the other.

AudioCodes’ new White Paper entitled, “Call Routing and Policy Management in Heterogeneous VoIP Networks” presents the challenges of heterogeneous VoIP networks and related applications currently existing in the market. The paper describes a new solution – the “Centralized Dynamic Routing and Policy Manager” – a holistic dynamic routing manager whose design is based on Software-defined Networking principles.

The Centralized Dynamic Routing and Policy 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 Centralized Dynamic Routing and Policy Manager does not enforce modifying the network to a star formation and rather manages the network as is.

For more information, click here to download the “Call Routing and Policy Management in Heterogeneous VoIP Networks” White Paper.

Yaniv Christmas tree Germany

How IT Managers Can Better Manage Skype for Business IP Phones

It was a freezing, snowy night, just a few days before Christmas.

I was on one of my road trips in Germany looking at the biggest Christmas tree in the world, while trying to warm my soul with a good, local Gluh Wein. Then my mobile phone disturbed the tranquility of the moment. One of my IT manager customers was calling. I had to answer.

Yaniv Christmas tree Germany

The customer started to describe his day to day challenges and concerns. His enterprise was beginning to migrate from an IPPBX to Skype for Business and Unified communications and his end user satisfaction was poor.  His multi-site roll-out plan took him much more time and consumed more effort than expected. And he was yet to go beyond deploying at Headquarters

where he couldn’t understand what was causing some of the IP Phones to reboot several times a day. He was unable to control the end users’ IP Phones in an efficient way and solve their issues and concerns.

I reminded him about AudioCodes’ IP Phone Manager that he had been considering and I updated him about our free of charge Express Edition. I explained how in our vision, we empower IT with a full life-cycle IP Phone operation management platform and that we view the IP Phone as an IT managed device, essentially turning the IP Phone into an IT Phone.

Feeling warmer by the minute (the Gluh Wein was no doubt having its effect…) I pointed out our multi-tenant IP Phone Manager’s day to day management and maintenance capabilities with a monitoring dashboard showing the phone operation status, active registered IP Phones, non-registered IP Phones and the disconnected devices, allowing IT to proactively detect issues before they are noticed by the end user.  I also described the smart device and user search. He just needed to search on the user name and the IP Phone provided all the necessary information (IP address, subnet, VLAN, software version and more) with just one click.

In that call I convinced my customer to give our IP Phone Manager a try and let the system become the eyes into his network in order to figure out the problems he was facing. And so he did. In just a few hours after he installed the IP Phone manager, he was already able to put his finger on the problem and track the root cause. He immediately saw that when a bulk of users were disconnected it was always in the same network switch and it seemed his POE unit was not functioning well either. He replaced the switch and the issue was resolved.

Several months after installing the IP Phone Manger he wanted to migrate additional branches to Skype for Business. I reminded him that his IP Phone Manager has zero touch installation and provisioning and that he can pre-define his configuration for an automatic zero touch rollout. Once the IP phone is plugged in, it gets the proper configuration automatically.

Together, we invested a half hour in defining his open space area, lobby area and the different company branches with the proper time offset and IP Phone menu language.

A week later he called me and expressed his amazement from the simplicity of the roll out. His ability to proactively detect and solve his end users concerns easily and efficiently was well appreciated in his organization.

And it all started with a phone call while sipping some Gluh Wein……..

Download the AudioCodes IP Phone Manager Express for Windows today and enjoy it free of charge

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!

The Prophet Jeremiah

Identifying Toll Fraud is Harder Than finding a Needle in a Haystack

What Does That Have To Do With Big Data?

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

The Prophet JeremiahAt the time of creation, God spoke with man directly, without any proxy. God spoke to Adam, Eve, the snake and even handled the first murder interrogation by himself when asking Cain “Where is your brother Abel?” After this, when there were too many people, God abandoned the one-on-one approach and started sending his messages and commands through prophets. Then came the kings who listened to the oracles and ignored the prophets.

And then came the scientific revolutionaries, visionaries, dreamers and most recently, the predictors. Unlike prophets, scientific revolutionaries, visionaries and the dreamers, the predictors look to the past to predict the future. And the deeper the predictor studies the past, the clearer he can envision the future.

The predictor is a by-product of an emerging technology – big data. I am sure that big data was invented by a male, since it’s totally built on a male character trait –don’t throw anything away that you may one day need.  This is probably the reason why another male invented large garages. Unlike the traditional rational data bases, big data deals with voluminous amounts of unstructured data (not organized by any method), which is gathered from many sources in large quantities, various formats and varying qualities. There are four main characteristics related to big data (aka the four Vs); Volume, Velocity, Variety, Volatility. Allow me to add a simple analogy from my life to describe the difference between rational and irrational data bases. When I return from the grocery I pile ALL the vegetables and fruit in the refrigerator inside their plastic bags. My lovely and more rational wife washes them all, skins the melons and watermelon and cuts them into pieces, peels the vegetables and sometimes cuts them as well, to be ready for making salad or cooking.

Mr. Gurdeep Singh Pall is the Corporate Vice President for Skype and Lync at Microsoft Corp. Mr. Pall just returned to the Lync unit, after spending the past two years working on Artificial Intelligence projects within Microsoft.  Pall used his opening keynote at this year’s Lync Conference to describe how the work of analytics and Bayesian predictions, will eventually make its way into communications systems. In practice, Singh Pall said, “We can actually predict who you will be calling in the next five minutes.”

Big data and Unified Communications & VoIP services

Unified Communications and VoIP services collect a lot of raw data; this data is worthy of analysis due to its wealth of intelligence. Many companies are increasingly aware that there is information that can be collected and refined to an essence which can be used for performance optimization and network design improvements. UC and VoIP big data analytics will be the key element in converting the big data to a tool which ensures cloud-based VoIP service, including privacy, security, toll fraud, performance, cost and more.

So what can you do with voice analytics?

  • VoIP analytics will build its own multi-layered picture of the network’s topology derived from the big data over time.
  • VoIP analytics will provide Network & Users Profiling
  • VoIP analytics will provide Advanced Call fraud detection and attack prediction
  • VoIP analytics will provide Advanced Multi-Dimensional Cost Analysis

Toll Fraud detection and prevention using big data analytics

Call fraud is associated with significant revenue loss and is hard to discover. I read that discovering call fraud in the masses of call records is more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack. Actually, that’s an easy problem to solve; you know how a needle looks like and by adding enough manpower to do the looking you can eventually find it.  But fraud calls are similar to legitimate calls, so if you can’t identify a fraud call, no matter how much manpower (or CPU power in this case) you put on the job it will be impossible to detect. It’s more like trying to find a specific strand of hay in a haystack.

A common approach to detect call fraud is based on examining accounts made up of several statistics that are computed over a specific period. For example, average call duration, longest call duration, and numbers of calls to particular countries might be computed over the past hour, several hours, day or several days. Account summaries can be compared to thresholds for each period, and an account whose summary exceeds a threshold can be queued and analyzed for fraud.

VoIP analytic fraud detection is designed on a statistical principle of dynamic VoIP fraud detection. The algorithm is based on Tracking Account Behavior which is able to alert or terminate the fraudulent call as it occurs. The algorithm will relay runtime & historical attributes gathered per user, group of users, sites, SIP interface and etc. The VoIP analytics create a signature of predicted usage behavior for each user/group/interface, update the statistical model with each call and score calls for fraud using predicted behavior as the baseline. When a call exceeds a predictive user signature boundary, the VoIP analytic may take actions as per the configuration.

The VoIP fraud detection analytic is built on three stages:

  1. Training – The analysis of large numbers of enterprises of various types such as: Unified Communications, Contact Center, etc. Based on this information, the VoIP analytic Fraud Detection System creates preliminary statistical information which is later segmented per the organization’s characteristics.
  2. Adaptation – Adjustment of the statistics collected in the previous stage to the specific organization. This is done by comparing in real-time the statistics to actual call activity of the organization.
  3. Test – Each call is compared against the statistical call pattern in real-time. Calls that don’t match the pattern will result in fraud alarms with the probability (confidence) grade.

 Conclusion

We are often tempted to impose the way we see things through the prism of our own life experiences on our friends and family while in actuality, what we are really doing is judging them for the way they see things.  A friend once told me that life experience is like a flashlight hanging on your back when you are going forward, in other words, useless.  That may be true. But in the case of Big Data analytics, the system’s life experience is the basis for predicting a better future.