Conference Calls – Save Time and Money, and Get What You Want!

call-meThe mere mention of the word ‘meeting’ can make you let out a little inner groan. All that time spent sitting around tables discussing and debating things is frustrating and often a little bit pointless.

Unless the meeting is properly chaired and there’s a dedicated agenda and minutes, it’s just seen as a waste of time by many members of staff. Workplaces are stressful places to be in and it’s in no small measure to do with meetings. They have a habit of using up precious time with delegates leaving the room feeling no more clued up than when they arrived. Meetings are a drain on a company’s finances: expensive catering needs to be supplied and everyone’s travel expenses taken care of.

However, meetings do have their benefits. Organised properly they can focus people’s thinking, and there’s definitely a lot to be gained from getting a collective opinion on company strategy. There’s no getting away from it – meetings need to take place. There’s no valid reason however, for them requiring everyone to meet at the same venue. The obvious solution is to set up telephone or video conference calls, and here’s why:

What Is a Conference Call?

A conference call is a meeting that takes place over the phone using a dedicated conference App. This allows multiple people to dial in, listen and take part in conversations. It’s a great way for everybody to take part in the meeting without having to get to the same place. Whether they’re on the train using a Bluetooth headset, working from home, or even sitting on a beach in Spain, they can have their say!

The Technology Is No Longer A Barrier

Sometimes, mangers can forget that conference calling isn’t a difficult thing to set up. With the rise of Skype and the smartphone, you don’t need to pay for extra IT Services to schedule remote meetings. Services like Google Hangouts allow you to conduct a visual meeting or “webinar” with no costs for setting up the service at all.

Conference Call Etiquette

As with all meetings there is a certain etiquette applied to conference calls. One person needs to chair the meeting so that everybody gets a chance to have their say. The chair will invite everyone to voice their opinion. Quite often, in a voice only call, the person speaking will say their name before they make a comment just so everybody is clear on who has said what. This is also helpful to the person taking the minutes of the meeting.

Who Can Take Part?

Anybody with a phone can take part! It just takes one person to organise it. They will send out an email to everyone stating what date and time the meeting will take place and people will confirm their ‘attendance’.

For video conferences nowadays you may utilise your organisation’s facilities or just do a video conference with a software solution right from your desktop.

Conference calls are a fuss-free way of conducting meetings without all the hassle that goes alongside them. Expenses will be lower and people will find themselves with a lot more time on their hands to follow up the actions from the meeting. It’s becoming a more and more popular way of communicating across offices.

Do you like conference calls? Or don’t? Why not share your experiences with us in the comment section below.

About the Author

Harry Price is a guest blogger and entrepreneur. He is a personal trainer and an animal right’s activist.

5 Reasons Why A Hacker Might Be Tapping Into Your VoIP Phone System

Businesses seem to be turning to VoIP phone systems in huge numbers and it might be something to do with how many online businesses are operating these days. If you’re one of those companies you’ll get tons of benefits from using VoIP, but what about the negatives you’ve got to watch out for?

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One threat you might experience is a hacker making their way into your system. You’ve already got to deal with software security and all your important data will be stored on hard drives, so a hacker attacking your phones is the last thing you need. If you’re wondering why a hacker would want to target your VoIP we’ll look at a few of the main things going through their mind.

Ruin your business

Your phone lines could be the heart of your business and if someone has a bone to pick with you they might want to destroy it. Try running a business when you can’t get anyone on the other end of the line and you’ll not succeed. Even if the hacker was to cause a small delay in the traffic flow it would be hard to speak to anyone without giving up after a few minutes. If someone wanted to sabotage your phone system you’ll know they have a huge grudge against you.

Get free calls

When you call someone over VoIP it’s not free if you’re calling landlines and it can actually be quite expensive if you’re calling people in other countries. Skype to Skype chats are great, but there is big money involved when you start calling international landlines. Do you think a hacker will want to pay for those calls by themselves when they could easily hack into your system? It would mean they don’t have to pay anything because you’re left picking up the bills.

Obtain certain information

We’re getting into secret agent territory here because someone could be listening in on your conversations if they want to discover secret information. You could be betting tapped by the FBI because you’re smuggling drugs in and out of South America, or maybe your wife has hired a private detective because she thinks you’re playing around with your secretary. Just realize someone might be listening in because they want some information you don’t want them to have.

Divert sales calls

Your sales staff could be sitting on their VoIP phones right now making you lots of money. A competitor might know you’re doing okay and they’ll try to steal business off you. If they can hack into your VoIP system they might be able to divert some of your calls. That means people looking to buy something will be speaking to the hacker instead of your sales staff. It’s always something to think about if you suffer a sudden drop in phone calls.

To prove something

Most hackers won’t even know who you are and they won’t give a crap about you. They don’t care what happens to your company because all they care about is their hacking skills. They just want to prove something to themselves and everyone who will listen to them on their hacker forum. These are definitely the ones you want to deal with because they won’t want to see your suffer, plus they won’t stick around for too long because they’ll eventually get bored.

Life will surely go on

At least you can be happy about one thing. Even if hackers decide to mess with your VoIP phone system it’s not the end of the world. You will eventually realize what is happening and you’ll be able to deal with it as quickly as possible. If they messed with your hard drives it would be even more painful because data recovery is a lot more annoying than a few missed phone calls. Once you deal with the problem you should be up and running in no time.

 

3 Secrets to Motivate Distributed Teams

The expansion of the distributed workforce is on the rise. If you do not already work with a fully- or partially-distributed team, you might find your situation changing soon. In the recent survey of Wrike, popular provider of task management software, 66% of respondents believed that their office might go fully virtual by 2017. With that incredible statistic in mind, we need to prepare the knowledge now on how to keep our teams motivated and driven when they’re geographically apart.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, a brand famous for its positive company culture, says, “You can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.” Motivating and ensuring the happiness of your staff must be a priority in order to succeed.

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In line with Hsieh’s beliefs, Wrike’s productivity survey found that the top productivity boosters are (in order): a sense of responsibility, a good mood, and a possible reward. And below, we forge these ideas into 3 best management practices that you can use today or in the future to inspire your team even when it’s spread all over the globe.

Give Your Employees a Sense of Responsibility

To encourage this in your employees, work ownership is key. Make your employees accountable for a project’s success and see how it affects their results. Harvard Business Review agrees that the best way to empower your employees is by giving them responsibility and autonomy. This idea founded a new “managerial” (or lack thereof) style: self-organizing teams, which are popular in agile software development. For example, a dynamic software company /ut7 dared to try it and gave full ownership to their employees, i.e. no more managers. And as a result, they always deliver their work on time. Treehouse similarly adopted a flat org chart, and it has kept everyone accountable because there is no place to hide if a project falls flat – the responsibility is on your shoulders. When you trust your employees to create bright, innovative work without micromanagement, it creates an incentive for hard work and dedication to projects.

One more powerful method of empowerment is encouraging peer review. It will create a culture of responsibility between your employees. This way, managers share some leadership and control over quality with their team members.

Create a Good Mood

How do you create a good mood for your employees when you can’t see them? You build a relationship. Thanks to the advent of video and instant messaging tools, you can easily set up virtual bonding activities. Establish a venue for the “virtual water cooler” to share personal photos, talk about your weekend, or just have simple fun. Volvo IT, an organization with a global workforce of over 60,000 employees, would have one office order food for an office in a different country, thus creating a fun, impromptu office party. If you create an enjoyable distributed-office environment and meet your employees on a personal level, it creates the opportunity for them to feel more connected to the company and your cause.

Another way to create a good mood and also motivate diligence for your employees is to establish open lines of communication. If you provide consistent feedback, and allow them to provide feedback too, it will foster a culture of trust – an environment every employee craves. Furthermore, when you think your employee is having problems, talk to them about their roadblocks, identify the cause of their loss in motivation, and create a solution together.

Reward Them

As an extension of creating a good mood, it is important to reward your employees by showing your appreciation for their work. Ensure that you celebrate the achievement of both short-term goals and long-term goals. Forbes cites a study which found that providing substantial employee recognition shows a 31% decrease in employee turnover rates. With a distributed team it isn’t possible to shake hands or give pats on the back, but you can send encouraging messages or “Employee of the Week/Month” awards through email and chat platforms.

You can also reward your employees for their success through great benefits. In addition to benefits, a well-developed incentive program will encourage your employees to push harder and pass benchmarks of success. Inc. published a list of perks you can afford, such as reimbursement for work-related outings, free food and drinks in the office, and paid volunteer time. Global accommodation-booker Airbnb, which has offices in 12 countries, gives their employees $2,000 a year to travel anywhere on the globe. There is a never-ending list of ideas for what you can provide your employees.

While motivating a distributed team may be difficult, it isn’t impossible. If you understand key productivity motivators, then you can take these ideas and implement them in your virtual workspace.

Have you tried any of these motivation methods before? What has worked for your team?

Who’s gonna be at the ISE 2014 – Integrated Systems Europe

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ISE 2014 in Amsterdam RAI

It is that time of the year again and they come from all over the place. Manufacturers, installers, solution architects and everyone interested in Audio Visual and electronic system technology. And they all seek to get the latest news on their own hot topics.

So from the 4th through to the 6th of February will be this years ISE fair in Amsterdam. Ever since 2004 a great annual event to meet old partners and make new acquaintances alike throughout the Audio Visual business. If you seek to:

  • See the latest developments in technology
  • Trial new products
  • Network and mingle with people like you
  • Spot new break-through companies or solutions
  • Drink a coffee at every booth and corner

… then this is for you.

Who is going to be at the ISE 2014?

To name only a few of the exhibitors please find our quick list below:

Get the total overview of the 952 exhibitors at the official ISE 2014 homepage.

I wish all of you, who are going a lot of fun there and make sure you drop us your comments below. If you cannot be there, make sure to follow the ISE 2014 Social Channels on Twitter for updates live from the scene.


ISE in 60 Seconds (Footage of 2013)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbZkbB8Djvs&w=575]

Top 5 Video Conference Self-Service Pointers

What you should take into account while introducing video conference self-services

The deployment of video conferencing booms in many companies. This way they can save costs and increase productivity. In earlier days video conferencing was reserved for top management but this has changed fundamentally. Today video conferences are used by all employees for their daily communication.

Today many companies own 500+ video conference rooms and 10thousands of desktop video conference users. The demand for professional video conferences is growing further and has been up to 30% a year.

The company’s structure used to be set up in a way to correspond to the needs of top management as a strictly controlled managed service. This strictly controlled managed services offers a high security standard for the company, however accounts for a big amount of the budget at the same time.

A remedy can be found in video conference self-services. The big advantage here is the high scalability and the reduced costs compared to the encompassing managed service. The video conference self-service should generally serve as an addition to the existing managed service structures.

Huawei, Telepresence, Immersive, Videokonferenz, Unified Communications, Echtzeitkommunikation, Telekommunikation, Self Service, Videokonferenz Self Service,

Photo: Interop Events

Anyone thinking about implementing a video conference self-service should take note of the following five points:

1. User expectations

In case you use a high quality managed service already, it will not be an option to not use this service in the future. It is important to manage the user expectations and clearly state for which purposes the self-service is intended. A self-service should predominantly be accessible for all employees. The managed service still makes sense for important meetings of the top management, etc. It can be helpful to communicate the costs of the managed service transparently to the users – a measure which might change their mind rather quickly.

2. Video conference infrastructure

Be aware that existing video conference infrastructure often is not tailored to the needs of the video conference self-service. Ordinary video conference infrastructures only enable low scalability, which means that video conference ports are not unlimited. It might make sense to use a software based video conference structure. These allow for high scalability and low operation costs. Initially it might make sense to use a cloud video conference service.

3. Planning business as usual

Video conference self-service does not mean that normal business can be compromised and the solution automatically works – to the contrary! For high user satisfaction the video conference infrastructure has to be stable, questions of users have to be answered timely and competent and the administration of accounts and virtual video conference rooms has to be managed.

4. Offer trainings

If you offer a video conference self-service, you also have to educate the users in a way that they are able to use the service right. Training is important. That can be seminars, booklets, eLearning training videos and intranet pages.

5. Manage growth

The introduction of a video conference self-service can lead to an enormous demand. Some companies measured the double demand within a year. Pay attention to the impact on your network and on your video conference infrastructure as well as on the daily business. The budget planning should grow too, because financial resources are especially scarce during the year.

I hope these are some good pointers for all our readers considering to look into add a self-service to their portfolio. If you have made any experiences yet around this or just want to share your thoughts, please feel invited to do so in the comments box below. Many thanks!

Web Conferencing – a New Mean of Training

Among many influential tools that could be used in an online learning or training is Web Conferencing. Web conferencing offers online training participants easier and convenient access also known as e-learning or TeleEducation.  In addition, it is much more cost-effective, faster and better. Web conferencing is becoming a popular means of providing training, the benefits are astounding, and here are some of the reasons why.

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Photo by Steve Garfield

  1. Convenient

    If you are an employee, attending seminars or trainings can be quite a daunting task. But with web conferencing you have the chance to learn from your own workplace, home or even on the road at your won flexible time. No matter where you are web conferencing can function for you.  Another scenario, if one participant got sick, there is no need for the training program to be cancel or delay. With web conferencing you can still be able to reach one other (trainees and trainer) and proceed with the program.

  2. Fast and Easy

    Sharing knowledge can be done with just a few mouse clicks and maybe a registration. But other than that, no need for any other complex steps. In addition, web conferencing allow any number of trainees to learn all in one time.

  3. Fun

    Lectures are enhanced. Forget about the wide screen projectors. There are various VoIP provider, desktop applications and internet tools that made interaction much more interesting. One can make revision and commentaries on every file types that flash on screen. Trainees or trainer can edit and draw on a document visible in their computer screens through the use of annotation tools. Desktop sharing applications can also be used to share resources that are pulled from the worldwide web. You can learn from other video presentations (if video conferencing functions are included), downloadable files, and the like to stimulate the discussion further.

  4. Friendly and Easy to use

    Just open your computer and connect to internet, participants are up and you can start learning. Survey also says that people can communicate more through web conferences than personally. Mainly because other people are shy to talk in person but in web conferences they can show their true self.

  5. Affordable

    According to a survey, it is 93% cheaper than instructor-led courses. Of course it is. Online training doesn’t cost a classroom, it doesn’t cost electricity, you can learn/teach at the comfort of your own houses.

Regardless of how gifted an individual is, he or she should still need to undergone generous amount of training so as to fit for a certain occupation. Specialized fields such as information technology and healthcare are vital in today’s living, and they require a standard of performance to sustain their proficiency. Aside from that, training empowers the workers to work in agreement to the mission and the vision that the company takes after. Without unified objectives, the company will have no clear heading to pursue and thus no end of the line to arrive at. With Web conferencing all these can be done without the worry about the location, budget and availability of an individual.

How SMEs Can Get The Most Out Of Server Storage

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Example for the first iteration of Google production servers (Photo: Pargon)

In the current economic climate, running an SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) can feel impossible sometimes. With so many things against your success, it can seem like you will never manage to build up your business to one which is strong and successful, but with perseverance and a lot of knowhow there is always a chance you will get to where you want to be.

In business, knowing how to make the most of a bad situation is always a handy skill. And, as the world is changing and becoming increasingly technological, knowing how to make the most of your computing choices is even more important. Everything from your own computer to your printer needs to be perfect, as choosing an inferior system could have repercussions further down the line.

And, as always, your server is possibly the most important piece of technological kit that you could invest in. Servers are used to store all of the programmes and files that your network may need access to, so they are basically giant computers that always run in the background. With this in mind, it is easy to see why it is vital that you make the most of your server space and capabilities, as not doing so could end up costing you important time and money.

So, if you would like to find out more about how you can do this, read on:

Choose the right server host

First and foremost, when choosing your server host you will need to make sure that you select one which is reputable and which will be able to do the job you want it to. The last thing you want is to take out a contract with a server host that doesn’t provide enough storage space or which is not fast enough or your needs, so always read the label, so to speak.

You should also do some background research in server hosts and companies offering server space. You will want to pick one which has much experience in this area of computing, and one that is known for being able to handle issues and problems ASAP.

Always run maintenance

Of course, it probably won’t be you that actually runs the maintenance, but this is why it is vital that you ensure you choose the right server company at the end of the day. You should be able to trust that your chosen server company will run regular maintenance on your server to ensure it is always performing to the best of its capabilities and that no errors have cropped up.

Back everything up

Again, this will be the job of the server host, but you should also inform them that you wish to have everything synched and backed up. Should the server fail, it is essential that you have access to these backed up files so that you can always find the important documents that you need for your business.

Don’t just go for the cheapest option

It can be all too tempting to be ruled by price when choosing server space, but this isn’t always the best policy. Compare the products and services that you will be provided with to ensure you get the best one for your SME.

How would you suggest SMEs can get the most out of their server storage space?

Mobile Unified Communications: The Solution to Enterprise Success

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Photo by Victor1558 via Flickr

In the communications industry, smartphones have evolved into an invaluable device that blurs the line between business and personal processes. Many of the features necessary on these gadgets elevated the status of these devices from merely a trend to an inexpensive ubiquity. With SMS functions, e-mail connectivity, internet browsing, and voice over the internet protocol applications; smart handsets are now key examples of how mobile unified communications translate to a more successful enterprise.

Unified Communications in the Mobile Age

The concept is no longer an innovation or a ground-breaking thought. A 2011 research by Information Week stated that almost 36% of enterprises have been implementing unified communication systems. Back then, almost one in five business technology experts said that deployments of unified communication strategies are under-way. O2 conducted a similar study this year, which showed that 88% of senior IT leaders said that a consolidation of their data, voice, and mobile networks will occur in the next two years. Unified communication is the perfect contingency plan.

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Photo by Saad Faruque via Flickr

There seems to be one reason why so many deem this enterprise concept as a standard. As  ‘smart’ technologies grew in number, innovations related to the communication realm are both inevitable and optimal. The industry enjoys the continually improving technology of VoIP and live video, which equates to web conferencing being the norm on many enterprises. Instant messaging and social networking has largely affected the business way of thinking.

Unified messaging is a concept that allows a single space to become the gate to many different communication portals. All of these technologies are made simple, portable, and hassle-free mobile technologies – smartphones, tablets, and everything in between.

Vital Role in a Business’s Success

Its aim is to address the many common errors committed through traditional business communication models. These communication problems often stem from misunderstandings, Chron said. More often than not, these misunderstandings come from the vagueness of language. Either way, digital unified communication strategies are employed to lessen the risk of these crucial flaws.

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Photo by ffaalumni via Flickr

A well-planned strategy, zeroing on the mobile platform, can prove to be beneficial to many enterprises through the following advantages:

  •  Maximize productivity – It allows a better exchange between managers and workers, minimizing time wasted through unnecessary back and forth e-mails or calls. Working at home is now a possibility that is open to most desk jobs that previously required office spaces and devices.
  • Minimize costs – It is admittedly not the least expensive resource out there, but it is definitely a guaranteed investment that pays off over time. Also, the initial cost may be reduced depending on the current tech and communication infrastructure of the company and thus, can be modified for cheaper solutions. Additionally, the cost of travel can be minimized (or even totally eliminated) through many features of UC. 

Social Media and Unified Communication

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Photo by SalFalko via Flickr

Social media has undergone many advances in its field that is largely due to unified communications. For example, the increase in popularity of social networking site LinkedIn tells us that there is more to social media than ‘liking pages’ and ‘becoming a fan’. This interestingly blurring of professional and personal realms is credited to UC concepts such as network cultivation through contacts. Mark Straton, senior VP of Marketing, Voice and App Solutions of Siemens Enterprise Communications Group, echoed this sentiment. “Social media tools have rapidly moved from being the preferred communication method of millennials,” Straton said.

The main goal of UC is to reduce what is called communication latency. Thus it’s touted better than the multitude of avenues by which we communicate as people, workers, or businesses. This has been adapted extremely well in the most recent phases of social media through sharing of Tweets and automatic posting on Facebook’s wall from many other places like Flickr, Instagram or Ask.Fm.

Summary

It is no surprise that the enterprise unified communication market is rising. In this age of mobile usage, businesses acknowledge the necessity of an equally mobile enterprise to increase yield without much wasting of resources.

Are you being served?

Mike Horsley, CTO at VQ, throws some light on the self-service video trend among enterprise video conferencing users 

Our customers – among which are some of the largest enterprise users of video conferencing in the world – have traditionally been highly advanced users of the technology. They often approached us because the video service delivery solutions supplied as part of the manufacturers’ toolsets didn’t fully meet their needs.

These early adopters and visionaries knew what they really wanted in terms of management and reporting and we basically listened and built it, allowing us to exactly deliver the services they envisioned. They used our solution to deliver video conferencing that worked well and their users liked; adoption and usage-levels grew as a consequence.

Several generations of refinements later, we’re at the stage where users trust video and want more; the problem now is one of success. Delivering an exclusively managed service to a large user-base is not economically viable in the long term and the challenge is to enable that user-base to take control and serve themselves, whenever and wherever they need video – this is where a growing number of our bigger customers are heading.

Mike Horsley VQ Chief Technology Officer

Mike Horsley, CTO at VQ Communications

Several key pieces of the jigsaw have dropped into place in recent years that now enable self-service. One of these pieces is Microsoft Lync. Users like its simplicity and the fact that it looks and feels like they expect (click-to-call is a great example of this); the barriers to using it are suitably low, which encourages mass-adoption. Another part of the jigsaw is the infrastructure needed to host enterprise video and allow previously incompatible technologies – whether voice, audio or video – to work together. New entrants to this side of the market, and one I really like in this respect is Acano, solve the problems of making the slightly proprietary Lync work with traditional video equipment. This has been possible before but only just, and not without a great deal of hoops to jump through. Where Acano is different is that it makes the ‘joining the dots’ component of the problem significantly easier. For example, the Acano MCU automatically handles many of the differences between the various flavours of Lync – it just works. Acano also solves many of the scaling issues with traditional video conferencing MCUs, which have limited capacity and therefore the complexity of video conferencing was traditionally compounded by requiring lots of boxes. With the Acano MCUs, a single server can host many hundreds – if not thousands – of calls. So, essentially, anything can call anything and it scales like you wouldn’t believe. Technology like this makes huge self-service deployments viable for the first time.

Many customers are now exploring platforms that can deliver a traditional managed service but also allow them to introduce self-service. Managed video services will probably stay about where they are in use-level terms, but we are seeing a transition to planning and deployment of self-service systems; this is where we see the most future growth. Consider the voice conferencing model (people give out numbers and the participants dial-in to join the call). This is the model self-service video is moving to; users understand it and are already using it for conference calls.

To enterprises considering self-service I would highlight several factors that influence success and are worth considering. Firstly, video conferencing is inherently complex, whether managed- or self-service. It pushes your network harder than normal data and it will find all of the network issues you were blissfully ignorant to before. Technology solutions and partners will help make this easier but it is never truly easy (and don’t trust anyone who says it is). If you don’t have any experience, go to the experts first: video conferencing managed service providers. They have been through the pain before and having them on board will increase your chances of launching a service that works and meets your users’ expectations.

Not only is it not easy, it is also not a ‘quick fix’. Cutting corners predictably results in poor experience, low adoption and therefore higher overall costs due to low return on investment. Do it right and work with experts.

High levels of adoption massively reduce the cost-per-call-per-minute to the business so remember, just as with managed-service video, it is good user experience first and foremost that drives adoption. When developing a self-service solution, the focus must always be on guaranteeing reliability, usability and convenience.

Stay informed

Follow VQ on Twitter: @VQComms

Introduction to Session Border Controllers

High definition video conferencing is a standard right now. If it will change, it will only change to an ever higher definition such as Ultra HD (involving 4K and 8K). Virtual workplaces, telecommuting and working from home becomes more and more easy and so organisations go expanding, sometimes forgetting about network requirements ending up with new capacity limits or reduced quality of their video communication solution.

A Session Border Controller can help with many problems there might be, but it is not a remedy for every issue ever to occur on your video conferencing network. I wrote this article to give you some more insight into what a Session Border Controller is, what it does and how it can help your corporate communication.

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Click for large version

What is a Session Border Controller?

A Session Border Controller is a network component designed to safely link networks with a different security requirement and setup. They are mostly utilised for VoIP and video conferencing networks to establish secure connection sessions. The Session Border Controller therefore allows control of signaling and transfer of media data in a secure way.

What can I do with a Session Border Controller?

Session management allows service providers to control the session routing, establish interoperability across environments with differentiating standards, enforce bandwidth policies or create an interface to a third party application. To keep it short and simple: A Session Border Controller optimizes solution performance and overall service quality, it allows a rapid service deployment or growth and it protects infrastructure from malicious attacks.

Who develops Session Border Controllers?

Based on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers from October 2012, Acme Packet (recently acquired by Oracle) excels in execution as well as vision scope, making them the leader of the magic quadrant (see graphic). Other competitors are Huawei, Sonus, Genband, Metaswitch Networks, Dialogic, ZTE and Technicolor.

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Magic Quadrant for Session Border Controllers by Gartner Research

Acme Packet is very interesting due to their focus on unified communications networks and even offering solutions especially designed for video conference networks of manufacturers such as Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya / Radvision, Cisco (including former Codian / Tandberg technologies), LifeSize, Polycom and Vidyo. Supporting and enabling interworking these technologies the Acme Packet solution avoids potential for vendor lock-in, protecting the investment made in video conferencing infrastructure and endpoints.

What are the technical functions of a Session Border Controller?

The functional scope of a Session Border Controller can vary, depending on what the individual device is designed to do. However to reflect a maximum of capability information, we would like to list the following functions that can be found in Session Border Controllers:

Connectivity

  • IPv4 / IPv6 interworking
  • SIP manipulation
  • NAT traversal
  • VPN connectivity
  • H.323 / SIP interworking

Quality of Service (QoS)

  • Traffic policies
  • Call admission control
  • ToS / DSCP bit setting
  • Resource allocation
  • Rate limiting

Security

  • Defense against DoS attacks
  • Can prevent toll fraud
  • No topology hiding possible
  • Malformed packet protection
  • Signaling protection via TLS and IPSec
  • Media protection via SRTP

Media processing

  • DTMF delay and interworking
  • Media transcoding
  • Tones and announcements
  • Data and Fax interworking
  • Support for Voice and Video calls

Regulatory

  • Call prioritization (e.g. for VIP usage or emergencies)
  • Auditing functions for internal audit or for law enforcing organisation
  • Business Intelligence, reporting, management information, source for billing information

Summary

Even though not a mandatory part for VoIP or video conferencing networks, Session Border Controllers have a great potential to add value to the communication services of organisations. The relevance increases for service providers companies as the functions described above can significantly increase the quality and performance of a serviced network.

If you have questions, remarks or other types of feedback please drop us a line in the comment section below. Thank you!