Tag Archives: Electronics

New SaaS Offer: The Lifesize Cloud

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Lifesize, a division of Logitech

The revamped and refashioned logo of Lifesize indicates its desire to rebrand itself in the video collaboration circuit and bring in new innovations and technologies to better suit the needs of organizations and businesses today. Having brought in HD video conferencing nearly a decade ago, an introduction that changed the face of business communication, Lifesize has reinvented its video conferencing technologies to suit today’s need for easy, flexible and economical collaboration to ensure effective and efficient transfer of data and information within and among organizations. With “cloud” playing a predominant role in video collaborations in recent times, Lifesize has come up with the new “Lifesize Cloud” to bring the benefits of cloud into video conferencing.

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.

 

Mobile Unified Communications: The Solution to Enterprise Success

Business people shaking hands, unified communications, mobile, success

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!

Best Access To Easy Communication

Best Access To Easy Communication
Over the years, we have seen how communication evolved. Innovators constantly struggle to make our way of living simpler. In the past, long distance communication was not possible for those who did not have the resources and money to pay for it. We are now at an age where communication is available for everyone regardless of social and economic status. A far cry from those times when we were limited with what we had.

Our solution to communication problems

 The telecommunication industry has seen that problem and formulated solutions to address each issue on man’s needs and demands to communicate. It has become broader and more pervasive, and while there are multiple means, the overall effectiveness became fragmented. Availability is made ready; we practically have access to all corners of the globe. To top it all off, we can bring devices with us that have access to the Internet. Portability is now the selling point. Back then, only the military had such advancement in communication. We often see the big telephone boxes they carry around on their backpacks in movies. What we have now are wireless phones that we carry in our pockets.

Internet phones

Communication has a price. There was a time when we were paying expensive phone bills with limited features. But that changed when the internet phones were introduced to us. Calling and mailing is no longer as popular as it was. Now we have found other ways to enjoy communication without uttering a word.

Morse code was very popular in sending coded messages. Now there is text messaging and electronic mail. It was before when service providers charge you expensively for a text message. But with the rapid growth of the telecommunication industry, everything became either free, or cheap. Who would have thought that it is possible to carry your business anywhere using a business VoIP system? You can manage your business calls and negotiate using your smart phone.

Smart phones

In the past two decades, one revolutionary innovation changed everything, and made communicating more diverse. The birth of the internet almost made telephone extinct. Fewer people used the telephone to communicate. Cell phones were the most popular gadgets at the turn of the century. But right now, it is slowly being transformed into a smaller and smarter device. Traditional cell phones are now being replaced or upgraded into smart phones which are run by operating systems just like a computer. The older generation is slowly adapting to these changes and educating themselves with the latest technology available.

Modern Smartphones further make it possible to take communication one step further on the level of videoconferencing. Either with consumer grade solutions such as Skype or with enterprise grade hosted or cloud solutions – it is easily possible to make a video call into either another mobile device or join a call with a physical videoconference room. Even outside of a wifi network the modern network carriers provide with with technologies such as LTE / 4G that provide you with a bandwidth that easily lets you have a videoconference only on the mobile network without any quality issues.

Cyber Age and the New Generation

The pressure from the industry and society is enormous enough, and the ones who are dictating the trend are the younger generations. Is it not that our parents are the ones who should be teaching us how things work? In this generation, it is the other way around. The children are the ones educating their parents how to use a laptop, a cell phone and the ways around the internet. They have no choice because with the way things are going, whether they like it or not, we are jumping into the cyber age. Everything will eventually be run by computers and the internet will be the next frontier.

Easy communication is what drives people to use the internet. We are like living in one big community and we can reach anyone, anywhere and anytime that we want to. Not only that, businesses are now done virtually, and communication has never been wanted on such a scale. It has become more of a necessity for people; it is now a basic need. That is why the demand for an easier way to communicate grew and the internet became the answer.

How to become a Videoconferencing Expert

I will start this article by answering what exactly is an expert – to me it’s a person who is really really good at something. Simple as that. This post is only about my thoughts on what it takes for a person to become such, not how he uses his expertise.

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There is more to becoming an expert than this.

I agree with the assumption that all humans are born as “tabula rasa” (lat. blank state), meaning all their knowledge comes from learning, experience and perception, but with genetics playing significant role in the process. Unfortunately, not all people take advantage of the amazing opportunities that lie ahead of them in becoming really good in something they love doing, often due to fear of failure. But failure is not something to be feared of, on the contrary, as Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Every person can be good at anything, good in so many things at the same time. But becoming really good at anything isn’t just a walk in the park. It takes discipline, focus and more importantly a strong will to make it happen.

So how does one become expert at anything? Well, I believe the formula is pretty much the same for any skill you choose. Since this is a Unified Communications blog and it happens to be the field that I’m currently working in, I’m going to point out what I consider to be important in becoming a Videoconferencing Expert.

Videoconferencing Education

I believe education is the first step in becoming good at something. Once you identify your objective and set your goals, you have to start preparing for reaching that goal, show genuine interest in learning all the bits and pieces that are related to what you really want to do, in this case Video Conferencing. I’m talking about harvesting knowledge you can use from every source you can get your hands on: specialized courses , forums, blogs, whitepapers, industry reports, product guides…

When it comes to official training, major industry leaders like Cisco and Polycom are already offering specialized training programs for anyone interested in becoming engineering or sales expert in Videoconferencing / Unified Communications and these certifications are usually valid for 2-3 years in order to keep up with the latest trends in the industry.

Cisco recently added two new programs to their certification portfolio focusing on Video, which already included the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist and Cisco Rich Media Communications Specialist:

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CCNA Logo by Cisco

  • CCNA Video establishes an individual’s ability to deploy video endpoints, set up new users, and operate networked voice and video solutions for job duties that include configuring voice and video single-screen endpoint devices, supporting telephony and video applications, and troubleshooting. The certification also validates a candidate’s knowledge of the architecture, components, functionalities and features of Cisco Unified Communications Manager solutions.
  • Cisco Video Network Specialist establishes and enhances key skills including the ability to configure video single-screen endpoints, set up new user accounts, support video applications and troubleshoot networked video solutions.
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Polycom Logo

Polycom is offering the Polycom Certified Videoconferencing Engineer – a program that confirms the successful candidate has the necessary knowledge to perform implementation, configuration and troubleshooting operations for small to medium-sized environments on the Polycom RealPresence Platform including. In addition, the PCVE exam will validate the individual’s knowledge of networking models, standards and protocols relevant to videoconferencing.

Plenty of free training material is also available on the Internet. Personally, I liked the old Tandberg Certified Expert Partner (TCPE) program, simple and straight to the point, it’s perfect to gain the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to Video Communication.

Forums such as the VTCtalk and the Cisco Support Community are a great place for promoting and  sharing knowledge and engage other experts in constructive conversations about topics of the Videoconferencing / Unified Communications industry. There are also great groups on videoconferencing business and technology available on LinkedIn for anyone to join and listen or contribute.

Working Experience

It has been said many times before – no amount of theoretical knowledge compares to a real world experience, no matter what field are you part of. If you’re just starting in the industry, try an entry-level position and work your way from the bottom up. There are also companies who first offer training to their personnel for couple of months, and then make hiring decision, this is another good way of getting practical work experience.

And once you get there, try to learn as much as possible, try to learn everything you can about the topic, focus on becoming better and better until you become “so good they can’t ignore you”.

The constant hunger for knowledge is what separates experts from…well, everyone else. The beauty when working with technology is that it changes constantly, there is always something new to digest. Personally, I don’t understand how some people are pretty content with doing the same thing day by day. There is much more you can do, if you want to. The internet is there, the books are written and there are heaps of people to talk to, who are more than happy to engage in discussions – so jump right into it and become an expert!

I am going to end this post with two quotes from people who were really good at something and accomplished a lot:

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin