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Keep Your Network Primed for IP Telephony

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Unified communications (UC) promises a world where workers can use any device they choose to fulfill most any communications need. Organizations moving toward UC must take steps now to prepare the corporate data network for the advantages of unified communications.

Understand the Security Threats

Key among these preparations is a thorough examination of the security measures that are in place to protect communications among employees, customers, business partners and vendors. A complete network security assessment helps eliminate the risk of compromising the always-on nature of voice calls that users expect. An assessment fully evaluates new security threats and management challenges, as IT staff work to prevent eavesdropping, control the number and type of devices using the network and guard against unauthorized usage of the network.

IP telephony has the same security challenges as traditional data networking plus some additional security challenges of voice networking. As with data networking, administrators must protect the network against threats like viruses, malware and denial-of-service attacks. Administrators should ensure that their network security defenses protect against known and newly discovered threats and software vulnerabilities.

But there are unique concerns, too. For instance, IP phones in open environments like reception areas or lunchrooms must be secured to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the company network through the Ethernet port on the phone. Organizations need to ensure the same degree of reliability for IP telephony that they’ve taken for granted in decades of land-line usage. IT must be able to easily manage the system, including having centralized visibility and control over user privileges and feature sets.

A Layered Approach

Securing against these types of threats requires layering various security tactics. At minimum, the following steps are essential for organizations tackling an IP telephony deployment:

1. Verify your network can meet high-availability expectations for voice service. Can location A always make a call to location B? People expect to always hear a dial-tone. Bear in mind that quality-of-service considerations vary for voice and data traffic.

2. Ensure that the network has enough bandwidth. Voice calls don’t require a lot of bandwidth, but unexpected latency or jitter can interfere with quality of voice calls. ShoreTel’s ShoreWare® System Monitor monitors network hardware and bandwidth to ensure that the IP infrastructure provides the highest level of reliability and voice quality.

3. Ensure there are enough Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports. We sometimes have to help customers who don’t thoroughly plan for the deployment and do not account for enough PoE ports to support their new IP phones.

A Growing IP Infrastructure

The sheer rise in the number of devices on the network means IT groups must be increasingly vigilant to protect against viruses, hackers and other threats. Moving forward, dozens of different types of workplace devices, from security cameras to air-conditioning controls to copiers, as well as mobile phones, computers and badge readers, will be networked, with IP telephony and Ethernet providing the glue that binds them. Organizations must keep a close eye on their IP network as devices proliferate.