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Security in Cloud Communications: How to Ensure Availability

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As enterprises increasingly move Unified Communications (UC) to the Cloud, unwarranted access across an untrusted network, such as the public Internet, has jumped to a top concern.

A recent IDG Enterprise survey, for example, indicates that CTOs, CIOs and other leaders and managers are now more concerned than before with regards to access across an untrusted network. In fact, characterization of this issue as a top concern jumped from 28% in 2013 to 45% in 2014. These findings reinforce ShoreTel's own survey data, which indicated that management's top concerns were downtime and performance.

Security professionals have established a framework for thinking about security called the “CIA triad.” Nope, not that CIA, but rather Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. In a series of blog posts, we'll be examining some of the aspects of security of Unified Communications, using the CIA triad as a lens. We'll start with Availability, which is a top concern among business leaders.

And we'll begin at the center: ShoreTel's data centers, the primary being in Dallas, with the backup in Chicago. Both are built for high availability. These data centers are designed with “2N power and cooling” redundancy. This means that if N is the measure of power or cooling needed for normal operations, the amount available is double that. Routers are also redundant. And of course, each data center is also fully protected with Uninterrupted Power Supply. In the case of a failure in the primary center in Dallas, the system fails-over to the backup center in Chicago. Since the back-up center has redundant servers and data, service can continue without interruption.

Moving toward the periphery: ShoreTel can perform a Voice Over IP (VoIP) Readiness Assessment, to ensure that the customer's data networks are optimized for VoIP performance. This includes ensuring that your site's WiFi data network meets the standard wireless measurement thresholds needed to provide successful VoIP over WiFi.

And finishing beyond the periphery: in the case of a natural disaster, such as a storm the size of Hurricane Sandy, your offices may close temporarily . . . but business operations can continue in a manner that is seamless to your customers. Employees can Bring Your Own Device; ShoreTel Mobility provides many of the productivity features available to on-site users, including video teleconference, web conferencing, calendar access, and so on.

Availability is such a core goal that ShoreTel designs and builds it into their systems, whether on-site, cloud-based, or hybrid, and backs that up with Service Level Agreements that entitle customers to credits based on the length of any outage. ShoreTel is also one of the few providers that publishes its up-time statistics publicly, at trust.shoretel.com. Thanks to multiple redundancies at our data centers and infrastructure to support workers both at and outside the office, ShoreTel's telephony up-time for the first five months of 2015 was 99.97%. That level of up-time represents the satisfaction of one of the goals of the CIA triad, that is, Availability.