Voice over IP: Security, stability, success

Summary:If you're thinking about voice over IP -- and sooner or later you'll have to -- we take a look at the steps involved in getting it set up and what's on offer from four major vendors.


  Voice over IP

 VoIP at a glance
 Getting started with VoIP
 Bandwidth issues

Cisco systems

 Final words
 Glossary of terms
 About RMIT
We visited Avaya's premises in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, and had a look at the equipment and systems there. Avaya's sales teams are split in two -- one for SME clients and one for enterprise clients. The company's equipment reflects this also, with dedicated SME and Enterprise products with a little bit of interoperability built in between the two ranges.

Avaya has VoIP solutions supporting from two to 30,000 users, beginning at AU$4995. Avaya solutions are mostly proprietary, the company having come from its heritage of Western Electric, AT&T, Bell Labs, and Lucent. As of result, some of the enterprise equipment supports Avaya's existing PABX infrastructure and can even share the modular cards.

On the enterprise end of the scale there are the Media Servers: the S8700 which has the potential to scale up to 30,000 endpoints, the S8500 supports 3000 users, and the S8300 which can run up to 450 users. Then there ae the Media Gateways: from the MCC1 which is Avaya's legacy PABX system, the G650 which has 14 card slots and is a 19in rackmount unit perfect for migration from the old to the new. There's the G350 Media Gateway which is suited to a small standalone office, and the G700 which is designed to integrate with a medium-sized office or multi-storey deployment (one on each level) or even run remote branch offices and provide a level of redundancy.

Enterprise handsets start with the 4601 that retails for AU$199 and moves up to the 4629SW colour touch-screen model that sells for around AU$1200. Wireless Handsets are also available ranging in price from AU$595 to AU$895.

SME deployments run on the IP Office family of products. These scale from the IP401 (six extensions and four lines) through to the IP412 Office (360 extensions and 120 lines). The IP Office products are most often recommended for between four and 100 extensions. They are pretty much a VoIP solution in a box, with limited internal expansion capabilities but with a modular external expansion system that can be taken from one main terminal to another as the company grows.

There is also a range of softphones, including PDA-based applications that convert wireless enabled PDAs into cordless phones. There is also a softphone that takes advantage of systems equipped with speakers and a microphone or headsets. This can operate in several modes from pure IP to teleconnect, which allows users to telecommute from their home to the office and have all the same functionality via their PC as they would in the office. It is also a boon for businesses that use hot desks or call centres.

Avaya 4629 handset
Most of the Avaya technology is based on proprietary protocols, however Avaya offers a SIP proxy server that can interface with the SIP standard for that equipment.

Security is also well covered. Avaya by default encrypts handset-to-handset and handset-to-gateway data traffic. Even the key tones (DTMF) are encrypted. Why? You wouldn't want to use phone banking with your IP phone and have the tones you are plugging in, such as account number and PIN sniffed from the network, would you?

One of the most impressive demonstrations Avaya rolled out for us was the ability for their system to spilt a call to simultaneously ring both a mobile phone (as in a GSM or 3G mobile), as well as a desktop IP phone. The user can answer their mobile phone, then pick up their desktop phone to continue with the conversation. While it all sounds very simple when written down, in fact it's technically very complex to achieve.

Avaya developers have also created an application that can take CCTV security/camera feeds and display them on the colour displays of the handsets. This displays just one unique "outside the square" solution and use of this converging VoIP technologies and the amazing building blocks that having "smarts" in phone systems like this can provide. Link this with a panic button on the phone and the image from the CCTV could be sent directly to a security team member's phone wherever they are in the building or campus so that they can assess the situation and react as quickly as possible.

Current customers include Inchcape Motors and MYOB.

Topics: Networking, Reviews

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