Microsoft 365 Business Voice: What is it and How it can help you

Microsoft 365 Business Voice: What is it and How it can help you

Most, if not all businesses use some form of Business VoIP.  

Simply put, it is the transfer of the business internal and external voice communications to a digital platform.  Business VoIP can be part of a larger digital Unified Communications environment comprising VoIP, video-conferencing and Social Media.

A Unified Communications implementation ranges from full-blown onsite hardware and software implementations to outsourced managed solutions to virtual software running on a single PC server. 

Business VoIP, if only from a financial perspective is a no-brainer. Long-distance and international calls are moved to a toll-free basis. The business image can be substantially improved, and other efficiencies can be gathered.

For Microsoft customers, Business VoIP in the form of 365 Business Voice (“BV”) has been introduced as part of the Office 365 Suite to provide a unified phone environment for Microsoft Teams. It integrates contact data into a single database accessible from calls, chat and meeting support. As an example, callers have immediate access to an up to date single contact list for colleagues, customers, and others because of the integration with Office 365.

While 365 Business Voice is only currently available in Canada and Great Britain, it is currently going through a global rollout and will become available in most countries in 2020.

To look at it in some more detail:

365 Business Voice – Summary

365 Business Voice - Summary

In essence, 356 Business Voice wraps up the 365 Phone Systems features as a single unified application.  It has been designed for small to medium-sized organisations of a maximum of 300 users and requires Office 365 Business to be installed and running as a prerequisite. Enterprise Voice is available for larger organisations.

It is fully integrated with Microsoft Teams and becomes part of the Teams environment turning any desktop, Windows or Mac, and smart device into a phone handset that is a phone using your Business Voice Phone number.

365 Business Voice – What you get

What you get

There are three basic elements:

  • A Phone system supporting common phone features, including voice mail, caller ID, search and hunting groups and emergency calls.

    It allows the replacement of the existing analogue PBX with cloud-based call control and PBX capabilities using Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.

    Common services are provided. Call attendants provide the familiar menu based call routing. Call queues can be used to manage response centres with automatic messages, hunting groups, and music on hold.  You also get voicemail.

  • Calling plans supporting toll-free, local national and international calls.

    Call plans allow toll-free calling between users at different sites, potentially removing long-distance call costs.  Call Plans can be extended to include landline and mobile phones worldwide. Be aware that add-on call plans only work with BV and Office 365.

  • Audio Conferencing. This allows you to attend conference calls, including hosting, with callers who don’t have Teams or are not available over the Internet.

    Audio Conferencing is a useful facility for times when a caller needs to be part of a meeting but can’t use a PC, Laptop or Tablet to join using Skype for Business or Teams.

    For example, the user can attend the meeting over a hands-free audio connection when driving. Dedicated toll-free (and tolled) numbers are used as shared numbers to support a meeting.

365 Business Voice – Considerations


  • Hardware and software. Because this is a cloud-based deployment you don’t need on-premises equipment or software, only a connection to the Microsoft Cloud.
  • Use of existing phone numbers. Microsoft becomes your voice service provider. You can transfer your phone numbers, but be aware that this is not always possible.
  • Costs. To be able to make and receive calls from external numbers needs a BV licence. The licence covers the full use of the BV system. Note that users who make internal calls only do not need a BV licence, only a Teams license.

Costing seems to be based on the cellular model.

BV Includes a domestic Calling Plan, entitling you to a quota of minutes per month locally, and regionally. If you need to call internationally, you will need to buy an International Calling Plan. You can top-up your plan by buying additional time. Communications Credits have been introduced to help you manage costs.

Overall, Business Voice is a good addition to the communications offerings available to the small business.

4 Ways AI and VoIP Can Improve Business Collaboration

4 Ways AI and VoIP Can Improve Business Collaboration

The widespread adoption of Business VoIP is well underway.  The benefits, both financially and in improving the quality of customer service make it a no-brainer.   Another aspect of the current digital revolution is the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (”AI”) to automate routine manual tasks.

What if the two could be brought together?  AI is touted as the way of the future and is finding its way into many business areas, not just IT.   

Here are four ways in which Business VoIP and AI could work together to the benefit of the business.

  1. Customer Support Centres

    Customer Support Centres

    An area of development currently in the early days of operation and one in which AI can significantly enhance Business VoIP systems is that of support centres.

    Currently, many support centres use Automated Voice Response (“AVR”) technology.   AVR is an automation tool that enhances the business VoIP system by managing the incoming customer call to ensure that the call is answered more quickly and routed to an appropriate agent. 

    At present AI is used to enhance this process by being able to complete the customer transaction for simple or common support requests, thereby enabling the agents to concentrate on more complex calls.  Some computer manufacturer sites, including IBM and HP, use AI as online support tools.

    AVR is being extended to chatbots. Chatbots can accept the voice or typed instructions and information and perform tasks based on the information supplied.  They can often interact verbally with each other and with the customer.  Much research is currently underway as to how they can be given individual identities and mimic human interaction sufficiently well as to make customers think that they are interacting with real people.

    This brings immediate benefits to an organisation in that they have reduced costs of operation because chatbots work 24/7/365 and don’t need a salary or benefits.   It also enhances customer satisfaction in that they no longer need to wait in the “Your Call is Important to Us” queue.

    It is early in the development of using AI for customer support, but some futurologists foresee the day when human operators are not needed in call centres.

  2. Using AI as a network configuration and management tool

    Using AI as a network configuration and management tool

    Networks, especially large complex multi-site networks are becoming increasingly labour intensive to design and manage.  One development currently underway is the creation of Intent-Based networks (“IBN”)  that will be self-configuring, self-healing and self-managing.  AI will be a key part of Intent-Based networks, at the very least performing the low-level configuration and management tasks currently undertaken by network technicians.

    As an example, currently configuring a switch is a labour-intensive task.  Each port of the switch needs to be individually configured and this can take some time for the larger switches,  time which could be expensive downtime if the switch is network critical.  

    AI could be used to automate that task.  Switch replacement is then the simple process of swapping out the old switch for a new one.  The IBN then configures the replacement switch.

    This brings benefits in that fewer network specialists are needed, specialists that can be dedicated to more productive tasks.

  3. AI as a Tool in Conference Calling

    AI as a Tool in Conference Calling

    Conference calls are becoming a staple part of the business landscape.  AI can be used as an automatic translation mechanism, enhancing the value of multi-site and multi-country conferences.   With voice recognition, it can also be used to identify individuals and display appropriate information as they talk.

  4. Marketing Support

    Marketing Support

    The existing VoIP systems offer call analysis software, giving details of call duration, from and to information and when the call was made.  Most analysis is aimed at creating billing information.  It is also after the fact.  If the call content is to be analysed, it needs to be recorded and submitted to specialised software, again sometime later.

    AI gives the opportunity for real-time call analysis and analysis of the actual call itself. It can be used to detect call patterns, analyse words and phrases in different languages and thereby provide invaluable information for Sales and Marketing.

All of this might seem a bit sci-fi, but it is already out there.  AI and Business VoIP are inextricably linked in the future of business.

Can You Keep Your Voip Working During a Power Failure

Can You Keep Your VoIP Working During a Power Failure

The impact of digital convergence and improvements in technology have generated widespread adoption of VoIP phone systems by businesses and individuals.   Businesses use them to substantially improve their business profile and improve communications efficiencies.  All users use VoIP to substantially reduce their communications costs, particularly for long-distance and international calls.

There is one major difference between the traditional PSTN phone systems and digitally hosted VoIP phone systems. That relates to performance during a power outage.  Power to PSTN systems is provided by the PSTN supplier and PSTN phone systems, therefore, they continue to work during a power outage.

Because a VoIP phone system is hosted on ICT infrastructure, either internally or on a hosted site, it is the responsibility of the infrastructure provider to provide backup power.

This brings several considerations into play.

Personal and Home Office VoIP

Personal and Home Office VoIP

Most domestic VoIP systems are hosted through voice-enabled apps like Skype, Telegram, and WhatsApp.  The user can either use a desktop app or a smart device connected to their internet connection by WiFi.   Some larger home offices have a software PBX supporting a WiFi-based internal phone system and the specialised functions offered by VoIP.   The handsets are usually softphone apps hosted on desktops or smart devices.

The key here is to keep the desktop, the WiFi and the Internet connection active.  An obvious need is for a UPS which will continue to supply power for some time during the outage.  The desktop and the WiFi and Internet interface equipment must be connected to the UPS.  In some domestic configurations, particularly Fibre To The Home it may not be necessary to keep the desktop running.

The size of the UPS will depend on the power draw of the equipment and for how long you want to keep it running.  A home office environment will need much longer uptime than a simple domestic configuration used for communicating with family and friends.  

If you run multiple PCs in a larger home office network, try to limit usage to the one device supporting the software PBX.   If the individual phone extensions are to remain active, they will need individual power support, either to the handset or to the desktop supporting the softphone app.  

In some cases, the extensions are hosted using SIP on smart devices.  Extension services will, therefore, last as long as the devices remain charged.

A fairly beefy UPS will not take up too much space and should keep the configuration running for a few hours.  One thing – printers use a lot of power, so try not to use them during a power outage, 

Another way, particularly in areas with regular power losses or poor power supply is to get off the grid and use solar power or an inverter and generator to supply domestic power.

Business VoIP

Business VoIP

Businesses are more than their VoIP systems, even though VoIP is very important as it is often the first point of customer contact with the organisation.  It is essential therefore to include VoIP in the overall backup and power management strategy adopted by the organisation.

The first step is to decide what needs to continue if an when a power outage occurs.  Is it just VoIP, or does the entire ICT infrastructure need to keep running?  Remember if VoIP is to continue, you will need to decide which extensions are to keep running.  If you are using Power over Ethernet (“PoE”), then keeping the appropriate switches up and running may be sufficient.

The steps to keeping VoIP running during a power outage will therefore include:

  1. Creating a power management strategy.  This will entail analysing business requirements and working out what is needed to be available during a power outage.  Most businesses will have a disaster management plan prepared by ICT setting out what will keep running and for how long.

    A good example is a specification for a Tier III data centre which comprehensively sets out the requirements to keep the show running, both in terms of power conditioning and power supply during outages. Keeping the Internet connection to your ISP running is essential.

    What must be borne in mind is that if other elements of the corporate VoIP network are to remain operational, then power backup will be needed in distribution layer network rooms, and for access layer switches that provide PoE power to desktop handsets.

  2. Implementing the strategy.  It might look a good strategy on paper, but it needs the financial CAPEX budget to buy UPS equipment, generators and any other electrical equipment needed. There is also an OPEX budget component for installation and maintenance costs and ongoing running costs, for example, fuel for generators.  Solar panels and oodles of batteries are a greener option than generators.

It is entirely possible to keep VoIP running during a power outage, but it requires planning, preparation, and some expense.

5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

The increasing effect of digital convergence and the undoubted cost and other benefits of VoIP networks has led to their widespread adoption in all sizes and types of business.   However, as with all things, there are two sides to the coin, and maintenance of an acceptable level of service for your VoIP system is of paramount importance. 

Before looking at monitoring techniques it is important to see what we are looking for.

Typical complaints and their cause  include:

Dropped Calls

This is the common experience of a call abruptly terminating with no apparent reason.  The reason is often insufficient bandwidth, incorrectly configured Quality of Service parameters, or something as simple as a defective handset.

Sound Quality

  • Echo


    This is one of the most common VoIP issues.  The usual symptom is callers hearing their words repeated, often with a slight delay.  The reason is usually that the handset volume is set too high, the microphone hears the incoming call from the earpiece and rebroadcasts it.

    The obvious cure is to turn down the handset volume at one or both ends.  Another resolution is to use a headset.

  • Choppiness


    This often described as “breaking up”.  Each caller loses whole or parts of words or sentences, often making a conversation impossible.  This is caused by the network losing voice information.  Voice conversations are carried in data packets, and if the connection is unstable and packets arrive in the wrong order, (“jitter”) the conversation becomes scrambled with missing information.

    A common cause on office networks is insufficient bandwidth, either inherent or following use of video-conferencing or streaming video. 

  • Delay


    Delays are basically lagging in the voice information There is an excessive gap between the caller speaking and the words being heard.  This can result in callers speaking over each other or interrupting each other.

    Delays usually result from high latency, causing packets to take too long to reach their destination.

The key to a successful VoIP implementation is to monitor call quality to ensure an acceptable level of service to users of the VoIP system.

Here are five suggestions on how to monitor a VoIP implementation to address the issues outlined above.

  1. Good Monitoring Software

    Good Monitoring Software

    The key phrase is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.  Addressing hearsay complaints about call quality is made much easier by using network monitoring software. There are several software applications available that run either in-house or in the cloud that can monitor the immense amount of data generated by VoIP activity in real-time and produce meaningful information about calls.

    Key metrics include latency, jitter, and packet loss.

    • Latency should be less than 150 milliseconds. 
    • Jitter is the latency of arriving packets.  This must be minimised to ensure that packets arrive in the correct order.
    • Packet loss. Packet loss is a specialised form of jitter, in that there must be a minimum of lost packets.  If a packet is lost, the audio is recreated without the missing packets, thereby creating choppiness.  
  2. Codec Choice

    Codec Choice

    When calls are transmitted, they are compressed, digitised and made into packets.  The formula used to do this is called a Codec.  The wrong Codec can degrade call quality, particularly if the organisation is reaching its bandwidth limit.

    If call quality is degrading, checking the Codec and if necessary choosing a more bandwidth-efficient codec can alleviate and possibly remove call quality issues.

  3. Internet Connection

    Internet Connection

    The prudent operator will check their Internet connection equipment configuration router to ensure that VoIP traffic has priority.

  4. Network Equipment Configuration

    Network Equipment Configuration

    Networks are not static.  They require monitoring and from time to time to be reconfigured particularly after equipment or software upgrades. 

    This consideration also applies to the overall configuration of the corporate network.  It is essential to ensure that Quality of Service has been configured to prioritise VoIP, and regular monitoring of equipment upgrades and replacement to ensure that this situation is maintained is essential.  Increases in complaints in a particular network segment is an indicator of misconfigured equipment.

  5. Your Service Provider

    Your Service Provider

    Not all VoIP problems are internal.  It is essential to monitor the performance of external service providers such as your Internet Connection provider.  Once voice traffic leaves your network, you have no control over its route or if their configuration prioritises voice traffic.

    You need to agree and check regularly with your service provider that VoIP traffic has priority over data traffic. This is one of the more difficult problems to resolve.





What you ought to know about VoIP Fraud

What You Ought to Know about VoIP Fraud

VoIP Communication is a common feature in corporate and personal life nowadays.  Most large concerns use it as a matter of course as part of their corporate integrated communications platform.

In the past, communications costs were inflated by unauthorised calls and other activities designed to get around telephone security policies. It’s no different today in VoIP Communications.  People still try to make unauthorised calls inside the organisation, and people try to hijack the company communications networks to make their calls.  Nothing really new, except that it’s now digital.

The first thing to do is to define VoIP fraud.

Simply put, VoIP Fraud is the unauthorised use of communication services resulting in a benefit to the fraudster and an unexpected cost to a third party.  The third party could be a service provider or the customer.

Many VoIP frauds are a continuation of a previous PSTN analogue fraud, but with a digital flavour. Some, because of the new technologies are entirely new.  Some use hacking techniques, but the bottom line is that someone is attempting to gain a financial advantage at someone else’s expense.

Fraud Types

Call Transfer Fraud

Call Transfer Fraud

In PSTN days it was possible to break into a telephone junction box, and then physically connect a handset to someone’s phone line.  The fraudster could then make international calls, charge an unsuspecting caller a fee, and have the bill ultimately paid by the real owner of the line.

The digital equivalent is where a hacker penetrates a VoIP PBX. In a similar way to that of PSTN days, the fraudster then offers callers discounted international calls. The calls go through the hacked PBX and are essentially free until they need to break out at the far end. The unsuspecting PBX owner is later presented with a bill by the foreign VoIP operator.

Usually, the hacker will get away with this since it will take some time for the fraud to come to light.  It is also difficult to pursue the matter across international boundaries.

Revenue Sharing Schemes

Revenue Sharing Schemes

Many service providers operate a scheme whereby companies can charge a premium call rate for using numbers to specialised services.  The income from these calls is usually shared between the two service providers.  The fraud is usually that the basic service provider gets no income from the premium rate service provider.

Call Forwarding

Call Forwarding

A variation on the revenue sharing  fraud is to forward a call supposedly to a local number to an international number.  This inflates revenue sharing income at the cost of the unsuspecting caller and service provider.

Value-Added Services

Value-Added Services

A fraud that depends on the digital world is that of unauthorised subscriptions to value‑added services. Often smart device users want to use different ringtones, listen to music and watch media clips which they download to their device.

Although strictly speaking, not a VoIP fraud, the caller who uses these services unwittingly signs up for a monthly subscription service charged to their VoIP number.  If the caller uses a corporate phone account, the costs, which can be substantial accrue to the company.

How to Limit VoIP Fraud

How to Limit VoIP Fraud

Remember, in a VoIP system, credentials are linked to an individual, not a handset.  In the past, you could borrow the managers phone to make an unauthorised long-distance call. No more.

Make sure that all users of your corporate VoIP system have valid credentials. Thereafter assign call limits to individuals and groups of individuals.   For example, if you have no need in your organisation to make international calls, block all international calls.

Other things:

  • Change the default credentials on your PBX.  It is surprising how many don’t, making it easy for hackers to break into your PBX.  They often do a network search looking for the default credentials. If they find a PBX, the games are on.
  • Make sure that your corporate network security policies include your VoIP system and PBX.  Remember that a VoIP system is a digital network system just like the rest of your server environment.  Apply appropriate security measures.
  • Make sure that your VoIP service provider is equally secure so that hackers cannot gain admin privileges to your and other VoIP systems.  Some have been seriously compromised in the past.
  • User Education.  Include VoIP aspects as part of your overall programme to educate your users against malware and hacking attacks. Hackers use social engineering techniques to find out user credentials.
  • Proactive Measures
    • Be vigilant with regular audits. Review usage logs for unusual activity.
    • Consider carrying out a penetration test on your PBX once in a while.
  • Compliance.  Sometimes security is not an option where confidentiality of information is a legal requirement.  Compliance is often good due diligence.

These examples of VoIP fraud are just a few of the ways in which increasingly sophisticated fraudsters try to separate corporates and individual from their hard-earned.   As are the recommendations as to how to thwart them.

Are you still using a Legacy Phone System? Now is the time to switch.

Are You Still Using a Legacy Phone System? Now is the Time to Switch.

The universal adoption of the Internet has led to the use of digital communications as a standard part of the business environment. Most companies are creating and implementing digitally based unified communications strategies incorporating VoIP communications built around VoIP phones, video conferencing and perhaps CCTV as integral parts.

They are doing this to take advantage of the business benefits to be gained from moving from the unlinked analogue systems to an integrated digital platform. The simplest example is the use of VoIP phones to transfer from tolled calls over the PSTN to essentially free voice communications over the Internet.

There are many other reasons to make the switch from a legacy analogue phone system to a digital VoIP system, both financial and operational.

  • Cost Benefits

    Cost Benefits

    The first and most compelling reason for making the switch is large cost savings, especially for organisations that make long-distance, national and international, calls.

    Toll Charges

    Toll Charges

    In legacy systems, communications are carried by the local PSTN service provider and are tolled calls. The costs can be very high, particularly for long-distance and international calls. They are often caps on the amount of data that can be used, and the communications speed offered by the service supplier.

    In contrast, once the initial and recurrent costs of operating an internet connection have been made, usage is essentially free. There are now many software and hardware offerings that support the creation of a unified communications platform operating over a digital connection. Many organisations have created a web presence to support marketing and customer communications, so it is probable that the connection already exists.   The move to cloud-based platforms has accelerated this process.

    Bear in mind though that not all equipment can move to digital. Some modems, fax machines and alarm systems, usually older ones, do not have digital interfaces and must operate over a legacy analogue platform. Most VoIP systems cater for this and will automatically switch inward and outward calls between the digital and analogue modes. Obviously, a small analogue frame linking the PSTN and VoIP systems is needed for support.

    So, moving to VoIP and making calls over the internet can result in complete or nearly complete removal of PSTN toll charges.  These savings can be substantial for large organisations.

  • Operational Benefits

    Operational Benefits

    The additional range of options provided by a VoIP system can bring operational advantages to an organisation.

    Hunting, Call Forwarding and Call Pick-up Groups

    Call Forwarding and Call Pick-up Groups

    In a VoIP environment, extensions can be grouped together. Hunting allows calls to be automatically forwarded to another extension in the group if they are not answered or the requested extension is busy, forwarding allows a user to programme the extension to automatically forward incoming calls to another extension and a pick-up group allows calls to be picked up by other extensions in the same group.

    Automated Support

    Automated Support

    Increasingly, VoIP systems support human operators being replaced by text or voice-based chatbots who take care of common and simple customer support requests. More complex enquiries are transferred, automatically or on request to a human operator. This reduces the number of support personnel needed and the time a customer must wait for support.



    A significant difference between analogue and VoIP systems is that users are no longer tied to a physical instrument.   Users are recognised in the VoIP system with a profile, including a password.

    Entering the password on any VoIP phone allows them to make and receive calls. This means that they can make and receive calls anywhere there is a VoIP phone, sometimes even on a different site using the same VoIP system.

    Further, users can be restricted in the types of calls they can make.  The restrictions are usually based around local, national and international calls.  Because the restrictions are based on the user, not a physical instrument, this means the old practice of using the manager’s phone to make a prohibited call no longer works.



    The use of SIP software on a smart device means that people can carry their extension around with them. They can make and receive calls whenever they are connected to the corporate WiFi network.  No more hiding.

  • Reputational Benefits

    Reputational Benefits

    Nowadays potential and existing customers use search engines to find suppliers and expect to communicate with them using instant messaging and email. They expect to make their purchases online.

    They are likely to avoid companies that do not have an internet presence. A similar reluctance also comes about with companies that do not use VoIP as part of their communications strategy.

    VoIP enhances company reputation.

    If your company does not currently have a VoIP system, then you must give serious consideration to making the switch. Hardware and software solutions are available for all sizes and styles of business. Some businesses should also consider the suitability of an outsourced or hosted VoIP solution.

What Is Telephony Denial of Service and How to Prevent It

What Is Telephony Denial of Service and How to Prevent It

Most, if not all, large businesses use VoIP as their prime communications medium, usually because of the cost and functionality benefits it confers. As the market has developed, the ability to adopt a VoIP solution has extended to smaller businesses. However, as with other IT areas, VoIP has attracted the attention of miscreants, thieves and hackers intent on stealing information and disrupting business operations.

A new discipline, VoIP Security, has grown up to counteract these efforts.

In the larger IT environment, one particular thorn in the flesh has been Denial of Service (“DoS or DDoS”) attacks. These are intended to prevent normal communication with the organisations systems and services by flooding the organisations IT interfaces with large amounts of data, preventing authorised traffic from getting through. In a cloud environment, or for an Internet-based sales or service provider, this could be fatal.

It has happened and in a big way. In March of 2019, the VoIP systems of TelePacific systems were subject to a DDoS attack which brought their systems down.  

DDoS Attack

The DDoS attack came from the Internet in the form of a large number of invalid VoIP registration requests. The outcome of the attack was large-scale service disruptions for a few days in late March when the usual daily level of 34 million requests for VoIP connections suddenly dramatically increased to 69 million and flooded the TelePacific systems, removing the ability to place calls.

It cost the company several hundred thousand dollars in customer credits. When the dust had settled, the services provider, a facilities and services company based in California and Nevada, boosted its security measures to mitigate against a similar DDoS attack in the future.

For this and other unreported attacks, VoIP Security now needs to consider how to detect and prevent DDoS attacks on the organisation’s voice and video communications systems.

The first step is to define what a DDoS attack in the communications environment is. Once we know what it is, we can then develop countermeasures.

DDoS in the VoIP Environment

DDoS in the VoIP

The first thing to understand is that the VoIP systems IP protocols are exactly the same as and have the same weaknesses as the wider network IP protocols, which incidentally weren’t designed to support voice and video.

As a result, DDoS attacks in the VoIP environment have exactly the same intent and techniques as general DDoS attacks – denial of service. Because VoIP uses the same communications protocols as other network traffic, many general DDoS exploits can be easily applied to VoIP systems.

It is important to consider DDoS as one of many potential security risks that could arise in a VoIP environment, and that a properly setup VoIP security environment will guard against most DDoS attacks.

There are general security weaknesses that need to be addressed:

  1. Spam, or in the VoIP world, Spam over Internet Telephony (“SPIT”);


    A real problem, and an increasing one in the VoIP world. Large volumes of SPIT can act as a form of DDoS attack, flooding the phone system and preventing normal communications. SIP connections are particularly vulnerable to being clogged with SPIT.

  2. Spoofing, or in general attempts to steal data; and


    While not strictly speaking DDoS relevant, spoofing can be used as part of a DDoS attack to mask the origin of the attack, and cover while an attempt is made to steal data.

  3. Authentication.


    All networks, including VoIP networks, need authentication to prevent unauthorised access and potential misuse and theft of information. Rejecting unauthenticated traffic can go some way to reducing the DDoS traffic clogging up the system.

DDoS and VoIP Security

DDoS and VoIP Security

A general security profile that will mitigate against most DDoS attacks is made up as follows:

  1. Separate voice and data traffic. This can help to stop attacks on the general systems leaking over into the VoIP systems. A DDoS attack on the general system may not incapacitate the VoIP system, though it will be affected.   Use encryption and VPN as part of the authentication environment. You may need a separate Internet connection purely for VoIP traffic.
  2. If you are a small business, the temptation is to buy cheap and cheerful hardware and software. Don’t, these systems are often very insecure and can provide an easy entry point into your systems.
  3. Use encryption and VPNs on your VoIP network. Many proprietary systems from major manufacturers already require the use of VLANs and natively support encryption. You should also definitely use encryption if you run VoIP between buildings and remote sites.

Technical considerations will also include:

  1. Opening only those server and router ports and activating only those services needed to support VoIP.
  2. Restricting access to VoIP servers to systems administrators.
  3. Logging and monitoring all access to the server.
  4. Implementing an intrusion detection system to detect any attempts, malicious or otherwise to gain entry to the VoIP network.
  5. Implementing a defence-in-depth security strategy. It should include multiple layers, incorporating dedicated VoIP specific firewalls.

While it is not possible to defend entirely against DDoS and other malicious attacks against VoIP system, common sense and the application of standard network security will go a long way towards mitigation and prevention.

Five ways to tailor your telephone system to match your business needs

Five Ways To Tailor Your Telephone System To Match Your Business Needs

One of the more significant developments in computing in recent years has been the wholesale adoption of VoIP systems by businesses and increasingly by home and mobile users.   Simply put, VoIP systems remove the costs and restrictions imposed by the traditional PSTN service providers.

Because of digital convergence among other things, the initial objective, to replace PSTN connections with digital connections has grown by leaps and bounds into fully-fledged integrated communications environments supporting media connections, not just voice.

Businesses are now presented with options among others to improve their presence and reduce their costs.  Here are five such.

  1. Cost reductions through Call Security

    Cost reductions

    In the past, PBX systems were location based.  Extension numbers were tied to a physical location such as a desktop.  The ability to restrict calls was linked to the physical device. Anyone using the handset could only make the calls that were allowed for that extension number, for example, local calls only, no national or international calls.

    VoIP systems are by contrast person based in that an individual uses a PIN number to log-on to the VoIP system wherever they might be.  They can log-on from the traditional desktop handset or by using SIP technologies from a smart device.   Call security, therefore, becomes person based rather than location based.  The ability to make calls resides in the individual profile. Applying call security according to individual needs becomes that much easier.

  2. Business presence

    Business presence

    Using VoIP can make a business seem much larger than it actually is. Two examples are automated call forwarding and departmental assignment.

    With automated call forwarding, calls made to a local number are automatically forwarded to a central number.  In this way, a company can seem to have a local presence, but in actuality operate a central support organisation.  Many companies have done this with their call-centre operation.  For example, British Airways operated a centralised call centre in India.  All calls to a local or national call centre were automatically forwarded there.

    With a departmental assignment, different extension numbers can be published for sales, finance, procurement, and so-on.  However, they can be automatically forwarded to a single extension number.  The company looks like it has different operational departments when in reality it does not.

  3. Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”)

    Customer Relationship  Management

    An organisation that operates a call-centre to provide customer support can tailor its VoIP system to support a CRM environment.  The VoIP system can be linked to a database application.  In this environment, the call-centre operative will have customer information displayed on a local computer screen when that customer calls in.  The data is retrieved using the incoming telephone number.  The operator can then answer the call with “Good day <customer name> “ giving a much more personal and warm aspect to the interaction.

    Often details of previous and current interactions with that customer are shown giving the ability to deal more effectively with the customer.  VoIP provides that capability.

  4. Automated Documentation Support

    Automated Documentation Support

    A large part of customer support is providing documentation, usually product related.  This obviously can be accomplished via a website application, but most VoIP systems can also provide this facility.

    The requestor dials a number, taken for example from a media advertisement and is presented with the option to email a document to a specified address.   In this way, the requestor receives the information they want, and the company has an email address for future marketing activity.   All without any manual intervention thanks to VoIP.

  5. Automated Call Handling

    Automated Call Handling

    There is nothing more frustrating than calling an organisation and being forwarded from extension to extension as your call is not answered. The use of calling, hunting and auto-forwarding groups maintained by the VoIP system can significantly ease that pain.

    While they are similar there are differences between calling and hunting groups.  Calling groups allow anyone in that group to pick up a call for anyone else in the group.   For example, a call to an extension where the normal answerer is unavailable can be picked up by someone else nearby.  This is especially useful after hours where desks are unattended.

    Hunting groups automate this process.  If a call is not answered after a certain time interval it is automatically forwarded to another extension number.   Calling and Hunting groups often work together to improve customer service.

    Auto-forwarding is particularly useful for support and alarm calls.  The VoIP system can be programmed to auto-forward calls to a particular number to another number, for example, the duty engineer. The forwarding can be done manually by manually programming the number into the extension profile itself, or in some cases can be accomplished via a calendar. In this way, incoming calls should be answered, not just ring out.

    The increasing sophistication of VoIP systems now enables small businesses to punch above their weight and bring improved customer service levels at little or no cost.

Why SIP trunk providers can save your business money

Why SIP trunk providers can save your business money?

Even before digital convergence gave fresh impetus to the VoIP revolution, VoIP was being adopted by small and large businesses worldwide.

The development of SIP and the emergence of SIP Trunk providers allowed further progress to be made by providing mobility and integration with other digitally based communications to provide a Unified Communications environment.

SIP Trunks work by using a SIP capable PBX to replace the physical connections provided by traditional POTS suppliers.  In essence, a SIP Trunk is the virtual equivalent of the physical wire provided by the POTS supplier, instead of running over a digital connection (data circuit).  It can support voice, data, streaming media, and video services, an ideal combination of services for businesses seeking to implement that Unified Communications environment.Continue reading

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

Most will agree that the Internet has given rise to a major upheaval in Unified Communications, including Voice over IP (“VoIP”).   Business worldwide is embracing VoIP solutions as a tool to reduce communications costs, increase communications effectiveness and increase company profile.

It’s not just in the ability to make toll-free or low-cost calls that VoIP Solutions are having an effect.  Company culture is changing too.

If we take the cost benefits of VoIP Solutions as read, there are many other ways in which they can impact a company.Continue reading