What is UC? A recent exchange between Information Week’s Eric Krapf and one of his readers illustrates some of the confusion that exists in the general population. In a nutshell, Eric had stated in a prior article that adoption of unified communications is progressing slowly. A reader responded to say that everything is “unified communications”- YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and that all of these services and technologies represent the convergence of communications concepts to provide unified communications. I agree with Eric’s reply though. Those things are an example of technology convergence on another level and they are integral to Web 2.0, but they are not ‘unified communications’ in the sense we generally refer to. As Krapf points out, when the press refers to ‘unified communications’ what they really mean is enterprise unified communications- or bringing communications technologies together in a way that makes users more productive and business more efficient.
Security is generally an afterthought in I.T.. It gets a fair amount of press, especially when there are legal and industry compliance requirements. But, when a new technology gets hot it seems like everyone jumps on the bandwagon and starts implementing it and nobody stops to consider the security implications until much later- often after the first big victim makes headlines and perhaps not until the legal and industry compliance mandates catch up and require some level of security. According to a report from TechWeb’s LightReading.com, security looms as a serious issue for many UC implementations. This brief report suggests that one of the problems is that the UC technology has the security functions available, but they are not implemented or properly utilized by the users.
Well, at least the Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China chose Nortel. After a two-year evaluation and selection process, The Ministry of Water Resources selected Nortel to enable increased collaboration and productivity by merging voice, data, video and presence information and providing a unified communications platform. China represents a huge market, and this is a fairly significant win for Nortel. More than that, it validates the value and capabilities of Nortel’s unified communications solutions that a customer as large and selective, and with critical communications need such as a Chinese government agency opted to go with Nortel over competing solutions.
Security vulnerability research firm Secunia reports “A vulnerability and a security issue have been reported in Cisco Unified Communications Manager, which can be exploited by malicious people to bypass certain security restrictions or to cause a DoS (Denial of Service).” The vulnerability is only rated as Less Critical by Secunia, so it is not an urgent issue, but users of Cisco Unified Communications Manager should be aware and investigate the availability of patches or updates to address the problem.
Unified Communications helps companies to communicate more effectively and efficiently. It is also seen by many as being always connected and never being able to be unavailable. By phone, email, voicemail, instant messaging, from your computer, your cell phone, your laptop, or any web-based portal, workers can access tools and communicate. But, what happens when they don’t want to be available? This article from TechTarget’s SearchUnifiedCommunications examines the issues and some potential solutions. In my opinion, education is a key ingredient. Many organizations jump on the technology bandwagon, but don’t give their workers the information and the education they need to use the tools effectively. Tools like Microsoft’s Office Communicator (and its portable counterpart Office Communicator Mobile) enable workers to communicate anywhere, any time. However, users can also control that access. They can set their Presence to Do Not Disturb. They can configure the level of access for their contacts so that key people- team members, managers- can see their true availability, while the rest of the world sees their Away. When calls come in via Microsoft UC Voice, the worker can send them straight to voicemail, or right-click and port them to email or voicemail if they are not available to take the call. In order to realize the benefits of effective and efficient communications, organizations need to provide end-user training in the proper use of the tools and how to work with the more advanced capabilities as well.
In order to provide comprehensive security, all traffic going into and out of the network should be monitored. Security applications and appliances have to scan and monitor for malware, data leakage, and other threats. With Unified Communications, the threat landscape is a little bigger and a little different. It is as important as ever to monitor traffic and maintain security, but unified communications demand higher bandwidth and QoS (Quality of Service) requirements than standard data traffic, making it an even greater challenge to secure and protect a UC environment while maintaining voice quality. Join Jason Ostrom, Director of the Sipera VIPER Lab, and Eric Winsborrow, Chief Marketing Officer for Sipera Systems and moderator, Erik Lanask, Group Managing Editor at Technology Marketing Corporation, on Tuesday, July 22 at 11:00am ET/ 8:00am PT.
Corporate networks and computer systems are faced with a variety of threats. Unauthorized access, malware compromise, data leakage, and other threats are fairly common and administrators are used to protecting against them. However, the phone system traditionally has been a separate issue, exposed to soe threats of its own, but a horse of an entirely different color. Even the various attack vectors in the computer system and network infrastructure have typically had a degree of separation. Michael Osterman discusses some of the emerging (or merging as the case may be) threats to corporate networks posed by the implementation of unified communications in this NetworkWorld article.
For most organizations, the fact that OCS 2007 can pull the contacts from Active Director is not a problem. However, situations can arise in larger companies with separate subsidiaries where one group is deploying OCS and another isn’t, or where multiple organizations within the company are deploying OCS, but they don’t want to share contacts in OCS. There is no truly elegant solution, but there are rudimentary options available to enable this sort of filtering. Evangelyze Communications Voice Program Services Director Mike Stacy explains how to do it on his blog site.
One of the promises of unified communications, particularly Microsoft Unified Communications, is the ability to leverage the existing telecommunications infrastructure. Selling UC to upper management and proving the ROI is significantly more difficult if it means ripping out and disposing of the entire existing communications infrastructure to replace it with a new UC infrastructure. Avaya wants to make that integration and incremental adoption that much easier by providing detailed guidance for making it happen with Extend the Value of Microsoft Office Applications with Avaya Unified Communications.
In the Press Release from Sipera, it explains that “For enterprises utilizing SIP trunks to connect to their service providers, Sipera not only offers comprehensive security for these SIP trunks, but also addresses key deployment issues by offering additional Session Border Control (SBC) functionality.” SIP trunking is one of the hot trends within the hot trends of VoIP and Unified Communications. Updates to the Sipera IPCS appliance include:
- Certificate provisioning proxy for improved access control
- HTTP/TFTP proxy for web services and configuration, and LDAP proxy for
directory services, for faster and easier deployment of remote phones
- TLS/SRTP proxy for encryption, further ensuring communications privacy
- Network, device, user, domain, and time of day granular policy