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Why Transparency Into Your On-Premise Equipment Is Important

by on Sep.09, 2015, under Cloud Services, Unified Communications

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The Key Benefits for a Worry-Free Hosted VoIP Experience

 

In our last post, we talked about how companies should prepare to support a variety of media. Today, we’re going to discuss the importance of providing transparency when it comes to your on-premise equipment.

 

The fundamental reason most companies move to the cloud is to eliminate as much on-site equipment as possible in order to simplify, streamline, and improve the overall dial tone or Unified Communications (UC) experience. In order to make the transition work, companies need to think very carefully about the types of circuits deployed at the site, whether at company headquarters or another branch; what level of redundancy is needed; how much throughput is required; and, what codecs of voice and video are going to be used. The answers to these questions have a direct impact on the WAN throughput, as well as the types of equipment companies have on the edge – router, firewall, or switch.

 

Physical vs. Logical Separation
How you choose to set up your configuration depends on a variety of factors – most notably your equipment, budget, and the size of the environment. In most cases, having a quality configuration also means you’ll be deploying some type of managed service, which is one of the main reasons customer premise equipment (CPE) is so important. The service provider you select needs to have access to a device that can be managed. At iCore, we work with Cisco and Juniper quite a bit as both have flexible, reliable technology solutions.

 

Configuring a network is different for every company. There are two ways companies do this: physical and logical separation. Physical separation means different switching equipment for voice and data. This involves two drops, which obviously directly impacts equipment in the office, and the switches terminate on the edge of the device – firewall, router or both – significantly impacting UC and tone performance.

 

Since all firewalls are created equal, it’s important to consider the full feature set and use functions of various products to identify whether a product is for the benefit of VoIP security or IT security. While VoIP and IT security may coexist conceptually, they do not share the same security equipment.. Older firewalls and most new firewalls actually degrade the quality of VoIP traffic in their effort to secure it. Therefore, security features like ALG (Application Layer Gateway) should be turned OFF to minimize issues with VoIP traffic, and prevent roadblocks inVoIP traffic that are often times caused by a firewall.

 

Using VLAN, logical separation starts at the IP phone, with each port on the switch separating voice and video data traffic. VLAN only requires one single drop per user, enabling you to put all voice, video and data over a single data connection in the closet.

 

Sometimes a managed router or firewall is good enough, but if you want a bulletproof network with a hiccup-free deployment, the ideal solution is a managed switch. This can mean physical or logically separate – we at iCore recommend logical. Less equipment to purchase and manage, and separate VLANs make it a great solution.

 

Best Practices for Customers
Sometimes, how your network is configured at the home office is completely different from how it looks at smaller branch offices. Deploying a managed switch, a managed router, or some type of managed device (firewall or router) at the smaller offices offers a complete topology map of all the locations. This allows your service provider to monitor all IP’s, thus enabling them to diagnose where network traffic problems arise and promptly fix them before they affect your business.

 

When making the switch to the cloud, it’s always better to have a service provider that can help manage your network and equipment to ensure that both the transition to the cloud and its ongoing usage are smooth.

 

To learn more, feel free to read the full whitepaper here, or contact us at marketing@icore.com.

 

In our next blog post, we’ll talk about putting strong internal project management in place to ensure a successful transition from your old system to the new one.

8 Critical Steps for Ensuring a Smooth Transition to Hosted VoIP | Step 4: Being Prepared To Support A Variety Of Media

by on Aug.24, 2015, under Cloud Services, Unified Communications

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Last week, we talked getting assurance about service availability and documented uptime. This week, we’re focusing on the importance of preparing your hosted VoIP network to support a variety of media.
 
When planning for the needs of your network, you should first determine the number of users that will need to access it, how you want to be able to interact with each other internally, and how you want to communicate with other outside audiences, such as your customers. There are certain protocols, called codecs, which are tied to the amount of bandwidth you use on different devices, as well as the quality of the call itself. As such, the variety of codecs used in a network directly impact the amount of bandwidth required to sustain a clean, crisp voice call.
 
Firewall Requirements
A regular onslaught of new hardware and applications being added to the network means it needs to be more flexible. It’s important to do your research by looking at the logs and the types of security protocols you want for your firewall. Applications that are running with voice, video, IM and presence, for example, need to have open ports on the firewall. This is why, when looking for a Hosted VoIP vendor, it’s important to have one that brings the equipment on site, installs it, and runs a demo pilot. This is key to how we operate at iCore, which means our customers are assured that their firewall is configured to block the ports it needs to, is open for other services, and can reach our data center to get the proper information needed to run properly.
 
Other considerations include what services are managed vs. unmanaged, since quality of service internally vs. externally needs to be able to optimize your business’ use of resources such as equipment installed and money spent on the WAN.
 
Quality of Service – An Ongoing Priority
Another key factor when selecting a Hosted VoIP vendor for your network needs is the quality of service. This includes factors like response time, signal to noise ratio, cross talk, echo, interrupts, frequency noise, loudness and more. Different types of media require different levels of density, and each individual company has its own standards for success.
 
For some customers, this is irrelevant, given they’re solely focused on features like IM, presence and phone calls. But for others in the mid- to enterprise-level, they need to take into account several things:
 

  • The equipment being used.
  • Which devices are terminating on that equipment.
  • How that device is connecting to the edge of the network.
  • Making sure trunk ports are set up properly with VLANs.
  • Ensuring the data is sent through the firewall for all voice, and that the video traffic is totally bypassing the firewall.

 
Don’t Forget the Conference Room
Another area where many types of media reside, but companies often forget about when it comes to analyzing their network needs, is the conference room. Making sure the right equipment is in place – IP phones, dropdown mics, VTC options, and more – means they also need to be properly tied in so they can be segmented on the network and prioritized over another circuit if in fact they need the ability to connect to other offices.
 
At the end of the day, most customers have both a point-to-point and a broadband circuit, but in some cases customers put voice over managed network and video over broadband – especially if video is a nice to have, but not a must have. Video over broadband ensures the bigger video packets don’t interfere with – or interrupt – voice.
 
For these reasons and more, when transitioning your network and Hosted VoIP options, the media your company uses on a day-to-day basis really plays a big role.
 
To learn more, access teh full TechTarget whitepaper here.
 
In our next blog post, we’ll talk about providing visibility into your on-premise equipment.

8 Critical Steps for Ensuring a Smooth Transition to Hosted VoIP | Step 3: Getting Assurances About Service Availability and Documented Uptime

by on Aug.18, 2015, under Cloud Services, Unified Communications

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Last week, we talked about exploring network options and network management capabilities. This week, we’ll discuss what you need to know about service availability assurances and documented uptime.
 
When moving to Hosted VoIP, it’s important to be mindful of business continuity. Users should be able to make a phone call anytime, regardless of the device, and providers should seamlessly keep customers connected. Availability is key – especially in the event of unplanned outages due to storms, holidays and other environmental changes.
 
The other important factor to consider is uptime. Each business determines what amount of uptime is – or isn’t – acceptable. It used to be that 99.9%, or what’s commonly known as “the three 9’s,” was the norm. Then came four 9’s, and now five 9’s. At iCore, we operate at the five 9 level, or 99.999% guaranteed uptime. Companies want a managed solution they don’t have to worry about, with a guarantee – in writing – that supports their business needs.
 
But What If Something Does Go Wrong?
Aside from availability and documented uptime, if the data center does go down, you should also know how your providers’ failover occurs. There are three types of failovers:
 

  1. Application failover. This means knowing what your voice data is running on. At iCore, we use Broadsoft, the premier in hosted voice applications. In an unforeseen event, the application itself forwards calls, allowing it to have the highest degree of failover. Calls routed this way won’t experience an issue because they’ll be picked up instantly at another location – and the caller will be none the wiser.
  2. Network failover. This is layered over the application level, with the network supporting calls from multiple ISPs and multiple devices, terminating on the edge of the data center.
  3. Data center failover. Companies can have data centers that are both geographically and physically redundant, known as an A Core and a B Core, to ensure there aren’t any service interruptions, network failures or congestion. Uptime and redundancy are two of the premier reasons to move to Hosted VoIP

 
Other Considerations
With newer Hosted VoIP options that allow for a multitude of applications and availability, understanding customer premise equipment is essential. For example, how much bandwidth is available, and is it being routed properly? Applications like the iCore Communicator are helpful because they can run over 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, hotspots and more.
 
Another strategy to ensure you will always have service is to use multiple carriers – otherwise known as carrier diversification. It’s the best way to build a high availability, high service-related network.
 
A Collaborative Effort
With iCore’s consultant approach, we spend a lot of time getting to know our customers to make sure we have a deep understanding of how their business works. This ensures that the solutions we recommend directly align with what they truly need.
 
To learn more, access the full TechTarget whitepaper here.
 
In our next blog post, we’ll talk about being prepared to support a variety of media.

8 Critical Steps for Ensuring a Smooth Transition to Hosted VoIP | Step 2: Exploring Network Options and Network Management Capabilities

by on Aug.04, 2015, under Cloud Services, Trends, Unified Communications

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In our last blog post, we talked about how to determine your needs – dial tone vs. Unified Communications. Today, we’ll discuss step 2 – exploring the network options available to your business and how to determine which network management capabilities are best.
 
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what businesses need in order for their networks to operate smoothly – but with so many services available it’s easy to see why. While email, web, video, and voice are all run over the network, voice is the most essential and needs to be prioritized accordingly. That’s where the right managed Hosted VoIP solution is key. It should not only be capable of handling any packet that comes over the network – large or small, simple or complex – but should also be engineered to separate voice and data traffic, prioritizing voice, to ensure the highest quality.
 

World-Class Network For Any Sized Business

Do businesses have to invest in large amounts of infrastructure in order to benefit from a high quality network? What about size – is this just for large, Fortune 500 companies? The short answer: no. You don’t need to buy expensive network infrastructure to enjoy the best in LAN/WAN capabilities. With several options available from industry leaders such as Nutanix, VMware, Juniper and Cisco, businesses of all sizes have the opportunity to select a network management solution that works best for them.
 
This includes companies making the switch from one Hosted VoIP provider to another. Reasons for the change vary, but very often it’s because they weren’t receiving an all-in-one managed business communications solution. At iCore, for example, we come on-site to assess the existing network used by our customers and make recommendations on virtualizing and optimizing your network for best-in-class service and better ROI. With voice and data managed in iCore’s cloud, businesses of all sizes are able to take advantage of redundancy, security and higher bandwidth within a world-class data center.
 
In addition, iCore can support a variety of applications, providing better levels of integration with services like video that need to be flexible, easily deployable and configurable. Many of the network capabilities and network management requirements customers want are also baked into the iCore offering, so right out of the gate our customers are given a deeper level of support they’re simply not going to find anywhere else.
 

Stability and Security Matter

Making the transition to a Hosted VoIP provider with strong management capabilities gives companies the peace of mind that comes from knowing any and all of their business-critical services – from voice, network security, access, video, remote desktop, and more – will operate exactly how they’re supposed to, day or night and are secure 24/7.
 
To learn more, access the full TechTarget whitepaper here.
 
Next week we’ll talk about how to determine service availability and choose a provider with documented uptime.

VDI vs VPN- What fits your business needs?

by on Jul.18, 2015, under Cloud Services

Now that we have shown you both sides of VDI and VPN, it is time to reflect on what solution fits best for your business. To make things a little easier, we have broken down the components of when you should use a VDI solution vs a VPN solution below.
 
VDI is good for:

  • Better Centralized Management
  • Optimal Security hosted through cloud
  • Remote Accessibility anytime, anywhere
  • Companies with BYOD users

VPN is good for:

  • Protecting your public WiFi
  • Cost savings
  • File sharing
  • Omitting internet Filters

Whether you’re planning on virtualizing your network by implementing VDI or VPN, it is important to be weary of the differences to choose the best solution for your business. Although VDI solutions are more expensive than VPN, it allows for data to be stored and secured at the data center level. VPN allows for flawless file sharing and privacy when it comes to browsing. It is crucial to have a consultation to really understand which virtualization technique will give your company the results that it’s looking for.
 
Let us help you with a free consultation today! Click here to learn more.

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