How you move to the cloud matters

25 February 2021

Greg Zweig

Greg Zweig

In days gone by, when disaster loomed, the townsfolk would be encouraged to ‘head for the hills’. These days businesses set their sights a little higher and seek the protection of the Cloud to safeguard their networks.

The global pandemic proved that this was the right move, and companies that invested in cloud-based Unified Communications or cloud-based contact centre services before 2020 were much better placed to enable their remote workforce to stay connected to customers and remain pro-ductive as compared to companies with a traditional PBX or premises-based contact centre.

So, if your business is looking to upgrade to a true Unified Communications solution or an omni-channel contact centre, the first and best piece of advice I can give you is to choose a cloud-based solution and say goodbye to legacy PBX or call centre software and hardware. Moving to the cloud requires organizations to rethink their security posture as it relates to voice. Cloud UC and cloud contact centre deployments need to be included as another piece of an overall network security plan. Traditionally, when communications security was discussed, the concern was toll fraud. Today toll fraud still exists but the bigger concern is the potential for a bad actor to use your communications network as point of entry into your wider network. The old way of thinking was that the outside world was dangerous but the world inside my building or campus was safe. Since nearly all PBX users and agents were inside the office, the risk was low. With services in the cloud and users or agents getting access from anywhere, organizations need to recognize that their voice services are more exposed than they used to be.

A well protected enterprise network requires a Session Border Controller (SBC). Many organisations have spared no expense to protect their traditional data network services with firewalls, VPNs and layers of sophisticated security tools. Yet, voice traffic is often left off to the side, bare-ly guarded. That logic is a bit like putting bars on the front door of your house while leaving the side door ajar. SBCs are purposefully made to inspect voice traffic, encrypt, and decrypt media, look for anomalies, thwart denial of service attacks and track the state of each call, immediately closing the ports when a call ends in order to maintain network security and integrity. The SBC not only protects voice traffic, it also protects the wider data network from a bad actor using the voice traffic as an entry point.

As your organization adopts cloud-based communications services think about WHERE your tel-ephone lines will end up after you moved to the cloud? This might sound like an odd question but it’s actually very relevant. Many organizations move their UC or contact centre services to the cloud but leave their phone lines terminated in a data closet or data centre in their building(s). It’s not a crisis but it’s also not the best place for them. The best option is to find a service provider that can deliver them directly to the cloud. This eliminates the potential of a local power failure or a local service disruption (storm, line cut, employee mishap, etc.) that would cut off communica-tions, even for employees working remotely. Moving your phone lines to the cloud eliminates dozens of potential points of failure in and around your location and eliminates having to acquire and maintain redundant infrastructure (UPS, redundant SBCs, etc.).

If your organization is moving services and dial tone to the cloud, then you’ll need a cloud-based Session Border Controller. Like many cloud-based services acquiring a cloud-based SBC is actu-ally easier than deploying traditional hardware or virtualized software. A trip to the Azure Market-place or to AWS offers access to SBC application as well as cost-effective compute resources to run it. In a few minutes time a cloud-based SBC can be fully operational. Configuration wizards and resiliency schemes make it easy to select a primary and secondary dial tone provider (if de-sired) as well as connect to Microsoft Teams, Zoom or hundreds of other cloud-based communi-cations services.

If your organisation is considering a cloud-based SBC there is a new generation of technology coming into the market that makes them easier to adopt and scale. Cloud-native technology, of-ten referred to as container, microservices or Kubernetes (the best-known container orchestration software) is being adopted for real-time communications. Enterprise SBCs based on cloud-native technology are more scalable, offer better resiliency models, are easier to upgrade and use in-dustry standard tools for management. It’s the next step beyond traditional virtualized software built on with hypervisors, offering greater flexibility and better economics.
The global pandemic has intensified business reliance on cloud-based UC and contact centres from Microsoft Teams, Zoom and many others. At the same time the plethora of connections from a remote workforce has increased the surface of attack for those looking to do harm or breach your network security.
By adopting cloud-based eSBCs you can be certain that all your UCaaS and CCaaS traffic is en-crypted, you can thwart denial of service attacks, guarantee interoperability between access de-vices and operating systems, and deliver high levels of service assurance. Making the cloud the most productive and secure choice for communications.

By Greg Zweig is director of solutions marketing at Ribbon Communications