Advantages of Voice over IP (VOIP)

What Is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is the current technology that allows people to transmit voice signals through the internet instead of over the phone. Most people have already become acquainted with the idea of sending voice over the internet through the use of headsets or microphones, but only a few realize the unique differences between the two.

While a direct connection to a single person or a separate server allowed users to chat with each other using microphones, users still had to have telephone services in order to receive out of network calls. VoIP eliminates the obvious limitations of in network voice communication, and expands it above and beyond our expectations.

Much like an e-mail, users don’t have to pay to send or receive them. E-mails can go anywhere users have set up a mailbox, at any time. Imagine e-mail transforming from text into voice, and virtual mailboxes becoming phones. The result is a completely free, new form of voice technology capable of sending voice from an internet line and converting it into a signal anyone with a phone can receive.

Cost Advantages:
Businesses, especially smaller or medium sized companies, are always in need of more cost-effective tools and solutions. Businesses invest thousands of dollars in order to save money over a longer period of time. VoIP is a service that can potentially provide the results companies are looking for, in an even shorter amount of time. By instantly cutting costs with fewer drawbacks, VoIP has become a popular solution.

  • Telecommunication systems can be merged with current networks, allowing a business to save on the cost of network infrastructure.
  • Remote Web-based interfacing eliminates the need for on-site representatives to repair or troubleshoot phone network issues.  Costs associated with on-site repairs are practically negated.
  • While saving money, VoIP users have found that the service provides much more than the average office phone services. While there were certain limitations with phone services (such as busy lines and expensive remote location calling bills), VoIP has sought to break these limits. Not only do clients receive phone services for nearly no cost, but they also receive tools tailored to make manage and design the network how they want it to be. VoIP puts the client in control.
  • Single IP networked VoIP lines enable extension dialing to expand to multiple, or even distant locations.
  • Applications are all extended to employees at any corporate location (including temporary or remote locations), including, but not limited to: conferencing, voice mail, unified communications, and click-to-dial services.
  • VoIP telecommunications systems are easily simplified into a single network (combined with data networks), allowing for easy management, and the elimination of multiple networks.
  • Remote troubleshooting and management through web-based interfaces. Settings can be changed for specific employees remotely, and without the need to contact service providers or phone system manufacturers.

The 10-step guide to a Disaster Recovery plan

Problem: You need a plan for responding to major and minor disasters to let your company restore IT and business operations as quickly as possible.

1. Review Your Backup Strategy

  • Full daily backups of all essential servers and data is recommended.
  • Incremental and differential backups may not be efficient during major disasters, due to search times and hassle
  • If running Microsoft Exchange or SQL servers, consider making hourly backups of transaction logs for more recent restores
  • Store at least one tape off site weekly, and store on-site tapes in a data-approved fireproof safe
  • Have a compatible backup tape drive

2. Make Lots of Lists

  • Document Business Locations
  • Addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, building management contact information
  • Include a map to the location and surrounding geographic area.
  • Equipment Lists
  • Compile an inventory listing of all network components at each business location. Include: model, manufacturer, description, serial number, and cost
  • Application List
  • Make a list of business critical applications running at each location
  • Include account numbers and any contract agreements
  • Include technical support contact information for major programs
  • Essential Vendor List
  • List of essential vendors, those who are necessary for business operations
  • Establish lines of credit with vendors incase bank funds are no longer readily available after disasters
  • Critical Customer List
  • Compile a list of customers for whom your company provides business critical services
  • Designate someone in the company to handle notifying these customers
  • Draw detailed diagrams for all networks in your organization, including LANs and WANs

3. Diagram Your Network

  • LAN Diagram: Make a diagram that corresponds to the physical layout of the office, as opposed to a logical one
  • Wireless access using Wi-Fi Protected Access security (WPA2) in order to operate in a new location

4. Go Wireless
5. Assign a Disaster Recovery Administrator

  • Assign Primary and Secondary disaster recovery administrators.· Ideally, each admin should live close to the office, and have each other’s contact information. Administrators are responsible for declaring the disaster, defining the disaster level, assessing and documenting damages, and coordinating recovery efforts. When a major disaster strikes, expect confusion, panic, and miscommunication. These uncontrollable forces interrupt efforts to keep the company up and running. By minimizing these challenges through planning with employees, efficiency increases. Assign employees into teams that carry out tasks the Disaster Recovery Administrator needs performed.

6. Assemble Teams

Damage Assessment/Notification Team

  • Collects information about initial status of damaged area, and communicates this to the appropriate members of staff and management
  • Compiles information from all areas of business including: business operations, IT, vendors, and customers

Office Space/Logistics Team

  • Assists in locating temporary office space in the event of a Level Four disaster
  • Responsible for transporting co-workers and equipment to the temporary site and are authorized to contract with moving companies and laborers as necessary

Employee Team

  • Oversees employee issues: staff scheduling, payroll functions, and staff relocation

Technology Team

  • Orders replacement equipment and restores computer systems.
  • Re-establishes connection to telephone service and internet/VPN connections

Public Relations TeamSafety and Security Team

  • Ensures safety of all employees during the recovery process.
  • Decides who will and who will not have access to any areas in the affected location.

Office Supply Team

7. Create a Disaster Recovery Website

  • A website where employees, vendors, and customers can obtain up-to-date information about the company after a disaster could be vital.· The website should be mirrored and co-hosted at two geographically separate business locations.
  • On the website, the disaster recovery team should post damage assessments for business locations, each location’s operational status, and when and where employees should report for work.
  • The site should allow for timestamped-messages to be posted by disaster recovery administrators. SSL certificates should be assigned to the website’s non-public pages.

8. Test Your Recovery Plan

  • Most IT professionals face level one or level two disasters regularly, and can quickly respond to such events. Level three and four disasters require a bit more effort. To respond to these more serious disasters, your disaster plan should be carefully organized.· Plan to assign whatever resources you do have control over in such situations. Test the plan after revisions, and discuss what worked and what didn’t.

9. Develop a Hacking Recovery Plan

  • Hacks attacks fall under the scope of disaster recovery plans.
  • Disconnect external lines. If you suspect that a hacker has compromised your network, disconnect any external WAN lines coming into the network. If the attack came from the Internet, taking down external lines will make it harder for the hacker to further compromise any machines and with luck prevent the hacker from compromising remote systems.
  • Perform a wireless sweep. Wireless networking makes it relatively simple for a hacker to set up a rogue Access Point (AP) and perform hacks from the parking lot. You can use a wireless sniffer perform a wireless sweep and locate APs in your immediate area.

10. Make the DRP a Living Document

  • · Review your disaster recovery plans at least once a year. If your company network changes frequently, you should probably create a semi-annual review. It’s best to know that an out-of-date disaster plan is almost as useless as having none.
  • WAN Diagram: Include all WAN locations and include IP addresses, model, serial numbers, and firmware revision of firewalls

Troubleshooting Backup issues

Backing up files can be troublesome. Speeds can reach disasterous new lows, and files tend to get corrupted along the way. It might just seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but in our experience, it makes the difference of hours and days. However, with the correct tools and information, it is possible to narrow down the problem, and even solve it. Below is a troubleshooting guide for common reasons why your server backup process may be causing errors.

1.Here is a summary of what we will be examining in order to better realize a potential problem:

oDocument any noticeable problems

oWhen did you notice the change or error(s)?

oHave there been any changes to the main backup server, media servers, or backup clients?

oWhat, if anything, have you done already to troubleshoot this problem?

oDo you have any site documentation?

oWhat are your expectations once the problem has been ratified

2.Hardware Related Slow-down

oThe speed of the disk controller and hardware errors caused by the disk drive, tape drive, disk controller, SCSI bus, or even improper cabling/termination can slow performance.

oTape drives are incompatible with SCSI Raid Controllers.

oFragmented disks (act of data being written on different physical locations of a disk) take much longer to back up. Not only will it affect the rate at which data is written, but it will affect your overall system performance. A solution to this is simply by defragmentation.

oThe amount of available memory greatly impacts backup speed. A lack of free hard disk space is a commonly overlooked issue. This is generally due to improper file paging settings.

3.File Types and Compression

oThe average file can potentially compress at a 2:1 ratio if hardware compression is used. Backup speed could potentially double if average compression is used prior.

oThe total number of files on a disk, and the relative size of each file is important in calculating backup speed. The fewer large files, the faster the backup.

oBlock size has an important role in compression, and thus, affects backup speed. The bigger the block size, the more capable the drive is to achieve better throughput and increased capacity. It is not recommended to increase the Block Size above the default.

4.Remote-Disk Backup

oThe backup speed for a remote disk is limited by the speed of the physical connection. The rate at which a remote server’s hard disks are able to be backed up depends on the make/model of network cards, the mode/frame type configuration for the adapter, the connectivity equipment (hubs, switches, routers, and so on), and the Windows NT 4 or Windows 2000 settings.

oA commonly overlooked reason for slowdown on network backups can be the configuration of the network itself. Certain features such as “Full-Duplex” and “Auto-Detect” may not be fully supported in every environment. Setting the speed to 100Mb and duplex to half/full on the server side, and 100 MB on the switch port is the common practice. Dependent on the resulting speeds, half or full duplex will be the better solution.

5.Methods to potentially improve tape backup performance

oMake sure the tape drive is properly defined for the host system. It is common for a SCSI host to disable the adaptive cache on the drive if it is not recognized. The cache enables features like drive streaming to operate at peak performance.

oPut the tape drive on a non-Raid controller by itself.

oMake sure all settings in the controller’s Post Bios Setup Utility are correct.

oMake sure the proper driver updates have been applied for the SCSI Controllers.

oConfirm proper cabling/termination for the devices being used.

oUpdate the firmware on the tape drive to the latest level. In some cases, the firmware may actually require downgrading to improve performance.

oCheck the tape drive and tape media statistics to see if errors occur when backups run.

oCheck the Windows NT or Windows 2000 Application Event Logs for warnings/errors.

The 3 evils of Voice over IP (VOIP)

Many of the world’s largest telephone companies are committed to replacing their existing circuit switched systems with voice over IP systems. These packet switch voice over IP systems allow them to transport a significant portion of their traffic with IP. Surprisingly, many calls made over telephone company equipment are already being transported with IP.
Packet switched voice over IP systems are in principle as efficient as a synchronous circuit switched systems, but only recently have they had the potential to achieve the same level of reliability as the public switched telephone network or proprietary PBX equipment. With the invention and implementation of RTP (real time protocol) and SIP (session initiation protocol,) voice over IP has the technological base to obsolete the circuit switched public switched telephone network.

– BY Paul Mahle
Asterisk and IP Telephony / Paul Mahle
Copyright 2003, 2004 by Signate, LLC.

VoIP provides enhanced teleconferencing and remote teleworking to maximize internal productivity, save money and simplify management.

So, you are interested in implementing a VoIP system for your small business, but are unsure of the capabilities of your network. It can be broken down into 3 steps:

1.Determine how well the network is running

2.Deploy the voice over IP service

3.Verify that the service levels are working correctly.

How do you know if you current network is up to the task? What criterias determine if your network is Voice-enabled capable? What are the optimimum factors in running a smooth and clear voice over IP system?

The 3 evils of Voice over IP networks.

1.Delay (minimum of 150ms, use Cisco RTPC + LFI)

This is the time it takes voice to travel from one point to another on the network. It can be measured in one direction or for the entire round trip. The calculations of delay usually involves Network Time Protocol (NTP) and clock synchronization and reference clocks.

2.Jitter (the optimal jitter buffer should fit the network’s differential delay, Cisco’s LFI)

This is the variation in delay over time from point to point. The higher the variation, the more degraded the call quality will be. The amount of tolerable jitter on the network is affected by the depth of jitter buffer on the network equipment in the voice path. When more jitter buffer is available, the network is more able to reduce the negative effects of a broad variation. Unfortunately, a buffer can also be too big. This would increase the overall gap between packets.

3.Packet Loss (less than 2.5-5%, use QoS that differentiates between data and voice packets.)

Packet loss refers to the packets of data that are dropped by the network to manage congestion. Data applications are very tolerant to packet loss, as they are generally not time sensitive and can retransmit the packets that were dropped. Dropped packets in a VoIP network appear as noise in the conversation and may require the speaker to repeat or retype the last word or sentence, which is clearly undesirable.

Grant Full mailbox access to Domain Admins and Enterprise Admins in Exchange 2003

One would assume that administrators (Domain Admins and Enterprise Admins) would be allowed to fully control user mailboxes. Unfortunately, this presumption is shown to be incorrect when admins try to add additional mailboxes to their Outlook client. Of course, you can always manually set permissions on a per mailbox basis, but that defeats the purpose of global mailbox management. The cause is due to Microsoft deciding to globally set Deny permissions to Full Mailbox Access (Send As / Receive As) and hide the security tab in which one could edit these permission settings in Exchange System Manager. Fortunately, there is a simple registry fix for this problem.

1.Run regedit

1.Click Start, point to Run, and then type regedit.

2.Add registry key ShowSecurityPage

1.Go to HKEY_Current_UserSoftwareExchangeExAdmin

2.Once you reach the above section of the registry you need to create a DWORD called ShowSecurityPage.

3.A value of 1 (Numeric one) means on (show security tab), whilst 0 (Zero) means off.

4.Close the registry editor.

5.Close the Exchange System Manger, then reopen (no need for a reboot)

6.Right click on YourOrganization (Exchange), then click Properties.

7.Click the Security tab, then highlight the Domain Admins group.

8.Scroll down the permissions list and uncheck Deny for Send As and Receive As

9.Repeat the above step for the Enterprise Admins group.