Skype for Business Quality and Security Measures

Over the past two years, however, Skype for Business has been shown to be more than capable of delivering robust, secure, high quality communications to the standards expected at enterprise level. In fact, the Skype for Business Enterprise Voice telephony system is rated by almost two thirds of users as better than their previous IP PBX.
There are, however, some measures that have to be taken to get the very best quality and security protection when using Skype for Business. Here we take a look at what they are.

The role of the Session Border Controller

In both its on-premises software and cloud application form, Skype for Business can be run directly as a softphone / UC app on any device, desktop, laptop or mobile. But this can cause quality issues for a couple of reasons.
One, you are relying on the processing and audio capabilities of the device to deliver clear, clean audio or video, rather than a specialist endpoint like an IP telephone or video conference phone. Secondly, you are bypassing the normal VoIP protocols for avoiding latency issues by prioritising voice traffic over other data.
A Session Border Controller (SBC) allows you to run Skype for Business as, or on, an IP PBX system, meaning you can use desktop telephones and make use of traffic prioritisation protocols. An SBC is therefore an important part of a Skype for Business deployment for ensuring quality of service in voice communications, but it also plays equally important roles in system security and management.
Skype Business Quality SecurityAn SBC gets its name because it literally controls SIP sessions, i.e. data exchanges using the SIP protocol to and from the Skype for Business system. It sits at the border of your LAN or WAN network, and manages the exchange of data in and out. This is crucial for connecting to external PSTN telephone lines via SIP trunking, or to partner Skype for Business accounts through federation. As well as enabling these external connections, the SBC also polices the traffic, spotting potential threats and acting as a frontline defence by blocking cyber attacks.
An SBC is a default requirement in any SIP-based external comms system, because without it, you leave your network exposed to all sorts of threats such as denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, spoofing attacks that attempt to hack your system with false IDs, and toll fraud.
But with Skype for Business, an SBC is also crucial for allowing the software to behave as an IP PBX. Not only does it enable SIP trunking so you can connect to PSTN services, it also acts as a media transcoder which allows different endpoints to communicate with one another. For example, if you want a laptop in one office to speak to an VoIP phone in another, they may support different codecs to encode and decode the voice signal transmitted during the call. Without an SBC to transcode, they would not be interoperable.
In large organisations, interoperability also extends to different IP PBX systems. You may already have a variety of systems in place in offices around different regions or countries. Rather than have to replace them, SBCs allow Skype for Business to work across them all.

Choosing an SBC

There are many different SBC products on the market, some hardware solutions, some software. For your Skype for Business deployment, the following checklist of features will help you ensure you maximise quality and security in your organisation:
  • Microsoft compatibility: The first prerequisite is that you choose an SBC designed for Skype for Business and other Microsoft platforms.
  • Maximum SIP sessions: SBCs can range in capacity from being able to handle dozens to tens of thousands of SIP sessions. Make sure you choose one to suit the needs of your business.
  • Interoperability: You are likely to want to use Skype for Business to work with a large number of different endpoints, so chose a product that supports a maximum number of different codecs. If your business runs a variety of legacy PBX or IP PBX systems already, choose an SBC that is compatible with multiple systems.
  • Encryption: The SIP communication protocol itself offers no encryption on data-in-transit, meaning that if a hacker did intercept your call traffic over the internet, it would be relatively straightforward to listen in. Choose an SBC which encrypts signals as they leave your network for protection against eavesdropping.
  • Cloud-ready: If you use Skype for Business Online, whether as a standalone solution or as part of a hybrid deployment, choose a software SBC that can be run in a virtual environment or within a cloud architecture to extend protection to your cloud communications

What about video?

All of the above applies broadly to video as well as to voice communications – an SBC is a necessary addition to facilitate and provide security for any type of external SIP-based communication, which can be voice, video, text or all three.
What is different with video is that even with an SBC, Skype for Business is not compatible with specialist third party video conferencing endpoints. You are therefore reliant on the on the capabilities of your PC, laptop or phone for the quality of the video link. If you want to guarantee HD quality video through Skype for Business, you have to sign up to a video conferencing service which will extend compatibility to a greater range of meeting room systems and endpoints.

Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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