While the IC’s research organization looks into adding security to cloud environments, in the here and now, intelligence agencies are sharing more data.
Hosted VoIP services that support desktop phones, instant messaging and smartphone connectivity can help agencies save considerable money. Some agencies, such as the departments of Commerce and Health and Human Services, have already made the transition. As more organizations move their VoIP applications to the cloud, IT leaders should keep these tips in mind to maximize efficiency.
Because all VoIP traffic will route to a cloud-hosted private branch exchange, the agency’s connection to the public internet will need to provide the necessary bandwidth and low-latency performance. The service provider can offer advice on the wide area network bandwidth needs based on the protocols in use and the number of expected simultaneous calls. If WAN bandwidth is limited, deploy compression. In the absence of compression, use trunking to combine multiple VoIP streams into one to reduce packet overhead. A dedicated connection to the service provider can deliver true end-to-end quality of service.
Agencies might prefer a hybrid VoIP solution, where some capabilities are kept on-premises. For instance, voicemail can be kept onsite, and existing on-premises VoIP servers and carrier contract can be utilized. In a hybrid scenario, some users move to the cloud while others remain onsite.
If an agency already has onsite VoIP servers, deploying a hybrid cloud solution offers the best of both worlds, allowing agencies to take advantage of all the features of on-premises solutions, while gradually moving services and users to the cloud in their own time.
As with any communications technology, security is key. Most VoIP solutions have built-in encryption, such as Transport Layer Security for signaling and Secure Real-Time Protocol for audio and video. IT leaders should only secure VoIP traffic using virtual private network tunnels if built-in encryption is not available. In addition, agency leaders will want to double-check whether the service provider’s solution meets regulatory requirements, such as the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
Agencies that already use the cloud might consider a VoIP solution from their cloud service provider. For example, agencies that made a heavy investment in Office 365 may opt for Skype for Business Online, Microsoft’s cloud voice, video and meetings solution, because other VoIP providers offer limited Office 365 integration. Agencies also should check that their solution is compatible with existing hardware, such as desktop IP phones.