SMBs Skeptical of IP Telephony, Study Shows

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Small and medium-sized businesses are wary of IP telephony as a communications tool due to security concerns, according to a recent study conducted by CompTIA. Of those polled, only 48 percent currently trust the security offered by IP telephony solutions available today. Yet more than a few are optimistic about the prospects of this technology improving over time.


“In some ways, the concern about security is understandable,” said Brian McCarthy, CompTIA’s chief operating officer. “Some of the concern could be due to the fact that IP telephony is still a relatively new technology for many people and organizations, and their comfort level with the reliability and security of a new technology may not be as high as with existing telephony systems. We’ve also found through this study and other research that small and medium-sized businesses are more aware of threats to their voice and data networks. SMBs, which have traditionally lagged in security spending, are increasingly facing IT and network issues similar to those of larger companies.”


The CompTIA study involved approximately 300 U.S. businesses with 20 to 500 employees. With regard to trust, they ranked IP telephony below traditional telephony, Ethernet data networks and wireless LANs. Still, one-third of respondents anticipate greater confidence in these systems in the next year, and despite current concerns about security, several small and mid-sized businesses plan to increase their usage of converged voice and data communications solutions over the next 18 months, McCarthy said.


“This goes back to the issue of comfort level with new technologies,” he explained. “As more organizations gain exposure to IP telephony, their confidence level in its reliability, robustness and security will increase. The fact is many of us are communicating over IP telephony networks today. Some of the world’s largest telecommunications carriers use IP networks to carry billions of minutes of voice traffic every month, and thousands of businesses around the world have embraced IP telephony as a technology that can help them boost both productivity and profitability.”


The IT industry has done a good job thus far of raising awareness of problems in IP telephony security— including fraud and privacy issues, denial-of-service attacks and spam—and many of the tools necessary to establish a secure environment are on the market today. However, customers need to be informed and educated on the solutions out there that can secure voice and data communications. “For the product vendors, resellers and solutions providers, the message is clear: If you are going to sell a new telephony system, you have to make the sale across many areas, including security,” McCarthy said. “The onus is on them to demonstrate that IP telephony systems are secure.”


CompTIA is currently working with product manufacturers, distributors and others in the convergence sector to create a professional certification in this area that establishes a baseline standard for an IT professional’s ability to install and support converged data, voice and video communications solutions. The forthcoming credential is currently in the job-task analysis phase of development, and exam-item writing is expected to take place in December.


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