written by Klaus Wallnöfer | April 17th, 2023
In this innovaphone blog post, our colleague Klaus Wallnöfer (Country Manager Italy for over 15 years) will explain three oftentimes overlooked key elements of the cloud architecture that should be carefully considered:
When talking about fiber-optic connections, you often come across following acronyms: FTTC and FTTH. Knowing the difference between the two will give you more insight into the quality and actual performance of the connection.
How often have you heard following: “I have fast internet because of my fiber-optic connection.” Indeed, it is oftentimes FTTC technology – Fiber to the Cabinet (also: Fiber to the Curb), where the optical cables run to the cabinet at the side of the road. This technology is used as a compromise, using optical fiber up until the cabinet, whereas old copper cables then lead from the cabinets to the final destination. The attained speed is higher than with traditional ADSL but connection from the cabinet on may be affected by adverse weather conditions or temperature changes, resulting in significant limitations in the speed of transmission. Simple copper cables will never be able to provide the same speed and quality which optical fiber cables provide.
A ‘true’ fiber-optic connection will connect right to the building of the company or the house: FTTH – Fiber to the Home. The entire distance from start to end is covered by optical fiber cables, ensuring much faster, more efficient and more reliable data transmission.
It is often overlooked that the so-called “last mile” is in copper and has asymmetrical speed. This means that there is a discrepancy between the speed of received data and sent data. Typically, high speed when receiving information is preferred with users, for example with very common activities such as downloading a movie or accessing a website. Usually, users send less data, for example when sending an address or submitting an online form.
However: Should the connection be used for an internal web server, the sending of data is of utmost importance.
With a phone call, the same bandwidth is needed for received as well as sent data. With an asymmetrical connection (FTTC), the relevant reference value on a contractual level is therefore exclusively the smallest bandwidth, usually the transmission speed.
The second important contract detail is the broadband guarantee. Providers oftentimes indicate very high speeds. However, these are not contractually guaranteed. That is why you should always check the minimum speed guarantee.
With enterprise communications coming from the cloud, you should always keep an eye on these differences. Otherwise, you may be in for a surprise with your audio and video quality of the communications system. The situation is even more critical if the communications system is based on a “routed” cloud PBX. This will be discussed later on.
Businesses are oftentimes under the wrong impression that information saved in the cloud simply cannot get lost. In contrast, businesses carry the great fear that company data stored on local computers may get lost and therefore automatic backups are set up (best-case). When opting for a cloud solution, they fully rely on the cloud service provider, in the belief that a high level of security is in place. Yet, this is not always the case.
Current example is the major fire with a French cloud provider in 2022. This incident led to many doubts and to questioning the security of data in the internet and whether these are protected against physical threats. Many European companies were affected, their company data lost forever. Whose fault was this? This question has an ethical component as well as a contractual one. The French provider also offered a contract with a geo-redundant back-up data center, naturally at a higher price than with the basic contract. This is exemplary for the importance of analyzing, checking and understanding all contractual details in terms of the stated services and guaranteed security features.
It is simply not possible to avoid all unfortunate incidents such as fires or other catastrophes. Therefore, relevant systems should be designed geo-redundantly, meaning that data and services are backed up in a second, locally remote data center. Thinking that big names do this by default or that contractually defined penalties are sufficient is incorrect. When checking the contracts, you will often notice that the stated guarantees are held to a bare minimum. Once the disaster occurs, the least of your problems will be to identify the culprit. Generally, companies that irretrievably lost all company data do not survive more than a handful of weeks after the incident.
The architecture of the innovaphone myApps Cloud solution provides the services of redundant and geo-redundant European data centers. Data relevant to the infrastructure are further secured in a third data center on a regular basis. This last step is of high importance when it comes to viruses since geo-redundancy cannot prevent encryption, changes to data or the deletion of data. Should a malfunction or failure occur, these data are then used to restore the infrastructure.
The myApps Cloud service additionally provides a tool to keep all user and configuration data up to date. These data are automatically saved locally, at a fourth location, and in short intervals.
The third key element of cloud architectures which is oftentimes overlooked is the method of transmitting audio and video. There are two types:
"Endpoint to Endpoint": The phone (endpoint) transmits voice and video directly to the other phone (endpoint) and vice versa. One feature of this mode is the “non-blocking” architecture. Everybody can speak with everybody simultaneously.
Cloud telephony solutions indicated with “maximum number of simultaneous calls” typically belong to the “routed” type. This type of connection is similar to traditional telephony where two copper wires connect the telephone with the switchboard and in return the switchboard with the second telephone. The idea is the same, only via VoIP instead of copper. This method is not state-of-the-art but still used today, for various reasons. In fact, carriers usually prefer to keep all traffic in-house. Many systems on the market are further based on modified freeware that prefers this type of connections since it is simpler with programming. This architecture also allows easier protocols and the use of less expensive hardware.
This aspect may become critical when you have bandwidth availability with asymmetrical speed.
The same issue applies if we assume a business with several different sites. The same applies for remote working where smartphone or softphones are used. Instead of connecting with each other directly, all traffic is transmitted to the data center and transferred from there
The innovaphone solution is based on endpoint-to-endpoint architecture. Depending on the configuration, the data center which provides the cloud services is oftentimes only involved in the signaling (“signaling” means that for example only caller ID information is transmitted – data with low volume)..
It would not be realistic to assume that there is such a thing as the perfect cloud architecture. However, it is important to consider certain factors in advance, during the planning phase. The most important factors are the type and speed of the connection, data security as well as the transmission of data from endpoint to endpoint.
In order to derive real value from a cloud investment and to make their enterprise communications viable for the future, companies should make sure to carefully plan and to thoroughly check the various offers and services available on the market.