Cloud Unified Communications
Unified communications within the context of cloud computing refers to the ability to host applications while allowing users to access those applications. These cloud solutions are not generally a single product at the present time; UC is instead a collection of separate components that provide a single user interface across different devices. The broadest definition of UC includes any form of communication that may be exchanged on a particular device such as fiber-optic communications, Voice over IP, private branch exchange systems and Internet fax.
UC involves integrating these communication methods into a single communications network that may allow one-to-one communications or one-to-many communications. UC also allows you to transmit a communication on one medium and receive a response on another media. For example, you can leave a voicemail message with your computer and receive a response with a cell phone.
Cloud computing uses computing resources as a service, which contrasts with the traditional use of computing resources as a product. It delivers these services over a network such as the Internet. The term “cloud” originates from the use of a cloud-shaped symbol in system diagrams to indicate a complex infrastructure. Cloud solutions may generally be classified into the following categories:
- Infrastructure as a service
- Platform as a service
- Software as a service
- Network as a service
Cloud hosting generally uses a community cloud in which multiple organizations share the same infrastructure. These organizations typically have the same concerns over issues such as compliance, jurisdiction and security. The hosting costs are shared by the organizations within the community cloud. A community cloud has more users than a private cloud but fewer users than a public cloud, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
A cloud IaaS is the most basic type of cloud service. It offers virtual machines which are managed by a hypervisor such as KVM or Xen, allowing a single physical machine to run large numbers of virtual machines. IAAS clouds can be easily scaled according to changes in the customer’s requirements.
The PaaS model of cloud computing provides the customer with a complete computing platform, including an operating system, database, programming environment and Web server. Developers can run software on a cloud platform without the requirement for managing the underlying layers of hardware and software. Some PaaS models automatically scale the allocation of resources in response to customer demand.
The SaaS model of cloud computing requires the cloud hosting service to install and operate software within the cloud. This eliminates the need of the users to install and operate software on their own computers, thereby reducing maintenance and support costs. Software operated in this manner can be easily scaled by cloning the applications onto virtual machines as needed to meet user demand.
NaaS encompasses a group of cloud services in which the host provides connectivity to a network. These services consider the availability of networking resources when optimizing resource allocation. A traditional NaaS service provides bandwidth on demand and a flexible virtual private network.
Fiber-optic communication involves transmitting light pulses through an optical fiber. It was first developed during the 1970s and now plays a major role in the telecommunications industry. Fiber-optic communication has largely replaced copper wire communication for core networks. The steps required for successful fiber-optic communication include the following:
- Creating the optical signal
- Relaying the signal
- Maintaining the signal strength and integrity
- Receiving the optical signal
- Converting the optical signal into an electrical signal.
Telecommunications companies often use optical fiber to transmit Internet, telephone and television signals. The primary advantages of this technology over copper wire are that optical signals are much less subject to interference and attenuation, making them especially useful for applications involving high demand and long distances.
The increased use of the Internet greatly increased the demand for communications bandwidth during the late 1990s. Fiber Internet providers helped to meet this demand as high-bandwidth consumer services became more commercialized. The primary trend in business broadband is currently the consolidation of telecommunications providers and offshoring to reduce manufacturing costs. The dominant network in fiber-optic communications is Ethernet Passive Optical Network.
VoIP is a collection of technologies, protocols and methodologies that are used to deliver voice communication over a network that uses an Internet protocol. It is generally interchangeable with terms such as broadband phone, IP telephony and voice over broadband. Transmission of a VoIP communication involves the following steps:
- Media channel and signal setup
- Digitization of analog signal
- Transmission of IP packets
The receiving side must then perform the above steps in reverse order.
The specific protocols that implement VoIP include open and proprietary protocols such as the following:
- Inter-Asterisk eXchange
- Jingle XMPP VoIP extensions
- Media Gateway Control Protocol
- Real-time Transport Protocol
- Session Description Protocol
- Session Initiation Protocol
The H.323 protocol is primarily used for long-distance network traffic while newer protocols such as SIP and MGCP are becoming more common for other VoIP applications.
A multiprotocol label switch network uses short-path labels to direct traffic from one network to another, as opposed to long network addresses. These labels indicate paths to the next node rather than the node itself. An MPLS network can support multiple networking technologies such as ATM, DSL, Frame Relay and T1/E1.MPLS local protection is a recovery mechanism that allows MPLS networks to run real-time applications such as VoIP, which requires a recovery time of less than 50 seconds.
A PBX system is an exchange for a private business, rather than a common exchange that a carrier uses for the general public. It makes connections between telephonic devices within the business such as telephones, faxes and modems. A business phone PBX system also connects these devices to a public switched telephone network through trunk lines.
The initial advantage of a PBX was that it reduced the cost of internal calls, since a PBX handles the circuit switching for these calls. PBXs also began offering additional services such as call forwarding, extension dialing and hunt groups when their popularity increased. The rapid growth of networks during the 1990s led to a greater need for packet-switched networks, especially given the increasing availability of the Internet as a communications system. This development led to the use of VoIP PBXs, which use VoIP to handle voice communication for a private organization.
A hosted PBX is a further development in PBX technology. This type of PBX is located at the telephone service provider, which also manages the PBX. It delivers all of its services through the Internet, allowing the customer to simply sign up for the desired services rather than maintaining the hardware that a PBX requires. A hosted PBX is most advantageous for small businesses that do not wish to expend resource that are outside its core competence.
An Internet fax uses the Internet instead of a telephone network to send a document fax. It encompasses a variety of specific methods such as the World Wide Web, email and VoIP. The primary advantage of Internet fax is that it dramatically reduces the cost of sending a fax since the Internet connection fee covers the entire cost of sending the fax. A document scanner converts the hard copy to Tagged Image File Format or Portable Document Format and transmits this data to the recipient machine via TCP/IP. The procedure for sending an Internet fax generally consists of placing the documents in a hopper, dialing the recipient’s phone number and pressing a button.
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