Not Your Old Call Accounting
Over the past years, the Call Accounting marketplace has dramatically shifted. As with all things telephony, the introduction of VoIP and SIP changed the landscape. When selecting a Call Accounting system, it is important that you select a system that can not only handle, but take advantage of the new landscape. In this blog post, we will look at some of the trends shaping the industry.
In the old days, you had one or more PBX’s spitting out Call Detail Records (CDR), usually over a serial cable. The call accounting system collected the data and produced reports. In today’s SIP environment, things get much more complicated. When choosing a call accounting system, it is critical that your vendor understands the complexities. The “how” and “where” of CDR collection has become much more complicated.
While you still want to collect from the centralized phone system, you also need to look at collecting from other devices. Often times, the main phone system (Cisco Unified Communications Manager or Lync, for example) has no visibility into how calls were routed. Instead, a session management layer handles all call routing. Thus, it is critical that your software has the ability to collect from Session Border Controllers (SBC) from vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, Sonus, or Oracle Acme Packet. By collecting from both the phone system and the SBC, your system can get a full view of the call path from start to finish. It is important, however, that your system has the ability to link the record from the phone system to the record from the SBC. By linking the two, you prevent duplicates and receive a true end-to-end view of the call.
In the new SIP world, the actual individual phone calls (especially domestic) become less a driver of costs than in the past. Instead, two drivers of cost are the network bandwidth needed to carry on-net calls and the SIP circuits needed to carry calls to the PSTN. It is very important that your call accounting system has the ability to “right size” both of these connections. If you don’t have enough bandwidth to carry calls, traffic either is blocked or takes a more expensive route. If you have too much, you are wasting money. SIP trunks have the same issues; too few results in blocked calls while too many result in wasted money.
Your call accounting system should have the ability to determine how much bandwidth is needed to carry on-net calling and also determine how many SIP circuits are needed to carry PSTN traffic. You are not collecting all that data just to have it – you want your system to provide answers to real business questions.
The Decreased Importance of Voice Calls
As you can see from the graph above, the growth rate of international calling is dramatically slowing. Additionally, while TDM calling remains relatively flat, VoIP calling (from services such as Skype) continues to increase. As the non-TDM calling continues to increase, the importance of reporting on these items increases as well.
Your call accounting system should have the ability to report on the non-traditional phone calls. For example, in a Cisco environment, a significant amount of traffic comes from on-net voice or video calls using Jabber. With federation, calls outside the enterprise also bypass the TDM network as well. In a Microsoft Lync environment, calls are carried by the Lync client both inside and outside the network. With federation to other companies via Lync, or to the entire world via Skype, fewer and fewer calls actually touch the PSTN. Your call accounting system must capture these calls, report on the method used to carry them, and also report on the modality (voice, video, etc.) used. If your system misses these interactions, you only get a partial view of what is happening.
The Rise of Cloud Computing
“If someone asks me what cloud computing is, I try not to get bogged down with definitions. I tell them that, simply put, cloud computing is a better way to run your business.”
Marc Benioff, Founder of Salesforce.com
There are very few industries not touched by the move to cloud computing. Call Accounting has moved to cloud computing as well. By running your call accounting system in the cloud, you can achieve a number of key advantages including:
- Reduced costs by moving to a consumption versus a Capex model
- Reduction in resources allows you to focus on results rather than administration
- Elimination of the need to administer servers, networks, and other items to run your call accounting system
- Ability to receive expert advice on an ongoing basis
The benefits of moving your call accounting system to the cloud are many. The risks are there too. Make sure you choose a vendor who has experience in cloud based systems. Make sure they have the security infrastructure to protect your key data and make sure they really understand the implications of moving the application to the cloud.
When selecting a call accounting system, it is critical that you choose a vendor that understands the industry. It is critical to find a vendor who invests the resources necessary to keep up with the rapid changes in the landscape.