Voice over IP is secure and reliable enough for businesses to use in the corporate environment, according to UK IT bosses.

While the benefits of VoIP are clear, in terms of cheaper calls and extra functionality for phone systems, there are also security risks in the form of denial of service attacks, spam, hacking and eavesdropping.

But two-thirds of silicon.com’s 12-man CIO Jury IT user panel this week said VoIP is secure enough for the enterprise.

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British Airways

Gloucestershire Constabulary has implemented VoIP in its new corporate HQ building and training centre, representing about a quarter of the police force’s total telephone extensions.

John Shepherd, IT director for Gloucestershire Constabulary, said: “It is our strategic intention to use it in all new sites, and at existing sites when their present analogue switches require replacing.”

But Shepherd added that VoIP isn’t yet considered reliable enough for the 999 emergency call centre, which will still use analogue telephony for the foreseeable future.

Graham Yellowley, director of technology services at investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, said that while VoIP isn’t yet mature it is reliable enough for enterprise telecoms.

He said: “Lower cost of calls is always attractive but the main driver is a single point which can consolidate email, voicemail and faxes in one place accessible by one device. In this world where work/life balance is out of kilter for most people a single communications point is beneficial – though it also means that there is no escape from work.”

Neil Bath, IT director at Brewin Dolphin Securities, said the main concern to date has been the use of a single network for voice and data – the ‘all the eggs in one basket’ approach.

He said: “But I think the technology is robust enough now to take that risk and balance against the savings of a single network. To some extent the argument is irrelevant: the market seems to have decided to go VoIP. BT’s 21 Century Network based around IP is already being rolled out to replace their existing ones, so best to get some experience fairly early on and learn about the pitfalls sooner than later, and take the necessary precautions.”

Richard Steel, CIO at the London Borough of Newham – which is now rolling out wireless VoIP – said: “It’s as secure as any other voice technology.”

But Mark Beattie, head of IT at LondonWaste, expressed concern over the security of VoIP networks. “Vulnerability seems to have suddenly become accepted with VoIP,” he said.

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Neil Bath, IT director, Brewin Dolphin Securities
Mark Beattie, head of IT, LondonWaste
Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
Peter Birley, IT director, Browne Jacobson
James Findlay, head of ICT, Maritime & Coastguard Agency
Nick Masterson-Jones, director of IT, Voca
Rob Neil, head of ICT and customer services, Ashford Borough Council
Steve Noyes, operations director, The Met Office
Jacques Rene, CTO, Ascend Aerospace
John Shepherd, head of IS, Gloucestershire Constabulary
Richard Steel, CIO, London Borough of Newham
Graham Yellowley, director of technology services, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

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