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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Skype, Masses & Corporates!!

(Via S+B)The most attractive new form of Internet telephony is also the most threatening to corporate security — for now.Unlike the growing number of VOIP networks offered by phone and cable companies, Skype is a peer-to-peer system. Skype is a "softphone" - a software-based telephone that uses a computer, cellphone, PDA, or any other equipment connected to the Web to deliver voice with simultaneous file transfer and instant messages over the Internet. This means that it creates ad hoc computer-to-computer links over the Internet whenever Skype users want to reach one another. With this approach, no central networks mediate or manage the connection. As Skype eliminates the middleman, calls between its users are free. The company generates revenue by selling services that allow subscribers to make calls to people who haven’t downloaded the software. Skype’s sound quality is better than typical telephone reception, primarily because it is not limited to the standard telephone transmission spectrum of 300 Hz to 3 kHz, a relatively narrow bandwidth. Since its debut, Skype has signed up 35 million users and, at any one time, well over 3 million people are logged into its network. With all of this, Skype would seem to be on a smooth trajectory, but that’s not quite the case. Most corporate IT and telecom managers are trying to avoid Skype at all costs.
Skype is an IT manager’s nightmare. For one thing, Skype encrypts all its traffic, which makes it impossible to monitor what employees are doing, sending, or saying when they use this communications tool. Skype doesn’t follow the path of most VOIP services. It enters the corporate network as an application embedded in a mobile device; it is activated whenever a user accesses the Internet from within the corporate network to make a call. In this way, Skype could open holes in a corporate firewall from the inside. The fear is that Skype users could expose corporate networks to hackers, viruses, and malicious software (“malware”), or shield the activities of malicious employees. For the immediate future, these conditions make it risky for most large companies to embrace or even consider adopting Skype. But with Skype, the Internet becomes their virtually cost-free private telephone-and-voicemail network, a feature-rich system for remote real-time collaboration. This will become even more obvious as Skype’s capabilities increase. Themost lasting influence of Skype will be that it will force management and IT executives to consider how to structure a network that exists both inside and outside the corporate firewall. To improve innovation and their own productivity, employees will gravitate to the most advanced collaboration and communications tools with the most reliable levels of quality, no matter what price is paid in weakened security. Companies will have the task of figuring out how to integrate new technologies like Skype into their businesses — and how to get the most out of them.

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