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January 23, 2012

Humbug to Weigh in on Cloud Communications, Fraud Detection at ITEXPO

In just two years since its inception, Humbug Telecom Labs has taken on a pretty big problem –fraud detection in telecom networks. Founded in 2010, Humbug was created to serve as the standard for telecommunications traffic analysis and fraud detection.

Accordingly, in just a week, Humbug will take the mic at ITEXPO (News - Alert) East 2012 in Miami, Fla., taking place Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, for a session titled “What Cloud Means for Fraud Prevention.” The session, part of the Cloud Communications Expo at ITEXPO, will discuss real examples of telecom fraud and the steps businesses should take to protect themselves from fraudulent activity and hacking as they receive their communications services from cloud and hosted providers.

“Cloud computing has both been a blessing and a curse to the communications landscape,” Eric Klein, vice president of sales and marketing at Humbug and a speaker at the upcoming session, told TMCnet. “The advent of new cloud-based services, ranging from mobile apps to full hosted PBXs, has been a great boon to individuals and enterprises of all sizes. Unfortunately, with this kind of growth come growing pains.”

“The various system hacks from Sony’s game system to Amazon’s cloud system show us that security needs to move both into the cloud and the access network,” he added. “There are different inherent risks in both an on-premise solution and a hosted one. It is necessary to look at these risks and properly balance security and flexibility. Looking at the MegaUpload case is a good example; many people used the service for perfectly legal and legitimate reasons but now are unable to get to their data. Knowing what the risks are and how you can survive a loss of service are important parts of the new cloud landscape.”

With ITEXPO East just a few days away, Klein sat down with TMCnet to discuss cloud communications and where the industry is headed.

What are enterprises looking for from their communications providers and how can those providers leverage the cloud to deliver on those expectations?

Mostly it seems that enterprises are looking to get all of the new benefits of unified communications without having to install new hardware and hire new staff to manage it. Hosted solutions that use the cloud to provide these services, at a reasonable long term cost, will succeed. Those that don’t will disappear. Emphasizing the three-year cost of ownership vs. cost of using a hosted solution will help cloud companies get into the enterprises, then they need to be flexible by offering new and innovative features as soon as possible.

Cost savings is always the first thing mentioned when it comes to benefits of the cloud. Aside from cost, where is the value proposition in cloud communications?

The real benefits are in off-loading your non-core activities so you can concentrate on what your company does best.

That said, by using cloud-based protection service like Humbug along with your hosted PBX (News - Alert), you cannot only save on the cost of ownership of the systems, but also in the risk you take in exposure to things like telecom fraud without the need to add specialized staff to manage your telecom resources.

How has your own business benefitted from cloud-based communications?

Since Humbug is a cloud-based service looking to protect communications customers and ITSPs from fraud, the cloud defines us. By using the cloud, rather than a premises-based solution, Humbug is able to take a meta-level look at fraud and learn from each attack and thus help protect every other PBX connected to the service. Without the cloud, this would not be possible and we would be stuck in the world where companies don’t talk about fraud and the same attacks can be launched over-and-over again without a chance to prevent them.

Will the cloud serve to fragment the industry or strengthen existing ecosystems?

The simple answer is yes. For a while there will be fragmentation as new services and competition is out there trying to be the next greatest thing. Over time we will see the consolidation of the most used (not necessarily best) services. This kind of growth is natural in both the telecom and data world. Look at how there was once 1 Ma Bell, then there were five “baby bells,” and now we are back to an AT&T (News - Alert) that is even larger than the old company that was broken up. The same is true in search, and other technologies. In very short order the ecosystem will be better and stronger than ever.

Are cloud communications primarily an SMB service? How can enterprises benefit equally?

Cloud-based telephony can benefit both SMB and enterprise companies in different ways. SMBs are spared the expense of installing and maintaining a PBX while getting full unified communications capabilities. Enterprises can utilize the same solutions where one cloud telephony provider can service multiple locations, thus reducing the cost of installing and maintaining multiple PBXs while getting the additional benefits of location based extensions.

One of the greatest growth areas as a result of cloud is embedded multimodal communications in applications such as Skype and Facebook (News - Alert). What impact do third-party communications apps like these have on business communications providers?

Actually I have seen that Skype and Google Plus have had the biggest impact, while Facebook is having little direct impact on communications even with Skype. As a standalone service Skype is still the largest, and most disruptive service on the market. Google Plus Hangouts seem to be moving into that area in ways that Skype’s free product cannot. The ability to video conference with large numbers of people makes Hangouts the next great business tool, and we will have to see how Skype and the others respond.

These kinds of services will affect traditional voice conference calls, video conference calls and services and will accelerate the move to an all IP voice network. I expect these kinds of services, from free mobile VoIP apps to Hangouts, to be very disruptive to traditional communication services as they put more power into the hands of the users while making the pipes even dumber than before.

Can Microsoft make a splash with its promised integration of Window Phone (News - Alert) and Windows 8?

Microsoft is coming back into the game quite late and with a reputation of heavy hard to use devices. That said if they can come up with a good design they could take back their place in the top phone OS list. First to market gives a big advantage, but as Google has shown time and again, it does not prove who will be the big players later in the life cycle.

When will cloud make the on-premises PBX obsolete?

Not in the near future. Companies that have serious investments in hardware are never quick to give it up, at most they will integrate existing PBXs with cloud services. Then there are those who are late adopters and those who prefer to have control of their services. Both groups will use VoIP or other on-premise solutions for quite a while. 

Why is the Cloud Communications Expo a must-attend event?

Cloud Communications Expo shows the way to the future, and offers a chance to join the dialogue about how future will look. It is a place to come and learn about the state of the art, how to protect your company, and to catch a glimpse of what is coming next.

To find out more about Klein and Humbug, visit the company at ITEXPO East 2012. To be held Jan. 31- Feb. 3 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Fla.  ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Klein is speaking during “What Cloud Means for Fraud Prevention.”

Want to learn more about cloud communications? Then be sure to attend the Cloud Communications Expo, collocated with TMC’s ITEXPO East 2012 taking place Jan. 31-Feb. 3 2012, in Miami, FL. The Cloud Communications Expo will address the growing need of businesses to integrate and leverage cloud based communications applications, process enhancement techniques, and network based communications interfaces and architectures. For more information on registering for the Cloud Communications Expo click here.

Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO. Follow us on Twitter.


Carrie Schmelkin is a Web Editor for TMCnet. Previously, she worked as Assistant Editor at the New Canaan Advertiser, a 102-year-old weekly newspaper, covering news and enhancing the publication's social media initiatives. Carrie holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a bachelor's degree in English from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf
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