The Case for Outsourcing

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WebCDR Data Collection

Total cost of ownership (TCO) should be considered carefully when determining your VoIP network's CDR collection strategy.

Proprietary CDR collection solutions for VoIP exist from many telecom vendors but they tend to be pricey and are often only sold as even-pricier turnkey solutions in hardware configurations that you may not want or need. Softswitches are even more complex and even more costly. The popular solution is RADIUS. So how much does RADIUS cost?

RADIUS is an open standard and RADIUS software is available free on the Internet from sources like freeradius.org. FreeRADIUS runs on the popular Linux operating system, is available from multiple sources, and is also free for the downloading. Add an inexpensive PC to the mix and you have a good, cheap RADIUS solution. Or do you?

As good as Linux is, it requires a competent system administrator -- particularly in a high-volume production environment like telecom -- to run reliably over extended periods of time. Good sysadmins are always in high demand and you can expect to pay handsomely for a full-time (or part-time) administrator to join your staff. Don't forget that your sysadmin will need to be on-call 24/7 in case your RADIUS server ever has trouble (trust us... eventually it will). It's getting expensive...

Your Linux/PC/FreeRADIUS server, even properly administrated, is going to require occasional maintenance (hopefully scheduled, though sometimes not!), so you should decide now if you are going to stop all traffic on your network during your maintenance windows or if your traffic is important enough to warrant a second parallel RADIUS server to step in when your first server is offline. Stopping traffic is usually not an option for even the smallest of carriers, and keeping the traffic flowing without a working RADIUS server to catch CDRs is tantamount to letting money gush down the drain, so we think you would opt for a second RADIUS server. It's getting complicated...

Your second RADIUS server has given you (and your grateful sysadmin) some breathing room, so let's turn our attention to other single points of failure. Without a reliable Internet connection even the best RADIUS strategy is useless, so skip right over DSL and order broadband from your ISP or data center. Broadband is reliable, isn't it? But is it reliable enough? How much would five minutes of missed CDRs or a halted network cost your company? How about five hours?? Better order a second Internet connection, preferably from a diverse source, as a fail-over. And don't forget the two routers you'll need, one per feed. It's getting more complicated...

So with your two independent Internet connections (we'll call them A and B) you can either connect A to router 1 and PC 1, and B to router 2 to PC 2 and hope that you don't have a system failure at the same time you have an Internet failure on that T1, or you can meld the two T1s together using a complex routing scheme called BGP4. But let's stop there as the implementation timeline is starting to stretch into many months; let's instead turn our attention to electricity.

If your two PCs are in the same location they are subject to the same power outages, acts of nature/terrorism and other catastrophic events. The typical battery-backed UPS will get you through the shorter outages (i.e. 30-60 minutes), but what about the longer ones? Does your facility have a diesel generator? Is it tested on a regular basis? Is there a fuel contract in place to ensure that it won't run out of gas after its first tank in the event of an area-wide disaster? That sounds really expensive...

And how about network security? Unless you're running your VoIP network on private lines (most VoIP traffic today runs on the public Internet) you will need your RADIUS servers to be visible from the public Internet to allow your deployed gateways to reach them. But that also opens the door to hackers who continually scan the public Internet looking for unsecured servers such as yours. Leaving your network unsecured and wide open to hackers would be an invitation to disaster so add in two firewalls and their ongoing administration as your network grows and evolves. It's getting more complicated...

Our hypothetical solution has come a long way from the "cheap PC with FreeRADIUS and Linux". That long way is directly measurable in terms of time and money. But we arrived here for a reason: VoIP CDR collection is a serious undertaking with real money on the line in every passing minute. We built WebCDR RADIUS so you wouldn't have to, because, as with our successful WebCDR Billing, we believe that outsourcing such IT- and infrastructure-intensive services offers clear and compelling benefits to carriers of all sizes.