Polycom Talks Endpoint Security: Military-Level Support for the Consumer
We speak to Polycom about their recent partnership with NATO
It’s easy to see that communication is in a state of transformation. The standard phone calls and emails between coworkers are gradually being replaced with video conversations, instant messaging and cloud-based VoIP. While all these new innovations offer next-level convenience and flexibility for the modern business, they also present a range of new security concerns to consider too.
When NATO, the European and North American military alliance, launched their headquarters in Brussels during 2017, they didn’t just settle for any standard communications strategy. The group worked with endpoint leaders, Polycom, to build a state of the art solution for their corporate boardrooms.
I caught up with Andrew Hug, the Area Sales VP for APAC and EMEA for Polycom, to discuss the rising concerns around security in the meeting room, and products like the Polycom RealPresence portfolio, which are helping to protect organisations like NATO.
How Crucial Is Security to Polycom Right Now?
Polycom is currently responsible for more than 20% of the world’s market for video conferencing – worth around $16 billion. Now that more people than ever before are talking about privacy, compliance, and security, I thought it was time to talk to Polycom about what kind of security issues they’re seeing. The whole concept of privacy and security is a rising concern for everyone, and Andrew told me that the concept of security is very broad for Polycom:
“It’s not just about people hacking in. It’s also about people overhearing conversations or seeing a video conference over someone’s shoulder. It’s about the security breadcrumbs you leave behind you wherever you go.”
Polycom believes that security means different things to different people, which is why they’re constantly striving to make sure that their products are addressing the latest issues. “We have a dedicated Polycom Security Office who are responsible for not just our own internal security, but the services we offer too. We apply the same rules and experiences to our services as we use to protect our own company. We even try to hack our components to make sure they’re secure.”
What was the Work with NATO Like for Polycom?
While all of Polycom’s customers want security and compliance from their products, NATO has to be one of the company’s most high-profile clients. In their conference rooms, NATO now uses a modified version of the RealPresence Centro station – a four-sided touchscreen unit with a periscope camera. Polycom rebuilt their security capabilities to meet NATOs standards for closed internal connections, implementing solutions across mobile and desktop devices alike.
“The work with NATO brought us into a particularly demanding environment, where you needed a certain level of clearance for everything. However, we also do a lot of work with Federal in the US. They have their own standards in place that are frequently adopted by NATO allies in particular areas.” Hug noted that offering the right support in the military environment is all about conforming to the compliance requirements and standards used in specific areas.
“The NATO guys take full responsibility for their own security. They also operate their own encryption solutions separately.”
Andrew acknowledged that the product offered to NATO is largely Polycom’s standard product, but he also drew attention to the fact that there are options to introduce different configurations into the mix that strengthen security. “We offer different levels of encryption, so customers can choose what sort of compliance they need to implement Some markets can’t have strong levels of encryption, which means that endpoint providers like us need to think carefully about the politics of the areas we operate in.”
According to Polycom, security and compliance are two significant concerns for the marketplace today. Hug said: “We think everyone should be concerned about security today and making sure that they ask the right questions. Choosing the right strategy for your company depends on the nature of your business and how many vulnerabilities you might have. For instance, if you run a food packing organisation, you might not be as concerned about eavesdropping as a business in the financial sector.”
For Polycom, accessing the right level of security in today’s transforming marketplace is all about developing policies that suit the specific needs of each customer. As security becomes increasingly complex, the end-points and solutions available become more complicated with them. It’s about finding the right balance between usability, and privacy.
What About Security in the Cloud?
Now that cloud has emerged as something of a holy grail for performance in enterprises today, I was keen to find out what Polycom thought about the move to a cloud environment. I asked Andrew whether the company was bringing the same military-level standards for high security to their public services.
“There are a lot of companies out there today who are wondering whether they can really trust the cloud. Polycom doesn’t deliver a conferencing service, but we know that our equipment forms a key component in the meeting experience, and there are a lot of service providers out there using our products. We provide the high levels of encryption that users need to make sure that everything in their network is safe.”
In terms of military functions and features, Andrew noted that high-level security is trickling down into the commercial world. However, he also acknowledged that it’s going to take time for companies to start seeing that next-level policy management in their own businesses. “If you take the standard bit encryption technology that we use today – that actually come from the military world. The high-level security that those organisations use does seep into the commercial environment – the question is how long will it take for those practices to filter down?”
Polycom believes that today’s companies are probably right to be worrying about the security of the cloud. However, Hug noted that if you have the right practices and policies in place, they’ll be in good shape to create a solid and encrypted connection within their business.
What’s Coming Next for Polycom?
Polycom might not have a meeting solution available for cloud services, but they do have special add-on services for meeting management and analytics. Additionally, the company has recently started to develop a new range of handsets, known as the “VVX” portfolio. These new devices are an attempt by the company to make sure that they’re moving forward in a way that’s consistently competitive.
“We think that our biggest competitive factor is the high quality of audio that we can offer – even with things like echo cancellation. The audio side of our business is a particularly strong space for Polycom – particularly in the open SIP area.”
Additionally, Polycom makes sure that their handsets are certified by vendors like Skype for Business and BroadSoft so that they can embrace any level of security that’s available for today’s companies. In the quest for both innovation, ease-of-use, and security, Polycom is on the quest to find the perfect balance for their customers.