Unfortunately, several of DataComm’s newest (and most thankful) clients are those that have already tried to implement their own fully-hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system with very little understanding of how they work. Many vendors out there give the concept that a hosted IP phone system is just “plug-and-play” equipment, which in the end has resulted in frustrated small business owners that suffer from loss of business, productivity and ultimately higher costs because of IT consulting hours to set everything straight again.
The cost savings the client thought they would get with a “self-install” usually winds up costing them more. Let DataComm step in and help guide the way so it’s done the right way, the first time.
The Behind the Scenes of VoIP:
Most fully-hosted VoIP systems (the phone lines and the phone system all running over the Internet) or VoIP (just the call paths running over the Internet with an existing phone system onsite) issues come down to the QoS (aka Quality of Service) which monitors and manages the transmission of data packets over a network. Usually firewall devices on a network contain QoS technology, however sometimes they are incompatible with the high volume of traffic related to putting voice on a data network.\
So what types of issues can occur with VoIP?
To answer this question, we first must explain in more detail how voice data travels over the Internet. Data is sent over the Internet in piece or “packets.” These packets can sometimes be sent out of order or can even be lost in transmission. The different types of internet protocol traffic control are what happens as this data is sent. When these packets have issues related to their speed and/or sequence of delivery – that’s when we see latency, jitter and outright packet loss.
Latency Issues: The voice packets arrive late and cause issues such as choppy calls or an echo noise. Latency noticeable by the human ear occurs usually around 300 milliseconds, this is when you will notice the call quality has been affected.
- Identify all the microphones within devices in the room that may be creating a feedback loop. Try turning off all the microphones other than your VoIP device and see if there is improvement.
- Try moving to a soft phone as its codec (ability to compress/decompress data to enable faster transmission) may have a better echo canceller than an older model desktop device.
- Another solution is to adjust the TCP/IP protocol settings to designate traffic patterns and prioritization for voice. This is not a permanent solution as your usage will change over time.
- The best solution for bandwidth limitations that may cause latency is to look for an appropriate device that is specifically designed to prioritize VoIP data packets over the Internet. Your DataComm Plus Customer Advocate can recommend a device that will fit your system size and data usage based on a voice traffic study (often this testing has little or no cost to the customer).
Jitter Issues: VoIP packets arrive out of order due to varying delivery pathways and speeds. The packets are often mishandled due to inadequate amount of bandwidth or a lack of prioritization of voice data packets over other types of data packets as set by TCP/IP protocol. Symptoms issue include choppy calls, or the other party’s voice begins to sound like a computer-simulated voice.
- Investigate your bandwidth limitations and if possible add more bandwidth or routers to speed up you network.
- Try adding a voice-specific QoS or MPLS (Mutliprotocol Label Switching – data-carrying technique that directs data from one network node to the next based on shortest path labels).
- Make sure the routers you purchase/lease are designed to handle the amount of traffic you expect on your network with reasonable account for growth. Many routers or other equipment will note in the product specifications if it is designed to handle VoIP. For suggestions, please contact your Customer Advocate to help make sure you’re buying the right type of equipment for your network and voice technology.
Packet Loss Issues: Small amounts of voice data packets are lost and never find the appropriate path, causing parts of the conversation to be lost completely. Minor packet loss can be unnoticeable; however this threshold is very low for call quality. Common symptoms of packet loss are complete or partial dropped calls, computer-simulated voice, muffled voice and one-way audio. (Note: sometimes one-way audio is caused by other issues. If that is the only symptom, try disabling DHCP on the router or configure your router to enable port forwarding for private IP addresses.)
- Check with your ISP (Internet Service Provider) for quality/speed issues reported in your
area; going to the source is a great place to start. Your ISP should be able to provide you with testing or your service and speed to make sure there is no issue with the connection going into your building. Don’t jump at the first offer they give you to up your bandwidth right away or expensive build-out connectivity upgrades – there are other options for correcting packet loss before spending thousands of dollars on this type of upgrade.
- Check for network congestion. Most packet loss issues can be solved by prioritizing voice packets over other types of data in the network through a proper QoS device or adjustment of your traffic protocol settings based on the amount of voice vs. data traffic on your network.
- Check the age of the of the VoIP technology in use. Older model VoIP devices do not have the codecs of more modern devices. When an addition of QoS device and router settings changes as well as bandwidth increase cannot solve the issue, it might just be time to look at updating the desktop devices or moving to softphone/ mobile application options.
Long story short: there are many possible issues that can occur with VoIP due to improper configuration or connectivity and network limitations. Firewall settings will always be a good first place to start. Using the manufacturer’s recommended settings and hardware is also a golden rule and key standard.
Your technology should work for you, not against you. The last thing you want is to appear unprofessional for hanging up on a customer or not being able to understand them or vice versa. Let DataComm Plus help you create a positive user experience for you, your team and your customers.