Whether it’s a new start-up or an established enterprise looking for a communications upgrade, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is an attractive solution for voice calls and accessing a variety of features. VoIP phone service could offer an array of benefits, including minimal installation investment, access to advanced collaborative features, and the ability to support remote employees.
The quality of voice calls through VoIP phone service is heavily dependent on the network. Voice calls travel over the same connections as your data transmissions, so any slow traffic on the internet or low bandwidth has an impact on call quality. This may be due to constrained network equipment or the need to compete with other applications requiring bandwidth, such as email, web, file transfers, or video conferencing. It is critical that your network infrastructure is evaluated and prepared for VoIP phone service before implementation.
Once you’ve determined that VoIP is right for your communications upgrade, your first step is to prepare your network for deployment:
Assess your WAN (wide area network) connection. In order to achieve high-quality performance with VoIP phone service, you need the right amount of bandwidth. The bandwidth requirement depends on how many VoIP clients – or phones – you’ll need and the number of calls your employees will make at the same time. In addition to evaluating the maximum call volume, you’ll also need to add the other network applications that will demand part of your bandwidth. Use an online tool to run your network through some speed and performance tests.
Your provider will recommend the type of bandwidth needed to run your VoIP phone service. How much bandwidth you need will depend on several factors, and will result in connecting to either T1, fiber, or coax connections.
Examine network infrastructure and invest in replacements where necessary.
Speed isn’t everything when it comes to VoIP. You also need to prepare your network infrastructure so that you can avoid headaches later. Consider items like the age of your switch, or whether your network infrastructure is prepared for the gigabit era. Old equipment can hide problems that emerge through latency when you implement a solution like VoIP.
It’s unlikely many small businesses will have the budget to invest in a full infrastructure replacement, so consider upgrading items that play a big role in network performance. Your carrier will provide the router when it’s time to upgrade, but you may have to consider buying a new switch. In this instance, a third-party expert or technology partner can advise on the right solution.
Use a VLAN to segment VoIP traffic. When you have a variety of services running on a single network, performance of applications requiring more bandwidth can be negatively impacted. Using a virtual local area network (VLAN) allows you to prioritize data traffic according to their sensitivity to network delays so that performance and quality of service (QoS) are supported. A VLAN can eliminate worries about dropped calls, jitter or latency.
Access PoE+ for safe and efficient power. Power over Ethernet (PoE) was created to support VoIP devices and supply power to a device using the wire that also supports the voice call. It offers a simple solution for powering all PoE-enabled devices, and specifically VoIP phone systems.
Using PoE also makes installing wireless access points, phones, and IP cameras simpler, and it allows control over the power in the network through the switch. This streamlines VoIP phone rollout and prevents future issues.
Manufacturers also offer POE+ switches, which offer up to 30 watts per port, versus the 15.4 watts offered through PoE. This higher level of power allows you more options in your devices. Some phones will demand more power than others, such as those that include a video display.
To determine how much power you will require, look at the maximum power wattage of your phones and the minimum power budget on your switch. Your phone consumption will need to be lower than the switch budget. You might consider buying a bigger switch with more ports and a bigger PoE budget to make it easy to add devices in the future.
A few practical details: There are a few details that will enter into preparing your network, so before you get started with the above steps, consider the following:
- Which devices will your employees use to make calls? Determine whether they’ll use a desk phone or call through a computer.
- It seems obvious, but you’ll need to purchase Ethernet cables adequate for VoIP phone service performance.
- Test your firewalls. Contact a professional if you don’t have someone in-house that can distinguish between media and data traffic, and consider implementing software-defined firewalls, which are able to filter internal packets and data.
VoIP phone service offers many benefits to the enterprise, but you need to take the important first step of preparing your network. Contact us at Copper State Communications to learn more about successful implementation of VoIP phone service.