Even in the digital age, no communication channel has come close to telephony in its ability to connect businesses with customers and partners worldwide.
This means that clear, crisp, high-quality call termination is of vital importance to every business. With traditional telephony, this was almost entirely out of our hands – we just had to pick a provider and hope. With VoIP systems, however, businesses have far more control over the call termination quality.
This is because call quality over IP networks is the result of a far broader range of factors: the performance, connections and usage on your local network and IP connection can impact call quality to the same degree as the routing and service provided by an IP telephony provider.
Nothing is worse than an important client call being derailed by low-quality voice termination, so here are some tips to ensure that your VoIP system always delivers appropriate voice quality.
Ensure Performance on Your Network
The area over which you have perhaps the greatest control and which can also impact your call quality to a significant degree is your local network and your IP data connection.
VoIP traffic uses the same IP infrastructure as the rest of your network traffic. This means that high usage, low-quality connections, hardware failures and network congestion can negatively impact your VoIP call quality.
To start with, you need to ensure that your data connection has sufficient consistent bandwidth to cope with the quantity of internet traffic that your business produces: not just VoIP traffic, but all traffic. It is important to note that VoIP requires similar levels of upload and download bandwidth, meaning that a symmetrical connection will be important. Many broadband packages, even ‘business’ broadband, provide asymmetric
The connections on your network between the end user and the internet connection also matter. Ensure that all hardware components are functioning properly, with no major traffic bottlenecks. A minor hardware issue could easily cause packet loss or latency, resulting in an instantly noticeable delay or jitter during a VoIP call.
One important suggestion is to use high-quality wired connections whenever possible, rather than wireless connections. While modern wireless standards can provide high-quality connectivity, they are rather more susceptible to latency fluctuations and interference, which can be avoided almost entirely by using a wired connection.
If your businesses relies upon an IP telephony system in addition to a large number of other high traffic web applications, you may want to consider implementing some form of QoS or packet shaping solution on your network to prioritise VoIP traffic, or in extreme cases, it may be worth considering the installation of a secondary data connection dedicated to voice traffic.
Choose a Provider to Suit Your Usage
When you are certain that there are no factors inherent in your local network that may be causing call quality issues, you need to consider the service you receive from your provider and compare it to the way in which you use telephony.
Firstly, you will need a provider which actively monitors its network for issues and, ideally, one which backs its service with an appropriate Service Level Agreement (SLA). At a minimum, this should outline target quality, uptime and resolution times. You don’t want your business-critical communication being left to another party’s ‘best effort’ at provision.
Secondly, you will need to consider where, geographically, your communications take place: where are your key clients, customers, and partners?
Single providers rarely, if ever, have a worldwide infrastructure. As a result, they need to rely upon establishing partnerships in other regions in order to provide services. This means that a service provider which has been strongly established in a region will be able to offer a far higher quality service, in all likelihood at a more competitive price compared with that from a provider without a track record in the region in question.
Finally, you will want a provider which maintains multiple network routes to key destinations, to ensure that a single failure or area of congestion will not disrupt your communications.
Monitor, Maintain and Improve Your System
Like any IT system, VoIP networks are constantly changing at every level, with software, firmware, hardware, or infrastructure updates. This means that systems need to be constantly monitored so that issues can be identified and fixed before they become serious problems.
You should aim to deploy some form of traffic monitoring solution on your local network to ensure that there are no failures or bottlenecks and that your resource usage is not exceeding the bandwidth supplied to you. Too many simultaneous calls will still work, but the quality will degrade rapidly.
You should also monitor your provider’s network as best you can and keep track of the call quality you experience. Consistent issues, even minor ones, need to be flagged and must be taken seriously by your provider, or you may be forced to look elsewhere. IP telephony is, after all, a mission-critical technology.