What are the best VoIP practices for businesses today? Voice over Internet Protocol, more commonly known as VoIP, is a technology that allows multimedia communication over IP networks. The standard choice for businesses today, there are many benefits to be gained from a switch to VoIP telecommunications including:
- Lower cost
- Advanced features
This list encompasses only a few of the advantages that VoIP offers over legacy technologies. The following VoIP best practices will help to ensure that you enjoy high-quality VoIP services on your network.
A network is comprised of a multitude of devices from different manufacturers. To make sure that the VoIP system functions as desired, you must make sure that the selected VoIP system is interoperable i.e. can work with your network devices.
You must also ensure that your network will work with your selected VoIP service provider. You may need to change some devices or upgrade firmware, but this exercise will prevent any late – and potentially costly – surprises.
Implement Network Management
Network management tools give insight into network behavior and performance. Rather than reacting to problems, you can use powerful network monitoring and management tools to monitor traffic patterns, bandwidth utilization, jitter, latency, packet loss, and other factors that could affect VoIP performance. With insight, you can implement bandwidth upgrades if required and take all manner of proactive measures to prevent problems before they occur.
Select a Top-Notch VoIP Service Provider
There are many providers of VoIP services. But as is the case with providers of any kind of service, the level and quality of service will vary. You might be tempted to go for the provider that offers the lowest rates only to learn later that the service does not meet your expectations.
The best way to go about doing this is to first know your requirements then tp conduct a detailed survey of all service providers. You will need to take into consideration the following relevant criteria:
- Range of services
- Customer support
- Ease of integration
You can also discuss with industry peers to help you develop a reality-based assessment of the service provider landscape. In addition to making an informed decision, having the right migration strategy is also critical for ensuring that you get the high-quality VoIP service that you desire.
Have Backup Service Providers
Service providers can be affected by numerous events including natural or man-made disasters, malicious cyber-attacks, human error, hardware failure, and more. Because the Internet does not implement QoS end-to-end and also does not provide bandwidth guarantees, it is actually best to have a private network for VoIP. However, operating a private network with global reach can be quite expensive. That is why most organizations favor the use of the Internet for VoIP connectivity. It is also possible that you are using the services of a cloud-based VoIP provider in which case you will be using the Internet anyway.
Since your VoIP services are critical for your business, it is best to implement two types of backups:
Since your VoIP provider is accessible through your ISP, the failure of your ISP connection will also affect VoIP services. Therefore, having a backup Internet connection will ensure that your VoIP services are unaffected if any single Internet connection fails. When both connections are working, you can dedicate one Internet connection for voice and the other for data. If one of the connections fails, then both data and voice can be carried over the working connection.
VoIP service provider
Having two VoIP providers also helps to ensure continuity of communication services in the event of a single service provider being affected for any reason.
Provision Sufficient Bandwidth
A VoIP codec determines the audio quality, bandwidth, and compression of VoIP calls. The bandwidth requirement of a single VoIP call depends on the codec that you configure on your network. The total VoIP bandwidth requirement of your business will depend on the total number of concurrent voice calls.
Real-time traffic such as voice is especially vulnerable to bandwidth fluctuations, jitter, and packet loss. Therefore, it is critical to provision more than the minimum required bandwidth. This is the only way to ensure that your users will be able to make high-quality VoIP calls. You should also perform periodic testing under load conditions to verify whether the call quality is satisfactory or whether remedial measures are required to improve it.
Use Good Network Hardware
Using good network hardware doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use the most expensive hardware. But it does mean that it’s advisable to not go for the cheapest option as it will be made from cheaper and/or lower-quality components that could fail or at least perform unreliably.
There are many manufactures of VoIP hardware and going with reputable vendors means that you also get good customer support, better and comprehensive documentation, and firmware upgrades that eliminate bugs and deliver better performance.
Use Wired Connections
Wi-Fi has many advantages and allows a great deal of flexibility for users. However, it is not as reliable as a wired Ethernet connection. This is because the signal level keeps fluctuating. Having multiple Wi-Fi routers close by can also lead to interference.
Real-time traffic such as voice is especially vulnerable to bandwidth fluctuations, jitter, and packet loss. Therefore, it is best to use wired Ethernet connections for VoIP devices. Ethernet cables can get damaged, but this is not something that happens often.
Use Power over Ethernet (PoE)
If you use wired Ethernet connections, then using PoE-enabled network switches will help to eliminate having to provide a separate power connection for the VoIP phones. In this way, you can get VoIP phones without the power adapter which lowers the cost of the phones. This then helps to offset the higher cost of PoE switches. The major advantage is a simpler network that will be easier to manage.
One thing to note is that VoIP phones are often daisy-chained with laptops and desktop devices. This is done because VoIP phones are often added sometime after a network deployment has been completed. A network point that was provisioned for a single laptop or desktop computer is now required to handle the computer and a VoIP phone. Designers developed a workaround to this problem by incorporating a two-port switch into VoIP phones. The network point connects to the VoIP phone which in turn is connected to the PC. The problem with using PoE is that a power outage to the phone will affect network connectivity for the connected computer or laptop.
Use Separate Networks for Voice and Data
Voice traffic is real-time traffic that requires very low packet loss, low latency, and low jitter. If a single network is used for both voice and data, then bandwidth sharing can lead to increased packet drops, high latency, and high jitter.
For best VoIP call quality, it is recommended to have separate networks for data and voice traffic. This separation can be done through the implementation of Virtual LANs or VLANs. Not only will the performance improve, but the separate VoIP network will also be easier to monitor and manage.
Implement Quality of Service (QoS)
Modern networks carry various types of traffic including non-real-time traffic such as data and real-time such as voice and video. QoS is a technology that allows different priorities to be assigned to different types of network traffic.
As an analogy, think of the lane on roads that is reserved for ambulances. Its purpose is to ensure that ambulances can pass without getting delayed or being hindered in any way. Similarly, implementing QoS for voice will ensure that voice packets will get priority over other types of traffic and will not suffer from high jitter, latency, or packet loss.
One thing to note is that QoS should be implemented end-to-end. This means it must be activated on all devices that carry voice; otherwise, the desired benefit will not accrue. This means that QoS should not only be implemented within your own network but also on the networks that deliver services to you such as ISPs and cloud-service providers. Therefore, it is also important to check with your ISP to ensure that they implement prioritization for voice.
Implement VoIP Security
Just as with any other network-related service, security is also critical for your VoIP services. Some of the elements of a comprehensive security strategy include:
- Credential management policy for ensuring secure passwords and Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
- Updating phone firmware with updated security patches
- Use of a router with a firewall or a dedicated security appliance for Internet connectivity
- Use of encryption for VoIP services for security enhancement
- Educating users about effective security practices
Implement Firmware Updates
Network devices, like computers, are a combination of hardware and software. The hardware is used by the software for performing any number of desired functions. If the software, called firmware, is buggy or is not optimized, then the performance will suffer. It is even possible that the network devices could perform in unexpected ways. That is why device manufacturers release firmware upgrades: to enable new features and to eliminate bugs.
At times, firmware upgrades are released that contain updated security patches for new threats or vulnerabilities. Therefore, to ensure that you get the best performance and eliminate software bugs, you should implement a policy of periodic firmware upgrades for all your network devices.
To summarize, knowing your requirements, designing and implementing a VoIP network that fulfills your requirements, then following the recommended best practices will help to deliver the high-quality VoIP services that you want and need. We’ve been selling VoIP and office phone services throughout New Jersey and the entire country for years. Click here to get your free quote!