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How to Improve VoIP Quality
Many people believe that voice quality on VoIP is not quite as good as the good old PSTN. While that might have been true during the early days of deployment, we’ve learnt a lot about how to improve VoIP quality. In fact, most people would be surprised to know that the majority of their calls are routed through VoIP since most phone operators are upgrading their networks behind the scenes. Generally they don’t notice any difference at all!
Improving VoIP Quality
Nevertheless, getting consistent high quality audio on VoIP calls can be a hit or miss for many organizations. That is because VoIP quality depends on a number of factors and is affected by unexpected variables. Call quality can also vary depending on bandwidth usage/time of the day. However there are some best practices that a business can follow in order to improve VoIP quality and ensure that the communication system does not breakdown.
Since VoIP quality is affected by multiple factors, the first step is to make sure that all related metrics are measured continuously. Although many tools can be implemented even after deployment, it makes sense to think about them while testing or even designing the VoIP system. Some of the metrics that should be measured include jitter, lag, MOS, burst density and compression techniques, just to mention a few.
Understand How Metrics Work
It is not enough to measure the various VoIP metrics. Generally there are many ways and tools for each type of measurement. Different applications can show different results which throw light on a different facet of VoIP quality. Hence it is important to know how to interpret these values as well. Applications should be configured properly so that when a problem is flagged, you can be sure that it is due to an issue in the network rather than some bug within the application itself.
Know Your Network
Measuring various VoIP quality metrics is not just a matter of installing different tools and generating reports. Where, when and how to deploy them strategically requires a thorough understanding of VoIP traffic, the data network and business requirements. What type of tools you need will also be influenced by the kind of questions you wish to answer – do you need to find out what is causing unexpected spikes in bandwidth consumption or reduce lag? The more you know about the VoIP network, the better your results will be.
Implement Quality of Service
QoS should be properly configured on the network right from the beginning. Sometimes the person in charge of deployment may not have the technical knowledge to set up correctly or even be aware of QoS. Nevertheless it is an important tool in your arsenal when it comes to improving VoIP audio quality. When QoS is configured, voice packets are flagged so that they get priority at various network points. It ensures that voice calls are not slowed down by bottlenecks.Separate VoIP Data from Other Types
Although cost is often the inhibiting factor, it pays to have your VoIP traffic on a separate network. It might negate some of the savings that can be had when upgrading from analog business phone systems to VoIP but it will give a great boost to quality. Since voice packets do not have to jostle with other media types, it ensures a consistent data flow.
For organizations that are unable or unwilling to create a separate network for VoIP, it may be feasible to use VLANs to segregate user groups. Not only does this help with quality but also makes it easier to troubleshoot the network if any problems arise later on. Any breakdowns in quality can be pinpointed more accurately if VLANs are used, rather than trying to find the problem when thousands of users are registered on the network.
If you don’t know the acceptable thresholds for various metrics, it becomes difficult to define problems. You can think of this as the normal range of values that is considered acceptable VoIP quality. Baselining can help with establishing long-term VoIP trends that can be used for capacity planning, infrastructure upgrades etc.
Once a baseline or acceptable threshold has been established, most applications will allow you to set notifications when that level is reached. Often you can set up different notifications based on percentages such as when the bandwidth utilization is more than 80%, 90% and 110% etc. Many tools even come with automatic problem resolution so that common errors can easily be fixed without requiring human intervention. This frees up experts who can concentrate on bigger issues.
As you can see, ensuring VoIP quality is a science and not a mystery. When these best practices are followed and implemented correctly, it reduces the probability of issues occurring in the first place. Thus your organization spends less time in troubleshooting and more time enjoying the benefits of VoIP.
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