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The importance of network performance when deploying hosted voice

The importance of network performance when deploying hosted voice

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Buying hosted voice is more than simply adding a new product to your IT estate. Unlike adding a new phone to your ISDN lines, hosted voice impacts and is impacted by your underlying network performance.

Changes made either way can have subtle or large effects on each other – and other applications within your network. Let’s look at the key reasons why network performance is so important when deploying hosted voice.

Voice performance mirrors network performance

As with any cloud application, hosted voice sits on top of - or forms part of - your network. This means that the power and performance of the application is drawn from your network. If your WAN connection is down, your hosted voice services must draw from an alternative source. If your network is slow, your hosted voice services will be impacted.

Backups can be provided in the form of secondary connections, but ultimately hosted voice requires a fully functional network behind it. Through poor network configuration or performance, symptoms like packet loss, jitter and latency arise.

Latency causes repeated speech in VoIP calls. High jitter means patchy and interrupted speech. Packet loss impacts the quality of your voice calls – if packets are lost during a call, the entire call is not delivered.

If a network is not performing at optimum levels, the voice performance will be degraded too.

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Bandwidth optimisation

If a network is configured to share bandwidth across all applications, your hosted voice service will suffer. When a connection is permitted to be used by all your internet services, there is a battle for bandwidth. Services and devices that demand high bandwidth can sap bandwidth that is required by other applications like hosted voice.

In the case of services like email, this is not a problem. If an inbox doesn’t sync automatically or an attachment doesn’t download instantly, your business communications continue. The delay is only a few seconds.

Hosted voice, however, is real time communication. If speech is not delivered in real time, like when impacted by jitter, latency or packet loss, the audio is no longer conversation-like. Callers experience a poor quality call and lose trust in their hosted voice equipment and applications.

When video is added, another dimension is complicated when network performance is poor, or bandwidth is shared. Speech may be audible, but the associated video could be out of sync, making the video capability redundant.

App prioritisation

To avoid bandwidth clashes, networks should apply app prioritisation. For services, like hosted voice, that require real-time communication, your network must be configured to give priority to voice traffic over other services like email and CRM.

Assigning a dedicated VLAN for voice, applying QoS (Quality of Service) and monitoring at both WAN and telephony levels will ensure a constant level of dedicated bandwidth available. Best practice networks are configured in this way to ensure each application served over the network performs at its potential.

The application of QoS prioritises specific application traffic – in this case, hosted voice - by slowing less important data packets. The higher rated packets then reach their destination as quickly as possible. It is important to note that QoS does not speed up an application. QoS works by giving priority to an application to move to the front of the queue. The service with the highest priority gets to pass through the router first, lowering the risk of delay. This is essential for real-time communications like hosted voice but can also be applied to business critical services that need to function at peak performance.

Audit equipment when deploying hosted voice

Running VoIP on your network requires a commercial grade router. If you have not deployed voice over your network in the past, you may need to upgrade or replace your router. Newer routers will have the capacity to support higher bandwidth and segregated applications like voice.

Auditing equipment should be a key part of your hosted voice readiness assessment. Even the best network configuration can be let down by legacy equipment. Older models of router may not be VoIP compatible. Three key questions to ask when assessing whether your equipment is ready for hosted voice include:

  1. How many VoIP devices will be connected to the router? The more devices connected, the more powerful the router needs to be. For a large number of handsets, or if you require a media gateway or PoE (Power over Ethernet) switch, you should be looking at a higher spec router.
  2. Does your hosted voice setup have its own internet connection? If it does, the QoS and app prioritisation requirements are less of an issue. Where a dedicated connection is not viable, routers must support QoS to prioritise voice traffic over regular traffic.
  3. Does your router run on a fixed or dynamic IP address? When using a fixed IP address, VoIP configurations must be specifically configured in line with your network restrictions.

If you are unsure on whether you need to upgrade your router, speak to your service provider before implementing hosted voice.

Security

Routers and firewalls stop unwanted and uncommon traffic being passed through your network. If you have not deployed hosted voice over your network in the past, your network will likely be blocking voice traffic. This means users of handsets and soft phones will be unable to make calls. Adjust your network and security settings to allow the new voice traffic.

When planning your hosted voice deployment, it is important to assess what devices and software will need to be allowed on your network. Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company commonly states, “It is critical to understand how enterprise applications will interact with the PBX/IP telephony.”

When deploying hosted voice, your network performance is more critical than ever. Introducing real-time communications over your network makes your network a more crucial component of your business than it ever has been.

To discuss what changes you may need to make to your network when deploying hosted voice, speak to one of our network specialists today.

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 Editor's notes: Last updated on March 28, 2019

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