Moving voice traffic to data network has become a default implementation for businesses phone system in over then last ten years. But, even if there are a lot of easy-to-use solutions available made for small to midsize businesses, still you have to prepare your network for this type of data. Making this type of project successful means being aware of different major networking challenges which can spell the differentiation between clear conversations and abrupt hang-ups or unintelligible calling experiences. Sometimes, switching to VoIP may need a physical office rearrangement, a separate approach to use wireless networking or need to buy more Ethernet cables.
If you have in-house networking expertise, then you will be able to manage the majority of these issues on your own. But, if you do not know the difference between dial-up and Wi-Fi voice and data cabling services, well, then your provider will work with you in order to get you set up.
Assess your network infrastructure and replace outdated equipment.
Speed alone does not guarantee optimal results for VoIP services. The backbone of the network is significant, and the old network infrastructure can be a huge barrier to VoIP success. You need to know your network and ensure that it is prepared properly before cutover. If you do not have a solid hold on your network infrastructure, then you can risk dealing with problems down the road.
According to research a lot of SMBs use outdated networking equipment. Hence you have to be aware whether you switch is old or if your network infrastructure is gigabit ready. For instance, if the speed of your switch is not the only issue, then it is about reliability. Old networking equipment can have undetected issues which surface with latency dependent apps like VoIP business.
Most of the small businesses do not have the budget to replace their whole network infrastructure and you do not necessarily require it. In such a case, you have to consider upgrading to specific equipment which is key to the network performance such as the routing and switching gear. If you decide to replace and not skimp, then the low-quality equipment is underperforming, and they can cost you more in the long run and it can also degrade your call quality. Remember, the equipment plays a key role in the failure or success of your VoIP system deployment.
Determine what type of phone Calls You will be Making
Before getting into the specifics of networking, you will also need to determine the devices on which you will allow your employees to make VoIP phone calls. You can buy dedicated IP phones which allow employees to receive and make calls from their desk. Also, you can directly make VoIP calls from a computer without ever using an actual telephone. You can make VoIP calls from your smartphone as well through the same technique. You need to determine which of these endpoints you will be using instantly.
Pick a Power Supply
An easy way to make sure that you are getting power to your VoIP telephone line is by distributing power over Ethernet cables. PoE allows devices which are not plugged into AC sources to pull in juice from your internet. Businesses use PoE for the surveillance cameras, ceiling-mounted access points and even LED lights. If your ethernet switch does not allow for PoE then you can also order PoE injector, which is an extra power source which can be used with non-PoE switches.
This one is a no brainer, however, when you make the switch to the VoIP services, you will require enough ethernet cables to connect all your devices to the internet. In addition, you will have to buy the right ethernet cables. You should buy Cat 6 cables if you can as these can usually support 10-gigabit ethernet at 250 MHz for up to 328 feet. However, if you cannot afford to buy Cat 6 cables then you can buy the Cat 5e cables, which supports up to 100 MHz bandwidth. However, you should steer clear of Cat 3 cables since they can be a troubleshooting nightmare.
Doublecheck Your Router
You need to determine that your router has Packets Per-Second capability. This functionality offers traffic policing and shaping, which allows you to prioritize voice and video data on your network. You need to multiply the number of voice users at your business who will be on a voice and video call at any given moment and then you have to multiply that number by a number of five. That is how many Mbps of traffic your router should be capable of managing without any problem.
Manage Wireless Traffic with Access Point Handoff
The traditional Wi-Fi networks generally are a small managed system created for laptops and tablets and not just voice and video. Since there is a discrepancy, it is significant that you analyse your network to determine the number of simultaneous calls your wireless connection can manage. It is recommended to have managed Wi-Fi which supports access point (AP) handoff for when one network becomes overwhelmed. Also, it is suggested to have a system that is set for smaller packet size as well as an on-site or cloud-based controller which a manually control access points when needed.
Manage Internet Traffic with a Dedicated VLAN
Building your network through a dedicated Virtual Local Area Network allows you to have a better distribution of network traffic to make sure that voice and video calls do not get dropped when somebody starts to download a large file onto their desktop. If you dedicate your VLAN to phone and video traffic only then you will be able to isolate and manage the VoIP network traffic without needing to worry about the tertiary traffic.
Test Your Firewalls
If you do not have somebody in your company who can help you determining the difference between data and media traffic, then you will have to contact a professional. It is recommended to use software-defined firewalls, which are created to filter internal data packets and traffic instead of just data traffic.
Assess VPNs to Secure Your Calls
VoIP services are a long-time standard, and just like other mature technologies, security was not top of the mind when it was invented. One of the major security problems with the VoIP system is the underlying transport mechanism called the Session Initiated Protocol (SIP). Whilst there are several ways you can secure the SIP; one best way is to just encrypt the stream by running it via a virtual private network (VPN). Even though that is relatively easy for a single call, but it becomes complex quickly when you talk about several phone calls in a business setting. You have to spend time to evaluate VPN solutions from different providers who understand the needs of securing VoIP traffic and test those solutions under load to ensure you are not increasing your security at the cost of call quality.
Assess Your Network for Quality of Service and VLANs
When you start to run voice traffic over the data network then you will quickly realise that this traffic becomes real significant real fast. For instance, a few things destroy a successful scale call faster than having your sales pitch turned into a series of bleeps. Therefore, you have to protect all your voice traffic over your app traffic since the latter can withstand jitter, latency, and other network traffic issues much more resiliently compared what a voice experience can. Some of the great ways of protecting any traffic stream is via judicious use of VLANs and QoS (Quality of Service) capabilities. Both features depend on industry standard, but they get implemented differently based on which switch hardware and router your network uses. You just have to sit down with your IT employees and your internet phone service provider and figure out a short but detailed test of these features on your current network infrastructure and update or replace if necessary, before rolling out VoIP in production.
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