Choose the right voip solutionPublished on August 16, 2012 by tech in Telecoms Choosing the right VOIP Solution.Its All About the BandwidthThis may seem a weird thing to say, particularly if your reading this in the states or from other parts of the world, but when your choose the right VOIP solution bandwidth or available bandwidth is probably the most common mistake and misconception made by business owners in the UK. Its often completely overlooked, perhaps more worryingly it’s the most common cock up I see from telecom companies are still are not quite comfortable within passing voice over the net with TC/IP.
Broadband connections in the UK are great for surfing the net, for years we were satisfied with 2Mbps download and 512Kbps upload from our broadband connection, if you were on a business connection his would then be contended or “shared” with up to 20 other businesses. Within the last 4 to 5 years we saw the advent of ADSL max connections and more recently ADSL 2+ and Annex M type connections promising speeds of up to 24Mbps downloads and as much as 2.5Mbps upload, again this was shared with other businesses but surely these increased speeds are great for voice aren’t they?
Well you would think so wouldn’t you? But maybe not, firstly you need to consider the length of telephone cable between your business and your nearest exchange. The theoretical speed of broadband connections up to 2Km from an exchange is at full speed, so your paying for 8Mbps you get 8Mbps right? Possibly wrong, routers and ISP’s are clever, the routers during the first few days of a broadband connections life will measure the quality of the copper connection between it and the exchange, noise on the line from ageing copper, from water in the cables (the UK summer has caused mayhem for BT openreach the guys who maintain the copper network) from any number of other factors such as “did the last openreach guy in your little green box in the street slightly dislodge your cables whilst he was working on someone else’s problem?” causing your connection to be less than optimal.
All of these things impact on your broadband connections potential maximum speed. If your beyond 2Km from the exchange and please understand this is the length of cable from the exchange not as the crow flies then the speed drop off is significant, from experience I generally expect to see at best half theoretical speed at 2Km and this drops of gradually over distance out to approx. 5 to 6Km at these distances quality of the copper is a very big influencer.
A quick bit of maths for a sample business.
Sampler Ltd Pay for an ADSL 2+ 16Mbps service, they expect to get this down and up to 1Mbps up, so that’s all good then.
As a business they are going to share with up to 20 other businesses so say all the businesses they share with have their internet on that day.
16Mbps / 20 Businesses = 0.8Mps download
1Mbps / 20 Businesses = 50Kbps upload
This is what you could expect to receive if all the connections were at full utilisation and you were located on top of your telephone exchange so you’re not losing any speed because of distance. Now yes I know that no one is going to use the internet all the time and hog bandwidth, except perhaps when people are glued to the internet at work watching coverage of the Olympics from the BBC’s website! I jest but we helped a client last week with a VOIP problem which miraculously went away when we made them close down all of the IE sessions they had connected to the BBC website.
VOIP or Voice Over IP generally utilise 2 possible compression protocols G.729 & G711 the convention is generally G729 needs approximately 32Kbps and G711 approximately 74Kbps, notice I said approximately!
Now with VOIP upload speed is just and important as download speed and the nature of VOIP is that the data has to be delivered in a constant stream or you start getting echo on the call, one way audio, and or crackle or Metal Micky voice!
So going back to Sample Ltd, worst case they do not have enough bandwidth to support a single call at G711! This is a key mistake made by many telecoms companies.
From personal experience in an area with “reasonable” internet speed a broadband connection will support general internet use for 4 to 10 users and allow for 1 or 2 simultaneous calls at any one time, but this isn’t always the case. All of the factors listed above influence this. The choice you make on your networking equipment also has a major impact as to what you can do help improve this.
Poor bandwidth that will never properly support VOIP is the most common source of hassle for VOIP services, it makes up roughly 40% of the consultancy and support work it do with clients around VOIP solutions.
Help is at hand and what you can do to improve your chances of VOIP working?
Use decent equipment – sounds obvious but always always always look at buying a good business class router and preferably a good quality firewall to go with it. Without going into techie details, quality equipment allows your IT support or Network Support Company to give priority to Voice traffic on the network. This is vital and saves so much time and potential hassle at later date, it also allows you to have the potential of dealing with NAT/VOICE problems that can occur, I could do a whole article on NAT and VOICE but perhaps another time. Cheap routers really aimed at the home market or even many “cheap” business class routers do not have the capabilities to do quality of service and probably more importantly your limited in what you can and cannot configure. I would say that 40% of VOIP issues can be traced back to cheap equipment and or poorly configured equipment. Depending upon set up I would recommend paying £150 to £250 for a router and then perhaps have a hardware firewall sat behind the router but it does depend upon circumstance.Choose the right VOIP solution service provider – sounds obvious doesn’t it, but picking the right company to deliver your hosted VOIP solution is important. Many traditional Telecoms companies struggle with the concept of Voice over IP, TCP/IP and the internet is still a foreign language. There are I have to say some good companies out there who have made investments in getting their team of techies trained and have made the leap to VOIP provider successfully. IT companies in increasing amounts are getting into VOIP provision – they understand IP (well most of them do) and are often a good source for the smaller implementations. But make sure the provider that is stood behind the company are solid. Companies I have experience with are Voice Over IP Phone System Synergy VOIP or Inclarity, Voicehosts are all good companies Synergy particularly can offer on-site set-up support and consultancy, where as the others two are more remote hands but still good companies with solid foundation.Pick a good broadband provider – If your looking to push voice traffic over your internet connection I would recommend spending money on your broadband connection. From painful personal experience having witnessed this do not ever get a “really cheap” connection from one of the big boys, I am not going to name names in this article as it wouldn’t be fair but I am sure you can guess who I mean.
If your fortunate enough to be able to get FTTC (Affinity) type service from an ISP many of your problems disappear, distance from the exchange is still and issue but with up to 40Mbps download and 10Mbps upload many of the potential problems disappear, but please still spend money on routers, etc. a home hub, etc. isn’t really the solution.
In short hosted VOIP has many benefits to companies large and small, a well-planned and implemented VOIP solution, can add flexibility, potentially save on cost although I think this is less likely. What VOIP also often delivers is increased functionality. All I would advise is tread with caution, do a bit of research and for what a good consultant would charge for a few hours’ work, pay someone to help or advise on the best solution and what’s in reality is achievable prior to committing to a hosted VOIP solution. I have seen business brought to their knees for days on end without phone lines because their broadband connection was down (there is no SLA with a broadband connection that your paying £20 – £50 a month for)