To VoIP or Not To VoIP; That Is The Question

Leo Berz

For many of us, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become so much a part of our daily lives that we don’t even give it a second thought. However, for others, it’s still somewhat of a questionable service. While not all VoIP implementations and services are alike, the basic technology is ‘solid as a rock’ and in many ways, less susceptible to network problems than more traditional Time Division Multiplexing (TDM). This blog post will dispel some of the VoIP myths and offer guidance to help minimize potential pitfalls.

There are two basic types of VoIP services―Premise based and Network or Cloud based, just as there have been since the days of analog lines. For over 35 years, virtually all Private Branch Exchange (PBX)systems utilized digital switching as their core fabric, which pre-1990 was exclusively TDM, however, today it’s mostly VoIP. Given that most of our daily phone calls use VoIP technology, we can dispel two myths about the system upfront:

  1. VoIP is a very reliable technology
  2. VoIP is capable of delivering true toll quality voice (assuming it is properly configured)

MORE VOIP MYTHS

Computer crashes are a normal annoyance of modern life that we learn to live with; however, a telephone crash is unacceptable. Based on this fact you could say that telephone systems tend to be more reliable than computers, right? Wrong! All telephone switches for the past 40 plus years have been controlled by a computer, which dispels another myth that computers are not as reliable as telephone systems. Telephone systems (TDM or VoIP) are highly reliable as long as they use a reliable operating system, such as UNIX.

Another myth is that TDM calls are less likely to drop than those running VoIP. Since TDM utilizes circuit switching, any failure within the transmission path will cause the call to fail. VoIP on the other hand, utilizes Packet Switching so a failure on the transmission path will only result in the loss of some packets (which may go unnoticed).

Hosted services are not as reliable as having your own PBX. The choice of Premise or Network based services is strictly a financial and support decision having little to do with reliability. If you have a distributed workforce, a Cloud based solution might be your best choice. If the majority of your employees are located in a few main locations or campuses, you might want to consider your own system(s).

VOIP KEY POINTS

So now that we have covered a few of the most common myths, here are a few key points to ensure a positive VoIP experience.

  1. Regardless of whether your deployment model is Premise or Network based, you need to do your homework, as there are huge differences between offerings and the wrong choice can be very expensive, potentially leading to significant quality or integration issues.
  2. Be sure to properly engineer your environment for system redundancy and sufficient connectivity (with failover) to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and your internal data network.
  3. If voice quality and the ability to complete fax and/or modem calls are a big concern, you should not consider anything other than G.711 encoding, which is the same used for most TDM transmissions. Going to a lower bit rate will require less bandwidth.
  4. Make sure your cabling infrastructure, Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area NetworK (WAN) can handle the extra load and support Quality of Service (QOS), as VoIP can really put your network to the test. The best way to know is to have your network certified by a qualified network engineer.
  5. Invest in some VoIP troubleshooting and network performance tools or at the very least acquire some of the free shareware offerings so you can keep track of call quality and spot potential problems before they have significant impact.

Ecova’s Telecom Lifecycle Management team is available to answer your questions and help you create best practices to manage your telecom network.

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