Changing over to a Hosted VoIP solution will save your business money. This solution consists of three main components. These components are the Service Provider, the Wide Area Network (WAN) or connectivity better known as the bandwidth provider, and the network in your office known as the Local Area Network (LAN).
Each one of these components plays a critical role in creating a proper VoIP Solution. Any one of these components if not properly optimized will cause your solution to fail. Most often the blame goes to the Service Provider. However, the issue most often lies with the Bandwidth provider (the WAN) or the office network (the LAN).
Let’s dive into each of the three components.
The Service Provider: This is the company that provides the software being used and the voice minutes. The Service Provider determines the available feature set and system functionality.
Important questions to ask:
- Where is the Service Provider’s solution located? Is it located in a data center? I have seen solutions based in the basements of people's houses.Is the data center a VoIP specific data center?
- Is the data center optimized for VoIP? Most data centers are designed for data traffic and do not work well with VoIP.
- How does the Service Provider handle redundancy and is it geographically diverse?
- If your WAN or LAN fail, will the solution automatically reroute calls to cell phones or other devices? How do they reroute these calls? With a web interface?
- When you call into the Service Provider, do they answer your calls live?
- Does your Service Provider have a local technical support staff? There are times when the only way to fix a solution is to have a local onsite support call.
- Does the Service Provider proactively monitor your network?
- Does the Service Provider provide you with a managed router? This is extremely important in enabling VQ-QOS or better known as Voice Quality-Quality of Service.(VQ-QOS is actually a complete topic in itself)
- How long has the Service Provider been in business deploying business class VoIP solutions?
- Can they provide true voice grade end to end bandwidth solutions? Or do they only provide their service over a third party internet provider or ISP?
The WAN or Bandwidth provider: This is also known as the Internet Service Provider or ISP. In today's VoIP deployments most customers run with the BYOB being Bring Your Own Bandwidth. In such cases many of these Bandwidth providers will promise the moon and stars all for $1.95. The fact is, you get what you pay for when it comes to a VoIP solution. Some ISPs actually look for VoIP traffic and will disrupt that VoIP traffic. The low cost providers, including cable and DSL service, are over-subscribed. These providers have what I like to refer to as the bathtub effect, meaning only so much water can get through the drain when you want to empty the tub. The #1 Reason why VoIP solutions do not work well or fail is the Bandwidth provider.
In today’s market, the reality is it can truly be better for a client to upgrade to a more expensive ISP which offers better throughput and a Service Level Agreement (SLA). The service might seem to be slower but it actually is faster when speed tests have been performed. Important questions to ask:
- Does the ISP have clients on the specific BYOB service in your area and can you call them for a reference?
- What minimum service speed do you need so the service will actually support VoIP? You have to take into account everything that is running over the ISP.
- Does the provider offer a SLA or is it just best effort?
- How many times a year is the provider down? How long are the outages?
- What happens when the provider is down? Is there a back-up solution in place? The reality is ISP's will fail. How long is the average down time? What does your company do during the down time? What does it cost your business when your provider is down for an hour? Half day? A day? Two days? A week?
- How easy is it to migrate ISP's if you start having issues with your voice and other data services?
- What is your back-up plan? Can you use a 3G/4G service? Will your VoIP provider work over the 3G/4G network?
Your Network better known as the LAN: I have been amazed at what I have seen. I have seen switches placed under people's desks, cabling run across the carpeting, the use of multiple routers and weird wireless devices, and cables which have been spliced together. I have seen routers which do not work with VoIP deployed in a network and I have seen switches circa 2000 deployed. Typically an investment in the LAN is required prior to deploying a successful VoIP solution. Questions to consider include:
- Will the VoIP Provider deploy a 24x7 managed VoIP enabled router with pro-active intrusion detection? This is critical. This is the device which will give voice a priority in a BYOB environment.
- What is the make and model of your current switch? Does it support PoE? Think of the switch as your super highway. Will your super highway support the required traffic during rush hour?
- Are your internet cables in your office properly terminated to a patch panel?
- What is the condition of your Cat5/6 computer cabling and does it need to be upgraded? Think of the cabling as a road and is that road perfect and smooth? Or does it have a ton of pot holes? Everyone knows what pot holes do to a car.
- Do you have servers?
- Do employee's VPN into your network?
- Do you have a lot of cloud based services in use? This includes employee's streaming of video's and music? We have found that an entire internet connection can be choked-off by employees streaming music, videos etc.
There is a lot to consider when deploying a proper VoIP solution to maximize your profit margin as I have discussed above. The three main areas being the Service Provider, the Bandwidth or ISP (most customers use a BYOB model), and your on-site network or the LAN. All three of these need to be in working order prior to deploying a proper VoIP solution.
For additional information contact Open One Solutions, Inc. at 855-BIZ-VoIP (855-249-8647) or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.