Learn about Voice over IP - Part 4
In Part Four, the conclusion to the Voice Over IP Is Here series, let's explore some pitfalls and problems you need to be aware when moving to VoIP. Let's remember that the core advantage to voice over IP is that we are converting our voice conversations to data. Remember that data is just bits and bytes that can be sent somewhere and it just so happens that the internet was invented to do just that. Since the internet itself is free(sort of, but I will come back to this!) and we can use it to send data, then we are eliminating costs like long distance altogether.

When you convert your voice to data and then ship it out onto the internet this could create a problem. That is - How does the internet tell your voice data from other data? The answer is It can't - unless you tag it somehow. If all data looks the same, then all of the routers, switches, and servers that create the internet are going to treat that data in a first come first serve fashion. Which means if some guy in some other part of the country started downloading a file before your voice data came along then he gets priority. If your voice data doesn't get to the person you are talking to in a reasonable amount of time, then your conversation starts to have problems. I mean this in the sense that if you ask a question and don’t get a response for five seconds, the conversation becomes hard to have and your communication starts to break down and become difficult.

Why would this happen? Well as I said before your voice has been converted to data and all data looks the same. Unless you tag it as having priority it will be treated in the same way as all other data. This brings us to what is called QoS which stands for Quality of Service. Simply put it is a way to prioritize voice data by tagging it as such. With QoS turned on, all of the routers and switches that make up the internet should be able to prioritize your voice data and make sure it gets where it needs to go in a timely way. This brings us to the next possible pitfall.

Not all the routers and switches which make up the internet and the networks around the world have this ability. This is why you must be aware of the service providers you are using and whether or not they are utilizing QoS. Most providers will make you pay for QOS in one way or another. It might be good to mention that you can't just call up and say, "Hey turn on QoS for me," or "How much is it to turn on QoS?". Only certain types of connections have QoS available and you would need to talk to someone who can tell you what is available for your site or location. QoS can be achieved in different ways, but the most popular way the service providers use is a dedicated circuit to the places you want to be connected to. This is great for applications where you are connecting two or more satellite offices together using VoIP.

This is all fine and great within a single provider, but what happens when your voice traffic travels onto another provider's network? It inevitably will at some point and they have no incentive to prioritize your data while it is on their network. You didn't pay them. That could put you back at square one with low quality voice conversations. You could avoid getting QoS at all by just using the internet connection as is and not paying for QoS. Simply using the connection you have and taking the risk. Sometimes this works great. The application that this most comes into play for is the traveling company rep with a remote phone or the remote phones in executives home offices. Using myself as an example, I have a remote IP phone at home that uses my regular high speed internet. I don't pay for QoS and my phone works great! However you cannot be sure whether or not it will work well or be horribly useless when you are using the public internet - meaning no dedicated connection between you and your phone system. It is impossible to tell ahead of time which it will be for sure without in depth testing. Even things as simple as the time of day can impact the quality of data transfer.

With all of that said, most businesses utilizing VoIP are using it to connect their different office locations together through dedicated connections like point to point T1's and MPLS networks. This is where VoIP shines! When you are using dedicated connections that are utilizing QoS, such as point to point T1's or MPLS networks, VoIP works flawlessly! VoIP is a solid and dependable technology, but it has to have a solid network on which to work. As I have said before in part 1 of this series, getting a solid infrastructure has been a hurdle that is for the most part behind us! VoIP Is Here!

In conclusion, VoIP is a strong and cost effective technology. Although I have been talking about some pitfalls, as there are with any technology, it is well worth the investment. The cost savings can be phenomenal, not to mention the features and convenience that it can add. When you start adding the cost savings that accumulate because employees can easily transfer callers to remote offices and seamlessly communicate with customers, VoIP becomes a no-brainer. The costs of T1's and MPLS networks have come down and are now very affordable which means solid VoIP communication is easily achievable.


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Josh Cochran, RCDD

President of Diverse CTI, Josh has over 10 years of experience in telecommunications and IT services. An expert in the industry he is a Registered Communications Distribution Designer, a certification he has held with BICSI since 2004. Josh consults various national companies and speaks at several national events and conferences. Find out more about Josh.

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