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VoIP Phone Service and Cloud Phone System Evaluation Checklist

Posted by Gregg Haughton on Jan 4, 2013 1:32:00 PM

We salesfolks get a pretty good idea what trends are evolving from our meetings with business and technology leaders every day. Today, most people I meet are evaluating VoIP or cloud phone service. Cloud phone service certainly offers many benefits, and can be good way to lower costs, and increase flexibility, but it does not come without pitfalls. The following checklist can help guide your evaluation:

1) Is there a real cost savings? On paper, the switch to VoIP phone sevice may look attractive. The actual cost may be vastly understated. Make sure the money evaluation includes the all the components such as:
  • IT - You may need to upgrade your data infastructure to support voice traffic. Do you have the appropriate switches and routers? Most IP Phones require power over Ethernet (PoE). How much will it cost to add PoE to your network?
  • Cabling - Are there data cables where they are needed? Is the IT closet any where near the phone equipment closet?
  • Bandwidth - Many VoIP providers assume your bandwidth is adequate for the increased traffic. Some providers require that you have a dedicated internet service for their service. What is the cost of adding bandwidth? If the carrier does not test your internet service before recommending VoIP, you should be concerned.
  • Paging - Most installed business phone systems support paging thru the phones. Many Cloud Phone Systems do not. Will you have to install an overhead paging system if you install a cloud phone system. 
  • Faxing - Most VoIP carriers don't have a good way to handle fax traffic. Make sure the cost of a dedicated fax line is considered if the carrier can't handle fax.

2) What is your tolerance for downtime and dropped calls? Unlike dedicated services like analog phone lines or digital T1's, VoIP that has been delivered over your internet circuit is subject to all the variances of internet services. Events such as denial of service attacks, viruses, or regional disturbances can take your service down. Most internet service is delivered by "best effort" level of service without specific service level agreements. If the outage is regional, you will be returned to service when they can get to you. You should consider the risk of potentially less reliable services vs. the savings.

3) Am I under a contract? Most carriers have you sign a contract for the sevices you use. Most also have fairly steep termination liabilities. Does the cost savings outweigh the termination liability?

4) Is the cutover disruption worth the saving? It often seems that nothing in telecom is ever smooth or easy. Although number portability is the law of the land, there are still many circumstances where keeping your numbers is difficult if not impossible. I have witnessed cutovers that take 5 minutes, and some that take 5 days. Once initiated, it's almost impossible to turn back. You should have a plan for the conversion, and a stand by plan of it goes poorly. Will the saving and increased flexibility outweigh the hassle of converting systems? 

Cloud Phone Service is here to stay and can be a valuable busienss tool and great way to lower costs. However, the decision to adopt VoIP should include doing the same due dilligence that any other critical business decision requires. If you'd like to chat about VoIP or have any questions, please:

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Cable Requirements for a Cloud Phone System

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Topics: VoIP Phones, IP Phones, VoIP Phone Service, VoIP Telephone Service, IP Phone Service

Can Voice Traffic over Open Internet Provide Toll Quality Voice?

Posted by Gregg Haughton on Feb 7, 2012 4:53:00 PM

This has come up several times over the past few weeks. We run into hosted providers telling our customers that they can provide telephone service over their existing internet connections. While there are many good hosted phone providers, there are many who are using price as their lead and making bad suggestions.

This is an article I copied from 

QoS Over The Internet – Is it possible? Five Must-Know Facts— I had an inquiry from a potential customer yesterday asking if we could monitor their QoS. I was a bit miffed as to what to tell them. At first, the question struck me as if they’d asked if we can monitor electrons on their power grid. In other words, it was a legitimate question in a sense, but of what use would it be to monitor QoS? I then asked him why he had implemented QoS in the first place. How did he know he needed it? After inquiring a bit deeper, I also found out this customer was using extensive VPNs to remote offices over DSL internet circuits. His WAN traffic from the remote offices was sharing links with regular Internet data traffic, and all of it was traversing the public Internet. Then it hit me – he did not realize his QoS mechanisms were useless outside of his internal network. Where there is one customer with confusion there are usually others. Hence, I’ve put together a quick fact sheet on QoS over an internet link. Below, you’ll find five quick facts that should help clarify QoS and answer the primary question of it’s possible over the Internet.

Fact #1 If your QoS mechanism involves modifying packets with special instructions (ToS bits) on how it should be treated, it will only work on links where you control both ends of the circuit and everything in between.

Fact #2 Most Internet congestion is caused by incoming traffic. For data originating at your facility, you can certainly have your local router give priority to it on its way out, but you can’t set QoS bits on traffic coming into your network (We assume from a third party). Regulating outgoing traffic with ToS bits will not have any effect on incoming traffic.

Fact #3 Your public Internet provider will not treat ToS bits with any form of priority (The exception would be a contracted MPLS type network). Yes, they could, but if they did then everybody would game the system to get an advantage and they would not have much meaning anyway.

Fact #4 The next two facts address our initial question — Is QoS over the Internet possible? The answer is, yes, QoS on an Internet link is possible. We have spent the better part of seven years practicing this art form and it is not rocket science, but it does require a philosophical shift in thinking to get your arms around. We call it “equalizing,” or behavior-based shaping, and it involves monitoring incoming and outgoing streams on your Internet link. Priority or QoS is nothing more than favoring one stream’s packets over another stream’s. You can accomplish priority QoS on incoming streams by queuing (slowing down) one stream over another without relying on ToS bits.

Fact #5 Surprisingly, behavior-based methods can provide some level of QoS for VoIP on the public Internet. Although you can’t tell the Internet to send your VoIP packets faster, most people don’t realize the problem with congested VoIP is due to the fact that their VoIP packets are getting crowded out by large downloads. Often, the offending downloads are initiated by their own employees or users. A good behavior-based shaper will be able to favor VoIP streams over less essential data streams without any reliance on the sending party adhering to a QoS scheme.

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So, if you are speaking with a service provider and they are suggesting VoIP service, copy this article and ask what approach they are taking to make sure your calls are clear. It could save much pain.

Gregg Haughton

 

 

 

 

Topics: VoIP Phone Calls, VoIP Phones, IP Phones, VoIP Phone Service

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