There's no doubt that the global economy has changed dramatically in the last century and a half - due in large part to the invention of the telephone and voice communication. But let's narrow things down a little more and look at (arguably) the most innovative breakthrough since the world's first phone call - Voice over Internet Protocol - or VoIP. The term refers to the ability to make phone calls via the internet rather than through a regular landline or mobile network.
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What is voice monitoring for VoIP?
A VoIP system takes analogue voice signals and converts them into digital signals, then sends them as data packets over your Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), or the internet.
There are pros and cons to using VoIP. The main advantage being cost. VoIP is a lot cheaper than regular landlines, and in some cases, it can be completely free. One of the main challenges is call quality. VoIP monitoring directly addresses issues related to quality. We'll take a look at the main advantages and challenges later, but any business using VoIP as a pivotal part of their unified communications network needs to ensure that they have performance management systems for VoIP monitoring and troubleshooting in place.
While VoIP is an essential component of enterprise communications, calls through VoIP can be difficult to manage and troubleshoot. Packet loss, jitter and VoIP latency are the three elements that most influence call quality. Legacy VoIP monitoring systems rely on Call Detail Records (CDRs), and at best, packet capture will only highlight issues after something has already gone wrong. This reactive approach also provides little or no visibility across multiple networks. Legacy VoIP monitoring software struggles even more as enterprises migrate to cloud-based UC solutions. VoIP data packets are especially susceptible to underlying network conditions that most VoIP monitoring software can't detect.
Third party monitoring provides visibility into your VoIP network performance, server issues, VoIP quality, traffic, end user devices and much more. It gives you a complete end-to-end view of your entire VoIP network from one clear window so that you can use the available metrics for proactive problem resolution.
The benefits of IP telephony
As we've already established, IP telephony is a way of making phone calls entirely over the Internet. VoIP and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) have changed the way enterprise - and the business world in general - communicates. SIP is a communications protocol used for most types of VoIP deployments. SIP enhances VoIP and turns it into a multimedia communications experience, allowing video calls, text or the sending of files. Without SIP, VoIP is a voice-only internet phone service. The complexities of network monitoring when you add SIP enhanced VoIP to your UC platform increase, but most businesses today rely on video as well as voice call technology. So let's take a more in-depth look at the main benefits of VoIP, which will help highlight the need for monitoring and troubleshooting your UC network.
Any business or large enterprise will view the cost savings as the primary driver towards any IP based telephony solution. Traditional telephone landlines charge for call time, but with IP telephony, costs are down to the monthly charges from service providers, so VoIP call technology allows businesses to do away with costly multiple phone lines and crippling long-distance call costs. An IP network could be a direct connection to either a phone service provider or an existing internet connection (or a combination of both). An additional benefit is the reduced costs associated with the hardware and software products, services and devices. Most IP technology providers will support customers with the most up-to-date products, eliminating the need for huge capital outlay.
2.Conferencing made easy
Conferences are part and parcel of enterprise. Traditional phone systems do allow for conferencing, but the costs can be enormous, with businesses paying for an additional service, additional costs for long-distance calling, plus hosting multiple callers. With a VoIP call, distance or location, and the number of attendees doesn't matter as it's all built into the already low cost. With SIP enhanced VoIP, video conferencing allows the transfer of various media formats like images, video and text, which wouldn't be possible with simple traditional telephony.
3.More efficient unified communication
Remote working is now the way forward for many businesses, so staying connected to employees, colleagues, clients and customers is crucial. An important feature of IP telephony is call forwarding, which can send a VoIP call to one device, and keep rerouting it to alternative devices if it goes unanswered. This alleviates the the need to keep checking voicemail, or sending emails to stay in touch. A VoIP number is also completely portable.
4.Simplified installation, scalability & integration
IP based phones are easier than traditional telephone lines to add to your network as they're generally plug and play. Hosted system software allows the addition of new users, and a web portal makes moving, adding to or altering your system configuration easier. IP phone systems allow you to add lines with new employees or eliminate lines in case of downsizing - and businesses will only pay for what they use. IP telephony also integrates and adapts with a wide variety of existing business systems, increasing operational efficiencies.
The downside of IP voice telephony
As we've seen, the benefits of IP telephony are many, right across the board. So is there a downside? There is, but the solution is VoIP monitoring . Monitoring and troubleshooting will help get you metrics and a clear analysis of the issues your network is having in real time and help you improve your service, and user experience.
1.Low internet bandwidth
Bandwidth goes hand in hand with the speed at which data passes through your network in either direction, and you need reasonably fast internet service available to send and receive voice data packets. Therefore, it is important to have a notion of how much bandwidth you have in order to access your ability to benefit from VoIP.
2.Overloaded internet connection
The quality of your internet connection may be good, but at certain times of the day, you may experience more traffic across your network (saturation), which impedes network performance and reduces bandwidth, leading to lesser quality calls. Saturation could also be due to things like other programs or applications inhibiting performance by using up your bandwidth.
3.Poor call quality
Poor voice call quality can make for a dreadful user experience. The main issues that can cause poor voice quality are packet loss, jitter or latency. Jitter occurs when packets don't arrive in the same order they were sent. Latency refers to the time it takes for media packets to travel across the network. Too much latency causes callers to speak over the top of each other. Packet loss is when sections of media to go missing, causing a 'robotic' distortion. The best way to deal with these difficult issues is to monitor. Monitoring your network performance and metrics analysis will help pinpoint issues, from the time they occur until the time they end. This can give you detailed insight into when these issues regularly occur and how to prevent them.
Poor VoIP call quality can be caused by outdated devices and applications like routers and cable modems, and firewalls. VoIP monitoring provides metrics and support for device performance issues. Each network element can be examined on your computer, tablet, VoIP mobile device and the internet to isolate older components that can be updated or replaced.
IP performance testing, QoS & MOS
Quality of Service (QoS) is a feature of routers and switches which prioritizes traffic so that more important traffic can pass first. The result is a performance improvement for critical network traffic. QoS equipment is useful with VoIP phones or in LANs with high volumes of local traffic.
Mean Opinion Score (MOS) gives VoIP testing a number value as an indication of the perceived quality of received voice after being transmitted and compressed using codecs. MOS relates to underlying network attributes that impact data flow. Mean Opinion Score testing is useful in predicting call quality and is a good VoIP test tool in determining issues that can affect your VoIP network performance, and voice quality.
Monitor and troubleshoot VoIP performance
Communications and collaboration platforms form the basis of some of the most essential business systems. As the workforce becomes more remote and the demand for a seamless experience increases, the need for an all-encompassing solution to achieve high up-time and fast problem resolution has never been more critical.
IR's Collaborate suite of UC solutions uses advanced technology to bring a proactive approach to network monitoring and troubleshooting. Our solutions monitor voice quality, jitter, latency and packet loss, but they also provide vital metrics and complete visibility into your entire communications environment in real time. Our next-generation, newly extended hybrid cloud Prognosis platform collects and analyzes mission-critical data, leveraging the power and scale of the cloud, combined with 30 years of expertise in monitoring and analytics.
We can highlight issues with QoS, track MOS, and monitor for anomalies within your entire network. All this, through a single pane of glass. Click here for a demo, or to read case studies from clients to see how IR's Collaborate suite of solutions have helped customers worldwide to monitor, troubleshoot and find the right management solution for their UC environment.