How to Prepare Your Network for a New VOIP System
When implementing a VOIP phone system you must take the network into account to ensure a successful implementation. Phone calls will be riding over your network infrastructure and that makes your network now part of your phone system.
Voice is more sensitive than other data
The network may seem to perform just fine with only data going over it. With TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) traffic, if we miss a packet the far side will just resend it, the end-user almost never knows that this has happened. This is just like asking someone to repeat themselves in a conversation if you miss a word. VOIP, on the other hand, is in real time, and if part of a word in a sentence is dropped, we can’t go back in that conversation and put it back. The drop has already happened, there is no going back.
We must ensure through preparation that the network is ready prior to deploying the phone system. It is true for both Premise and Cloud solutions.
POE switches & QoS
For Premise solutions - modern power over ethernet (POE) switches are made for VOIP solutions. POE switches power the phone as well as provide a network connection. Make sure that POE switches you purchase support Quality of Service (QoS) and VLANs. If an older system is being replaced don’t forget to refresh the network equipment at the same time, if possible. It is a worthwhile investment that will help you avoid unpleasant surprises, such as your new phone systems dropping the calls, just as the legacy system may have.
You may have also heard that you can use a POE injector to power the phones and keep your existing switches. This may work; however, no one can guaranty how well and for how long. One day, this solution will become outdated and inadequate network gear and will need a replacement for your phone system to perform optimally.
Best parctice - The Phone system needs its own network
Consider adding a voice VLAN (virtual network) with the new switches. This will segregate voice traffic and assist with QoS. You can prioritize traffic on the VLAN over the regular best effort data traffic. This helps keep voice quality clean and prioritize it over YouTube, radio streaming and other heavy bandwidth consuming applications that most likely run in your environment.
If there's more than 50 phones at a site, best practice states that there is no question they should have their own network.
When there's more than one location
Connecting multiple locations adds another layer of complexity. A VPN over the public internet cannot control QoS through each hop between locations. An MPLS is required or a SD-WAN solution can be deployed to ensure voice traffic is prioritized on the Wide Area Network. An SD-WAN solution with multiple commodity internet circuits can provide as good or even better QoS than a carrier MPLS circuit.
If you go Cloud
To guarantee QoS you would need to purchase a private circuit from the cloud provider that goes directly to their datacenter. An SD-WAN solution can also greatly improve the connection to the provider over the public internet. To test your Cloud solution prior to its activation, you can ask your provider to give you a device that simulates calls to their datacenters. This will give you a good idea if you need a private circuit or an SD-WAN on the early stage of the project.
- Run a call quality test and a network assessment during the initial discovery phase for your VOIP project. Find out in advance how much work needs to be done.
- There are adequate solutions for every budget. Make sure your research is extensive enough.
- Incorporate VOIP system implementation and voice network best practices into your system design and UC project.
- Cloud-based VOIP phone solutions present additional network consideration that we are well positioned to advise you on and guide you through every step of your project.