Does Voice over IP (VoIP) save you money on phone service? Absolutely. Sometimes as much as 50 percent over standard plain old telephone service (POTS) phone lines. But having bad VoIP service or excessive downtime (no service at all) will quickly eat up those savings, and could wind up costing dearly in lost business. Still, all too many companies go out and buy VoIP or hosted PBX service, only to run it on a lowly cable or DSL connection with all their other Internet traffic-and then complain and blame the VoIP provider when they have problems with their phones.
Unless your company has upwards of 3Mbps synchronous (same speeds up and down) Internet broadband, it is seldom a good idea to run your Voice over IP (VoIP) or hosted PBX phones over the same connection you use for data. Even then, you are running the risk of poor quality service, or no service at all. Face it, as reliable as Internet service has become, broadband connections still go down. With VoIP or hosted PBX systems, when you’ve got no Internet, you’ve got no phones. Slow or saturated broadband connections turn your phone conversations into jittery garbage, cause dropped calls, and can even stop your phones from working at all.
Unless you’ve got only one or a couple of workstations and IP phones, it’s just not a good idea to let your phones compete with your other Internet traffic. Why? Say, for example, that you have an average office with five workstations and five IP phones. During the normal course of business, your people are uploading and downloading email, viewing websites, connecting with a vendor’s server to place orders, and so on. (And this says nothing of the employee or two who are sneaking in a YouTube video or chatting with four or five friends and family members.)
Your VoIP phones have to compete with all this other traffic. And when the traffic is high, call quality suffers. This is especially critical on uploads, information leaving your facility and going out to the Internet-your half of the conversation. Most broadband connections are asynchronous (different upload and download speeds, with the upload being significantly lower) and have much lower upload speeds than download speeds. Most DSL connections, for instance, cannot upload faster than 768k. This is not much bandwidth-it takes only one or two large outgoing email attachments to gobble it up. And during those email uploads, your VoIP quality can suffer.
Granted, there are routers and other devices you can buy that apply quality of service (QoS) packet prioritizing, allowing VoIP traffic to go out the broadband connection before any other data; however, on a very congested connection, these devices can’t perform miracles, and, frankly, even under the best of circumstances, except for the very best and most expensive products, they don’t really work all that well.
When the Internet connection is saturated, phone quality suffers. If the connection is too saturated, your VoIP devices won’t work at all. This can become a real problem if a server or one of the workstations starts misbehaving. For example, a computer with an email virus that shoves hundreds of emails a minute up your Internet pipe can (and usually does) take out your VoIP phone service.
We all have had our Internet connection go down, sometimes for very long periods of time. Another benefit of having two Internet connections is that, if one goes down, you can easily flop your phones onto the data line, or vice versa.
So, don’t gamble with your company’s telecommunications. Spend the extra $40 to $75 for a second DSL or cable connection to run your VoIP phones. It doesn’t have to be the fastest connection available. Since the phones won’t act up and use huge amounts of bandwidth, as computers frequently do, it is easy to determine how much bandwidth to buy. A properly-operating, 768k-up-DSL line can safely run between 10 and 15 simultaneous VoIP phone calls.
For lots of great info on VoIP, go here: http://www.voip-news.com/blog/
Bill Harrel – http://www.williamharrel.com/