Ensuring the Performance of your VoIP Network
Network Management in VoIP
VoIP does away with the need for a separate network for voice calls. Instead, it uses an already existing connection to the world - the Internet - to route its data into and out of your business. This leads to cost savings and a feature rich environment. However, it means that businesses have to take special care to manage their networks lest the two types of traffic get in each other's way. Without proper management, you can suffer from dropped calls and other unpleasant side effects and wrongly attribute them to problems with VoIP itself.
The reason this happens is that without management, some applications can hog the bandwidth leaving no space for other applications including VoIP. For example, if a person is downloading a large file, it can come at the expense of every other Internet application. All VoIP calls will be strangled and the network will effectively shut down. Even without intensive applications, as your business grows larger, the traffic from regular Internet usage will increase to a point where it cannibalizes the bandwidth needed for VoIP leading to a degradation in performance.
This effect is made worse by the fact that more people are not only browsing the Internet but are also using the VoIP network itself causing double the strain. When implementing VoIP for a business, network management is absolutely essential.
Separating and Prioritizing Traffic
The best way to manage a VoIP system and ensure that there's always sufficient bandwidth is to keep its traffic on a different network. This needn't be a separate physical network, but can be a virtual one instead. This is just as effective.
It requires creating something called a Virtual LAN or VLAN for short and most routers support this kind of functionality. There are different ways to designate VoIP traffic and you must choose the way which suits you best. Depending on your router, there will be different commands to create the alternate network. Some models of Cisco routers will create the virtual network automatically and also prioritize VoIP traffic over others.
Prioritization of VoIP is important because it's a real time service and can least handle delays. No user will notice if their pages load a few milliseconds late, but we have a very low tolerance limit for delays in voice after which the service becomes unacceptable.
This along with the monitoring of certain parameters like jitter, packet loss etc will tell you when your VoIP network is in trouble and could require more bandwidth to function effectively. Contact your ITSP with whom you have an Internet voice SIP account to find out if they have any suggestions for further network management. If you don't have VoIP yet, it's not hard to switch to hosted PBX systems and take advantage of the great features VoIP has to offer.