In the early days of VoIP technology, quality of service (QoS) was an issue which hindered its widespread adoption. Businesses were not inclined to switch to the new technology and take a step backward with regard to the service quality of phone calls, because that would reflect badly on the company, and possibly cause a loss of credibility and reputation.
The cost savings provided by VoIP were always there, but there were definitely some issues that offset the advantage of lower cost. For instance, there were slight delays during calls, and even pauses of fractions of a second would be noticeable to participants on a phone call. A phone call is meant to be the same as a real-time conversation, and when telephone exchanges can’t match that kind of everyday quality, it quickly becomes annoying to those involved.
Real-time delays were not the only problem either. VoIP converts analog signals from voice conversations into data packets, so they can be transmitted over the Internet, and there were occasions when some packets did not arrive intact at their destination. In situations like these, callers noticed that words were missing here and there and that the overall conversation become somewhat broken.
There were also times when data packets did not arrive at a destination in the same order which they left their place of origin, causing conversations to become at least somewhat unintelligible. While these and other problems are still at least potentially possible today on VoIP systems, they have been minimized to a very large degree, and quality has become much better since those early shaky days.
Identifying Service Quality Issues
Problems in telephone network systems can be difficult to track down even today because quality issues can differ from one day to the next, so if you’re on the track of an issue today, it may be replaced by a different one tomorrow. Degradation in service quality can occur as a result of changes in technology, hardware or software, and the communication protocols used, so if any of these are tweaked at all, there could potentially be a noticeable loss of quality.
One of the difficulties in identifying quality problems is the way that quality is monitored, which generally breaks down into two categories, those being active and passive. Using passive monitoring, it’s not possible to get real-time information on phone quality, so any information obtained is generally days old, and possibly no longer relevant. Active monitoring can be done in real time, and provides better information, but is much more difficult to implement and much more costly.
One of the biggest potential causes of a dropoff in quality can happen when you do something which impacts the network. This can be a change to the architecture itself, a change of Internet service providers, or some kind of software change which affects the overall network.
Quality is also affected by the route calls take, since they can remain entirely within the corporate network, or can travel out over the Internet. Then too, voice quality is impacted by how much traffic is on the network, the speed of a local Internet connection, and the available bandwidth.
Most people familiar with telephony service understand that QoS settings are the best way to ensure that every call is a quality call. However, once you set up good QoS service, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. In fact, it might be something you do which impacts those QoS settings and lowers the overall quality – a cable, a switch, or a new router can all result in reduced quality, which then has to be somehow remediated.
How to Maintain Optimal QoS
If your company is one which has its VoIP services hosted by an online provider, you might think that there’s not much you can do about the quality on your end and that most of it needs to be left up to your host. However, there are definitely some things you can do in-house to ensure that at least the internal quality is optimized so that you have the best chance of quality throughout the system.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to implement a system of monitoring which provides for both periodic and continuous quality checking. If need be, it’s very possible to combine active and passive monitoring to come up with a suitable system of call checking, so that any problems are detected as soon as possible, and can be remediated before they impact clients.
Hardware and software should also be checked regularly to make sure that highest possible quality is always present. Since bandwidth is another one of the quality culprits, bandwidth should be monitored regularly, so that you don’t develop network capacity issues that spill over into your telephony system.
It’s also good to bear in mind that things working just fine today may not be optimal tomorrow, so it’s always worth an overall system evaluation periodically to determine how well your telephony system is performing. Sometimes upgrading is the best option for maintaining or improving service quality, but in any case, being proactive about maintaining quality is your best bet for avoiding any phone system degradation.