VoIP turns voice into data packets that can be stored, searched, manipulated, copied, and combined with other information and systems. It’s almost plug-and-play, requiring only a stable Internet connection to work.
But VoIP is latency sensitive, and its quality depends on network availability and performance. Planning for a robust VoIP infrastructure is important to ensure high-quality communications.
Identify Your Communication Needs
Identifying the communication needs of your business helps you plan how best to implement a VoIP system. Generally, VoIP uses the internet to make calls, so you need a strong and reliable connection. You also need to ensure that your network infrastructure can support the additional traffic a VoIP system will generate. An assessment can help you understand whether your current network is capable of supporting VoIP or if you need to invest in upgrading it.
Depending on the size of your business, you may need to invest in additional hardware. Small businesses can often use existing computers and smartphones to run VoIP systems with minimal new equipment, while medium-sized businesses may need to add desktop phones, desk phones, or mobile headsets for employees. Choosing a cloud-based VoIP service can help reduce upfront investment and maintenance costs by eliminating the need for on-site servers and minimizing hardware installation and maintenance costs.
In addition, you should consider integrating your VoIP system with other software applications. A VoIP platform offering integration options and APIs can increase productivity and streamline workflows. For example, you can integrate your VoIP phone system with CRM systems to manage customer relationships and improve sales.
Additionally, you can connect multiple offices or remote locations with a VoIP system. Using call forwarding and virtual receptionist functions, you can easily route calls between different offices and enable employees to work from home during a pandemic or other crisis. This flexibility enables you to quickly fulfill the needs of a growing business and adapt your operations to changing conditions.
VoIP is secure and can prevent fraudulent activity from disrupting your communication system. Many VoIP providers have fraud detection and prevention features that can monitor and block unauthorized international calling, terminate calls in progress, and alert administrators and the security team of potential threats. These systems can also detect unused channels and alert users to potential problems with their accounts.
You should also develop incident response plans for your VoIP system and ensure that your team knows how to react in case of an attack. The plans should include a checklist of steps that your teams must take to mitigate an attack and restore normal operation.
Determine Your Network Needs
VoIP technology is a powerful tool that allows your business to instantly scale to meet your company’s growth without costly investments. This communication technology connects your business to a unified platform where you can build deeper relationships with customers, partners, and employees by communicating through voice, video conference, and instant messaging features. However, a robust infrastructure is crucial to get the most out of your VoIP system. This includes a quality provider, affordable hardware, and the right network architecture that maximizes your VoIP phone service.
Your network infrastructure is the backbone of your VoIP communications, connecting your business to a unified communication platform for all your team members to use. To ensure the best VoIP experience possible, your business needs a stable, reliable internet connection, a secure firewall, and network switches that prioritize your data traffic over voice traffic.
Ideally, you will set up a separate Voice Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) on your business’s internal network that only carries VoIP communication packets. This way, your VoIP communication will be separated from other data-related traffic like workstation ARP requests, network broadcasts, printer traffic, and DHCP server-client traffic. With this separation, your network can provide optimal performance for your business’s VoIP communications and avoid common problems like call dropouts, sound delays, audio distortion, and jittering.
The VLAN should also be configured to prioritize VoIP communication over other data traffic using a Quality of Service (QoS) mechanism. QoS prioritizes your data transmission by marking VoIP traffic as a high priority and ensuring that these packets reach their destination with a minimal amount of delay. This is important because low-quality VoIP calls can disrupt workflow and negatively impact your business’s productivity.
Your VoIP system will require a wired internet connection with an Ethernet network switch that can handle your company’s voice and data traffic. If you have a remote workforce, consider providing them with Wi-Fi dongles or routers with ethernet ports so they can make VoIP calls from their home internet connections. This will prevent the degradation of voice quality due to a weak Wi-Fi signal and allow your remote workers to utilize VoIP features such as call forwarding, call transfer, auto attendant, and more.
Plan Your Network Architecture
Knowing how much bandwidth you need to support your VoIP infrastructure is important. This will help you avoid any problems with your VoIP software, network, or phone hardware. It will also make it easier for you to select a reliable VoIP service provider.
Once you’ve determined your business communication needs, you can begin planning your VoIP network architecture. To start, you’ll need to determine which equipment your employees will use for VoIP calls. You may want to supply them with desk phones and routers or opt for a cloud-based or mobile VoIP solution instead. A cloud-based solution lets your team connect via their laptops or mobile devices without needing to install a proprietary application.
A good VoIP infrastructure design should include a separate voice VLAN that prioritizes voice traffic. It should also implement Quality of Service (QoS), which gives different packets varying priorities on the network. This is done by configuring the router’s QoS settings, which you can find from your VoIP service provider.
Another important consideration is your network security. VoIP networks are more vulnerable to hackers than traditional landlines, so ensuring your network is secure is crucial. For example, if you use Wi-Fi for your VoIP network, make sure it’s encrypted with WPA2 or higher. This will prevent hackers from intercepting or listening to your VoIP conversations. Using a virtual private network (VPN) for your VoIP connections is also a good idea. This will provide an extra layer of protection for your business data.
If you’re implementing a hosted VoIP system, check with your vendor to see their recommended security configurations. They can also advise you on best practices for your specific network size and type.
It’s important to plan your network with future growth in mind. This will save you time and money down the road when it comes to adding lines or changing features. A good rule of thumb is to plan for 30% more users than your current number of active lines. This will give you a buffer for when people leave the company or experience network performance issues.
Test Your Network
Even with the best VoIP technology, your network plays a crucial role in the quality of your calls. This is because the network shares internet bandwidth with other business applications like online video, file-sharing, and more. If your network is not optimized for VoIP, you may experience poor sound quality or even dropped calls. This is why it’s important to test your network before making the switch to VoIP.
Start by checking your internet connection speed. To get the most accurate result, it’s best to run a speed test while no one is using the internet in your office. This way, you can ensure that your internet service provider’s network and your connection have enough bandwidth to support VoIP.
You should also check your network hardware, such as routers and firewalls, for any compatibility issues with VoIP. Additionally, you should ensure your router is optimized for VoIP and that your employees have high-quality headsets. This will help reduce choppy audio, echoing, and other common VoIP problems.
Your business’s WAN is also likely to have limited bandwidth, so optimizing the WAN and network to minimize latency and jitter is important. This can be accomplished by upgrading your network hardware, implementing quality-of-service protocols, and working with a VoIP provider with robust networks.
For larger networks, it’s a good idea to set up a voice VLAN. This will separate the VoIP infrastructure from other traffic on the network, which can cause jitter and increased delay. Additionally, the voice VLAN will help protect your VoIP communications from attacks that could come through the other parts of the network.
You should also set up an incident response plan for your team so that you can quickly react in the event of a DDoS attack or other cyber threat to your infrastructure. This will help prevent downtime and ensure your teams can continue working on vital projects. With the right planning, you can build a robust VoIP infrastructure that will help your business run smoothly. If you need help getting started, contact a specialist at your trusted VoIP solution provider.