Prepare your network for VOIP

Questions and issues to resolve before you take the plunge

Companies wanting to get the most use of voice over IP (VOIP) need to know the steps involved in hardening their network and Internet infrastructure to get the best results out of their digital voice deployment projects.

VOIP for businesses is on the rise, so even if you don't deploy VOIP now, you most likely will at some time. "The overall business adoption of VOIP in North America will increase more than twofold by 2010," according to Infonetics Research. And the Dell'Oro Group estimates that IP PBX sales are expected to reach $US2 billion by that time.

Here are some questions and issues to resolve before you take the plunge.

What is your present Internet connection and how much bandwidth will you need for voice?

Just like you can't be too rich or too thin, you can never have enough Internet bandwidth, especially if you're moving to VOIP. A good place to start is a free service with TestYourVOIP.com, which places a test VOIP call using your current Internet connection and reports on the results.

But you also want to examine your existing Internet service provider contracts. "You need a rigorous service-level agreement. We have been doing this for five years and have the requirements nailed and understand the kinds of edge devices that our networks need," says Henry Kaestner, founder and CEO of Bandwidth.com, a VOIP supplier. Make sure you work with providers that understand these SLAs and have performance guarantees in their contracts, too.

You may be interested in upgrading your existing ISP connection because you have maxxed it out. You probably need a dedicated T1 or better if you are going to have more than a dozen VOIP users, so it might be worthwhile to investigate having a separate ISP connection just for voice. "Companies are going to need a voice-optimized SDSL line at a minimum for VOIP," says Kaestner. "A better rule of thumb should be to only consider using business VOIP applications with at least a T1." Bandwidth.com and Cbeyond Inc. have packages that combine connectivity with VOIP services, so it's worth checking these out first.

What kind of wiring is in your walls?

Leftover Category 3 wiring from the days when Ethernet was 10Mbit/sec. isn't going to support VOIP. And you might also think about having a separate wire plant for just your phones, depending on how much of your existing data wiring you need to replace. "Typically, cable plant is an issue for many installations. Places that have been using Category 3 wiring for 10 Megabit Ethernet do not realize that voice is going to need better wiring, like Cat 5e or Cat 6," says Chat Agate, CEO of NeoPhonetics, a national VOIP integrator in the Chicago area. Cat 5e and 6 will handle higher throughput for the best voice quality.

"The vast majority of VOIP problems that we see have to do with using the wrong cabling or problems in other parts of the local network," says Kaestner.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Strom

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?