Is your network ready for Voice over Internet Protocol?
In the first blog post in this series, Cloud Based Communication vs. On-Premise Solutions, we provided an overview of cloud vs. on-premise communications systems and discussed the first of five major considerations before investing in a cloud based network: total cost of ownership (TCO). These included the size and number of locations of your business, if your employees used their own devices and more. Be sure to check out the first post at the link above.
Network Assessments and Service Level Agreements
Your next consideration should be an assessment of your local area network (LAN) and a thorough understanding of what your provider is offering in terms of a service level agreement (SLA). A careful analysis can determine if a cloud based communications system is even possible. A poor analysis can leave you with an under-performing network and/or force costly upgrades.
When you add voice to your LAN, it’s important to know your network is capable of handling this additional traffic without degradation of call quality. Everyone is used to the call quality a standard circuit-switched telephone connection offers to deliver clear voice. This quality can only be accomplished over the internet if it meets the unique requirements for on-time voice traffic, which are much different than that needed for moving data alone.
Quality of service (QOS) or traffic prioritization, available bandwidth, low latency and no packet loss are all required for regular voice service to work correctly and to be delivered effectively through the cloud. With data traffic, the network quality can vary without interrupting your work, as long as it is generally fast enough (for example, the difference between old dial-up service and modern high speed internet). With voice traffic, it must move linearly, rather than in separate packets, and must arrive through the internet complete and in real time. Any loss or delay of voice packets can be very unsettling and disruptive, with pauses, gaps, missing syllables and even missing words, resulting in unacceptable call quality, and in worse case, disconnections. A network assessment will test and measure important performance criteria to determine if your network is ready for voice over the internet (VoIP) and provide valuable diagnostic information if upgrades are needed.
Service Level Agreements
Next you need to know what guarantee the provider you are considering will offer you. You should know up front exactly what level of support is included in your contract. Check if they assure sound quality, uninterrupted service or if they have any kind of guarantees in writing. Find out what they will do if the sound quality is poor or any of the problems above happen. Finally, what will they do for you if their system is down and you lose service (and potential customers).
Here is a checklist of five levels of service to consider. Be sure to ask any potential provider for full details on these:
- Carrier (what phone carrier will be providing service and what are their SLAs)
- Data Center (where are they, who runs them, how reliable are they)
- Unified Communications Level (will this be a simple phone system or a fully unified communications system)
- Delivery (what kind of connection will the service be delivered over: guaranteed call quality requires more expensive connections)
- User (who will install the equipment, what kind of training will be provided, who will you call if there is a problem?)
Before you make an investment in a cloud based communications system, be sure your network is ready to handle the speed and quality required for voice communications. And before you commit to a service provider, be sure you understand their SLA and all that it entails. Always consult with a reliable, trustworthy expert in the communications field. SoundTel will be pleased to answer any questions you may have and can help you decide if moving to the cloud is the right decision for your business. Call 1-800-797-3663 or 425-481-5493 for a free communications analysis.
Our next blog will cover call quality and reliability of a cloud based system.