While it's great to have a fat Internet pipe and now large bandwidth pipes are more reasonable in cost than ever before, this one important piece of "your network" is not the only metric to determine how well the quality of voice will be with a cloud based PBX phone system. The truth is VoIP quality is only as good as the weakest link and there are several links that are important to consider. These important metrics should be looked at when you choose a hosted solution. Four important measures of what affects VoIP quality are:
If you look into your network closet and see jumbles of cables sporadically connected in a mass, then chances are you're looking at a potential for problems. Good solid cabling, whether its Cat5 or Cat6, and up to date network hardware is paramount in keeping potential problems to a minimum and it's something in your control. Patch panels should be of good quality, patch cords should be neat and easy to identify and network switches, routers and other hardware should be up to date with the latest firmware. If you begin with unsatisfactory hardware in your premise the chances are greater that problems with VoIP quality will exist.
Most small office installations of VoIP will use the IP phone's Ethernet port to share the existing data cable with a PC. This is fine, however, if after installation one experiences broken voice which comes and goes as computer applications grab bandwidth, then data traffic management becomes necessary. By using a router with QoS and/or managed switches with VLANs, voice can be prioritized, resolving these issues.
Cloud based applications are becoming the standard. Managing these services so that voice has priority will be a major focus of network management.
Wired service is always more stable than wireless, but hardware infrastructure needs to be up to good standards. VoIP over wireless increases the chances of voice issues.
Have you ever had a day when everything seems slow, like Internet surfing and opening up certain web pages? Hopefully, they are short lived and everything gets back to normal quite quick. However, if the amount of days or the length of these events is large, then your Internet provider could be causing issues. There are tools that can help identify packet loss, large latency or even a router issue out on the WAN. Pingplotter is one and can isolate a bottleneck which can disrupt services. Tracert can also be used.
And then there is the stability of your cloud based phone service. Reputable hosted VoIP providers don't get to be rated with 4 or 5 stars overnight. They get those stars after demonstrating day in and day out that there service is solid, because with voice any interruption is immediately recognized.
When moving to a Cloud based PBX make sure your network will support the number of extensions your business needs. Here's a free tool that helps measure how ready your connection is:
The lowest cost provider is often not the best choice. Pick a high rated business VoIP provider. In the long run the experience will be worth every penny.
Packet loss is when data packets appear to be transmitted correctly from one end of a connection, but due to bad network conditions or internet congestion will fail to make it to their intended destination. Voice over Internet connections are extremely sensitive to this problem and even small amounts of packet loss will result in quality issues. Latency, the time it takes for data packets to make it to their destination, occurs from physical equipment. Every router on the route introduces some delay, and can cause delay due to heavy traffic. These congestion issues can be troublesome one day and then fine the next. Jitter is the variation in time between arriving packets that is caused by network congestion, or route changes. Some jitter can be handled by VoIP hardware, but once it exceeds the buffer, then packets will be discarded resulted in missing data, or broken voice.