Friday, December 13, 2013

What Tools Can You Use to Test VoIP

One of the first things to do if you’re thinking about transitioning to VoIP is to test your network to see if it is suitable for VoIP. There are several free tools online to help you do this. You will only have to invest your time. This ensures that you can make the most of VoIP once you decide to switch.

These VoIP testing tools may also be useful to you even after you’ve installed VoIP. When you have it set up to constantly test your VoIP service, you will get a good picture of your service’s performance. This way, you can anticipate issues and even have your service provider fix them before they affect your call quality.

The first kind of VoIP testing tool is the network analyzer. This may also be referred to as the packet sniffer. What this does is it intercepts voice traffic to do an RFC analysis. All this is in the background, of course. You will not experience any disruption in your service. As it tests your network stability, you will get an idea about your network service’s suitability for VoIP. You can decide to switch to a provider that works better with VoIP. The problem with this VoIP test tool is that it is not specific to VoIP and particular factors that affect its quality.

The better call quality testing option is the VoIP Analyzer. This where services like VoIP Spear are categorized under.  Like the network analyzer, VoIP analyzers test your network’s suitability for VoIP. But, unlike simple network analyzers, these test for specific factors that affect how you enjoy your VoIP service, such a latency, jitter and packet loss. For these tools, single endpoint testing usually is offered for free.

The last two kinds of VoIP testing tools are suited for big VoIP users, such as offices, or VoIP service providers. The way these tools monitor call quality is more intrusive, such that the system needs to be powerful enough so it does not affect user experience. These are the VoIP Probes and VoIP Quality Testers. Probes are implemented at selected points of the network, where traffic is analyzed. Quality testers send test file through the network. The idea is to compare corrupted files against the original.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Switch to VoIP

It’s really not going to take too long before you realize that you need to switch to VoIP. VoIP can save you a bundle. You get comparable (if not better) service. You become more accessible. Plus, it’s easier on the budget, especially if you make a lot of long distance calls.

Of course, there are steps to take. And you need to have the right kind of setup in order to maximize your benefits from VoIP.

First on the list is to make sure that you have internet connection that’s good enough for VoIP. This is a crucial factor in your VoIP setup. Without reliable internet, you won’t enjoy your VoIP. It’s even doubtful if you can have decent conversations through it.

So, test your network first. You can do a simple ping test, which would tell you how fast you send and receive packets, as well as how much packet you lose. This is hardly enough though. For better network and VoIP testing and monitoring, use a third party service, such as VoIP Spear. With VoIP Spear, there’s a free account that lets you test single endpoints. This is perfect for home users.

What a VoIP testing service like VoIP Spear does is that it monitors your network performance continuously at set intervals. Through your control panel, you can access test results, which give you a clearer picture of how your network is performing. It’s not just a one-time thing. You see your network profile, according to different performance factors, such as packet loss and latency. You don’t have to be a technical person for this. Mean Opinion Scores (MOS) are given, and these are easy-to-understand measures of network and VoIP performance.

When you see that your network profile is good enough for VoIP, begin to shop for a paid VoIP service. (Skyping for free will not be enough if you want full-service VoIP.) You would also need to decide on the gear that you would use with your VoIP service. You can go simple, and just use your computer. Add in headphones and a good microphone. Or, you can choose to buy a SIP phone. You can also stay loyal to your analog phone, and just attach it to an ATA.

For offices – even small offices – it may be a bit more complicated. You will need to buy more SIP phones or ATA units. You might even require an IP PBX or a gateway for your old PBX. You need to prepare a modest initial budget for this.

When you have all this, you would need to take care of your DID number. This is the publicly listed phone number. You need to transfer this to your VoIP service provider. If you are a residential user or just have a limited number of DIDs, your service provider does this for you. However, you have several DIDs, you will need to coordinate with your phone company directly.
Once this is taken are off, you’re all set.

By the way, make sure to prepare for contingencies too. For one thing, maintain your VoIP monitoring and testing service. You will need to check this time and again. Plus, set up backup power, such as a UPS or generator. This keeps you accessible even during power outages.

Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Troubleshoot VoIP: Packet Delay

VoIP Spear
A couple of problems may come up when using VoIP. A majority of this has to do with network connections. After all, VoIP is still greatly dependent on the internet, within the system's processes as well as at the user's end.

The most common and perceptable is packet delay. Delays create high latency problems in VoIP communications. Latency is defined as the amount of time a packet takes to travel from its origin to its destination. This can result in decreased voice quality, stalling, echos and feedback.

These are small irritants, to say the least. But, in chronic situations, it can turn the users off from using VoIP as their main means of telecommunications.

Having said this, delays aren't really exclusively VoIP. It is also a problem experienced by traditional telephony. In those cases, satellite connections cause the delays. And the upside with VoIP is that the user can troubleshoot packet delay issues up to a certain point.

Kinds of Packet Delay
Within a VoIP system, voice packet delays happen during transmission or queuing. This is referred to as IP Network Delay. This is normal. Packets travel through switches, routers, hardware, as well as wireline phone systems. Delays here are negligible and won't affect voice call quality. However, when compounded by other issues, such as a congested network and slow connections, then network delays can reach up to thousands of milliseconds – which is unsuitable for VoIP.

Another type of packet delay is referred to as End System Delay. This is delay during data handling, which is likely to be caused by jitter buffer of all the other processes that voice data goes through (encodind, decoding and others). Compared to others, jitter buffer can compound delays the most because it is affected by IP Network Delays. As IP network delays lengthen, buffer sizes increase. Buffers can increase delays by hundreds of milliseconds.

How is the VoIP User Affected By Packet Delays
It doesn't really matter what the cause of delays is. The service to the VoIP user gets affected by any kind of delay. Quality decreases, to say the least. Echo, feedback and other conversation problems may be experienced.

Within a one-way conversation, the effects of delays may not be as apparent. When only one end is sending out voice packets, data can be processed seamslessly enough that there appears to be no disturbance in the voice call.

However, this is hardly the case. In typical conversations, there is an interaction between at least two parties. Data sent between two ends or more will experience problem when there are packet delays. This can appear as doubletalk, echoes, pauses and call interruptions.

If the occurrence is bad or frequent enough, it can dissuade the user from using VoIP services, whether free or paid.

How to Troubleshoot Packet Delays
There are ways to troubleshoot experienced VoIP packet delays.

If you're a network administrator or IT manager, you need to be on top of the situation and spot issues before they cause problems for your end users. You can do this through VoIP Spear or other similar services. Through consistent testing and monitoring, you can diagnose problems correctly and address them efficiently.

If you're the end user, there's still some things that you can do. First of all, get an account with VoIP Spear or other similar services. These offer trial packages for individual users. Monitoring VoIP can help you assess problem areas and troubleshoot.

Here are other basic things that you can do:
  1. Trim down the systems that packets need to go through. So, if you're using wi-fi and begin experiencing delays, try connecting directly to your router. The idea is to cut down on possible interference.
  2. Fix damaged hardware, such as cable wires and adapters. This affects VoIP call quality.
  3. Do a power cycle on your router. This may speed up your connection.
  4. Dedicate your system to VoIP. Close other applications that eat up bandwidth.
  5. Log into you router's software if you can. You give voice the highest priority temporarily while you use VoIP.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why End Users Should Test VoIP Quality

VoIP Spear
It’s easy to lay out the benefits of testing VoIP quality to business owners and service providers. Profits depend on properly functioning VoIP and network connection. So, of course, they should test and consistently monitor their VoIP quality.

But what about the end users? Individuals who may just be on Skype, have a MagicJack, or even a paid account with a VoIP company?

The long and short of it is yes, end users still need to monitor their VoIP quality through services like VoIP Spear’s. This is not to be likened to an obsessive-compulsive urge to know everything that’s going on. Monitoring your VoIP quality is the only way you can enjoy the full benefits of VoIP as the telecommunication’s future.
VoIP Quality Profile
Through testing and monitoring your VoIP, you can derive a pretty accurate profile of your net connection and its suitability for VoIP. You can map out service quality fluctuations, which can be used to schedule VoIP usage. Just knowing your network’s VoIP suitability is already a big help in decisions concerning your internet and VoIP accounts.

To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade
Switching to VoIP is an investment in hardware/ software, apart from monthly fees that come with paid accounts. Paid VoIP accounts are always better options to the likes of Skype (free). Voice call quality is several notches up. Plus, you get dedicated support for any communications issues that you encounter. The requisite here though is that you have good internet access. If you have terrible internet and service that fluctuates erratically, then an account upgrade – as well buying SIP phones, analog telephone adapters and the like -- won’t be worth it.

Troubleshoot VoIP Problems
Testing and monitoring your VoIP is also a great help in troubleshooting VoIP problems caused by slow internet connections. Services like VoIP Spear monitor several factors in your connection, such as latency, jitter and packet loss. If, say, the issue is latency (length of time voice packets travel from one end to another), you can address the issue by decreasing the number of systems that packets need to travel through. If you are using wi-fi to connect to the net, you can instead get behind the router and connect more directly.

VoIP testing and monitoring services allow you to get to the heart of the problem. In doing so, you can potentially address your call issues and experience better VoIP.