Have you ever been streaming a movie or TV show, only to see the picture become really fuzzy out of the blue? The causes of these sorts of quality degradations can range from a slow home internet connection to issues further upstream affecting a provider's content delivery network.
With unified communications (UC) solutions, similar technical hiccups influencing video and call quality are common, but have much higher stakes. Even a brief interruption in a VoIP call or video conference can greatly set back mobile and remote teams, or jeopardize a pivotal sales call or HR training session.
The question, then, is how to minimize such technical issues. Selecting a UC solution from a proven vendor like Teo Technologies is a crucial first step, since it ensures you're getting a platform that's designed, built and supported in accordance with your particular requirements.
Beyond that, there are a few more steps you can take to optimize your UC experience, especially if you are managing a heavily customized premises-based solution:
Check all your routers
When it comes to handling real-time VoIP and video traffic, not all routers are created equal. Not having the right model is a recipe for dropped calls and general unreliability, as well as confusion: VoIP customers might think there's something wrong with the service when the problem is actually something they can fix with a simple upgrade.
Quality of Service is the most important feature in any VoIP router. QoS allows VoIP traffic to receive higher priority across the network than traffic from other sources such as instant messaging and FTP. Accordingly, it performs more reliably.
Set up jitter buffers
Jitter is the result of packets arriving out of order or at irregular intervals. Since VoIP and IP video communications are packetized, jitter is a constant concern. If unaddressed, it can cause calls and video to seem scrambled.
The best way to prevent this issue is with jitter buffers. These virtual or physical devices collect and hold arriving packets so that they can be transmitted at even intervals, thus delivering the expected quality. A static jitter buffer is an appliance with fixed predefined parameters; it might be a large buffer that helps mitigate highly variable traffic but increases latency, or a smaller one that contributes less latency but is vulnerable to more packet loss.
In contrast, a dynamic jitter buffer, as its name suggests, adapts to conditions across the network. It uses the last few packets analyzed to determine whether it should increase, decrease or maintain its current size.
Implement dedicated internet access
UC and VoIP traffic are not your run-of-the-mill TCP applications. In other words, a standard public broadband connection might not be sufficient to deliver the expected results. Since public networks are shared, their performance varies considerably throughout the day and sometimes degrades the quality of VoIP calls and video conferences.
An alternative is to invest in dedicated internet access (DIA). DIA can be configured in several ways, using either fiber, Ethernet over copper, fixed wireless microwave infrastructure or a T1 or T3 line. Since it's dedicated, only your organization has access, resulting in much more predictable and consistent performance.
Consider an SD-WAN solution
Software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs) are still relatively new inventions, but they have already changed the ways many organizations use UC and VoIP. An SD-WAN uses software to bind together multiple links – drawn from any possible mix of MPLS, internet, satellite, cellular, etc. – into one logical network that can be centrally managed.
SD-WANs are particularly good for supporting real-time applications. They can dynamically send prioritized traffic from these apps down the best links available, based on recent measurements of latency, jitter and packet loss. The effect is similar to a mapping application that automatically gives you the quickest route available based on current traffic conditions. SD-WANs also help in securing connections between remote sites and cloud applications.
Broaden your communications options
Even with all of these enhancements, it's possible that you'll still have some days when your real-time VoIP and video services aren't cooperating due to issues with the network at-large. In these instances, it's useful to have other less performance-sensitive options to fall back on. For example, integrated fax services and instant messaging can provide alternative channels of communication if you can't get the necessary quality from other UC apps.
Teo Technologies offers both cloud and on-premises UC solutions, each with broad collection of compatible apps. Each platform can be designed and built for your specific requirements. To learn more, reach out to our team today.