Using your data network to carry voice traffic has all kinds of benefits for your business, especially as relates to reduced costs, space and power. But preparing your network to handle this kind of data requires preparation.
- Determine how you will make your calls
Before we get into the networking details, you’ll have to determine the devices on which you’ll make VoIP calls. You can purchase dedicated IP phones or make calls directly from a computer or smart phone without even touching an actual phone. Determine this immediately ahead of the network decisions.
- Use wiring
This is obvious but, now that you’re making the switch to VoIP, you’ll need enough data cables to connect your devices to the network.
- Choose a power supply
The easiest way to ensure that you’re getting power to your IP phones is by using Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches. PoE lets devices that aren’t plugged into local power sources pull in power from the central location. If your data switch doesn’t allow for PoE, then you can use PoE injectors, which is an additional power source that can be used alongside non-PoE switches.
- Manage internet traffic with a dedicated VLAN
Building your network using a dedicated Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) lets you better manage network traffic to ensure that voice calls are protected when someone starts downloading a large file onto their computer.
- Manage wireless traffic with access point handoff
Wi-Fi networks have historically been used for laptops and tablets, and not for voice. Because of this discrepancy, it’s important that you analyze your network to determine how many simultaneous calls your wireless connection can manage. It is also important that an on-premises or cloud-based controller be used that can manually control access points when necessary.
- Test your firewalls
The manufacturer specs are not enough of a benchmark for how much voice/data and even video you can drive through a firewall. If you don’t have someone in your organization who can help you determine the difference between media and data traffic, then contact a professional. Software-defined firewalls, are designed to filter internal data traffic and packets rather than just data traffic.
- Doublecheck your router
Determine if your router offers Packets Per Second (PPS) capability. This functionality provides traffic shaping and policing, which lets you prioritize voice and data on your network. Typically, we assume one out of every five people will be on a 1-megabits-per-second [Mbps] voice call, and one out of every 7 will be on a [ video ] conference at 100 megabits per second. Multiply the number of voice users at your company who will be on a voice call and a video call at any given moment, and then multiple that number by a minimum of five. That’s how many Mbps of traffic your router should be able to manage without any issue.
- Evaluate your network for VLANs and quality of service
Once voice traffic starts running over your data network, you’ll quickly realize that this traffic is really important. Few things ruin a successful sales call faster than the customer getting cut off or having your sales pitch turned into a series of unintelligible noise. Therefore, you want to protect your voice traffic over your data traffic because the latter can handle latency, jitter, and other network traffic problems much more than a phone call can. The best ways to protect any traffic is through the use of virtual LANs (VLAN) and quality of service (QoS) functions. Sit down with your IT staff and your VoIP provider and work out testing of these features on your existing network infrastructure and then make changes as necessary before rolling out your VoIP solution.
- Evaluate VPNs to secure your phone calls
VoIP has been around for quite some time, and as with many technologies, security wasn’t a priority when it was invented. One of the key security issues with VoIP is the underlying Session Initiated Protocol (SIP). While there are a couple of ways you can secure SIP, one of the best is to simply encrypt the communications by running it through a virtual private network (VPN). While that’s relatively easy for a single call, however, it becomes complicated when talking about many phone calls in a business environment. Evaluate VPN solutions from suppliers that understand the requirements of securing VoIP traffic, and test those solutions to make sure you’re not increasing your security at the cost of call quality.