Is QoS the Same in Every VoIP Provider?

Digital Convergence, and the creation of a Unified Communications (“UC”) platform have been embraced by many organisations.   A UC is the movement of all digital communications traffic, data, VoIP for business and video,  over a single physical network through a variety of software platforms.

Obviously, maintaining optimum response times for all classes of traffic is necessary, especially for VoIP for business and video.  It is a vital balancing act that IT performs, usually through the creation and management of Quality of Service protocols.

Quality of Service – What is It?

QoS

Quality of Service, usually abbreviated as QoS can be defined as the measurement of the overall performance of a network-based service.   It is usually measured from the end-user viewpoint as their perception of the service level they see.

Quality of Service – What is Measured?

What is Measured

The fundamental unit of measure is the opinion of users.  If they have VoIP calls that continually break up, have gaps and generally don’t allow them to complete a satisfactory conversation, then something  is wrong.

Poor VoIP performance can happen for three main reasons, packet loss, latency and jitter.  They increase greatly during periods of network congestion.

Packet Loss

Packet loss is exactly as the name suggests.  In VoIP, normal speech is digitised and put in normal network packets for transmission over the network connection between the speakers. If packets are lost, the receiver won’t get the complete message as intended.

Latency

Latency is the amount of time a packet takes to get from the sender to the receiver.  Obviously, low latency and an equal latency for all packets is essential for a good QoS.  Because the route a packet can take may vary between packets, this can be difficult to do, and many QoS devices such as switches buffer VoIP packets to maintain the order of the packets

Jitter

VoIP packets need to be sent in a steady continuous stream between sender and receiver to have an acceptable voice quality.  If the network is heavily congested at any point, the steady stream can be interrupted or the gap between packets can vary. Both affect the quality of a conversation.  That is Jitter.

These are the three basic measurements when assessing poor QoS performance.

What Causes Poor QoS?

Poor QoS

Quite simply, network congestion at any point in the route between sender and receiver will cause packet loss, poor latency and jitter.   It can happen in an internal network or at the network interface with the outside world.

Normally, in a VoIP business implementation passing over an internal network and the Internet, a service supplier provides the infrastructure to process and carry the VoIP traffic, and there is sometimes network congestion at the service supplier.  Finally, Internet congestion can be a cause.

Bottom line, once internal problems have been resolved, and a poor QoS is still there, it is with your service supplier that QoS issues need to be addressed.

The big question is then, how do service providers deal with VoIP QoS and do they differ in their approaches?

VoIP Service Suppliers and QoS

VoIP Service Suppliers and QoS

The first thing to understand is that VoIP service suppliers are not equal. They offer different levels of services at different costs and have different approaches to dealing with customer QoS issues. The short answer to the question “Is QoS the Same in Every VoIP Provider”, is no.

The best way to assess a QoS supplier is the same way as you would with any other service supplier.

Step 1 – Document your requirements, usually in a matrix setting out the mandatory, desirable and nice-to-have elements.

Step 2 – Ask around.  Check with other users, carry out Internet searches on websites like HelloPeter for recommendations or otherwise, and gather as much background information as you can, particularly on their attitude to resolving performance and QoS issues.

Step 3 – issue the matrix to selected suppliers for quotations.

Step 4 – Review the responses and identify a preferred supplier and a backup supplier.

Step 5 – Create a Service Level Agreement with the preferred supplier setting out the rules of engagement. A major part will be the identification of the key QoS measurement metrics and how any issues are to be resolved.

A good practice that should be written into the agreement with the service supplier is regular management meetings to review recent performance, identify any current or potential issues and set out steps for resolution.   There will be software and hardware updates to the VoIP infrastructure from time to time and these need to be scheduled.

One last point is that not all devices are VoIP capable, and still need a connection to the prior Telco network. If not properly configured, they may cause VoIP problems.

VoIP for Business is the entry point to your organisation and is a key part of your corporate business strategy.  It needs to give customers the sense of dealing with a quality organisation.  Poor performance is not acceptable in that environment.

5 Easy Ways on How to Get a Business Phone Number

Most people nowadays use website contact details to  get in touch with a Business.  They usually have email addresses and Business Phone Numbers plus other information like address details and contact names.

Why Do you Need the Number?

One reason might be that a company you deal with has changed its contact details since you last dealt with them.  They could have been taken over, moved, or simply gone out of business.  The details you have are out of date and you are having difficulty in contacting them.

If the number you have is a cell number, it could be different for a number of reasons.  One reason is that If a prepaid number is not used or recharged for a period of time, say six months, it is reclaimed by the cell company (“Churned”) and reissued to another client.

There are however, from time to time, darker reasons.

Throughout history, people have been scammed by organisations giving false contact details.  This has increased dramatically with the Internet and e-commerce.  Unscrupulous merchants create glossy websites, you buy their products, and receive poor service or often nothing at all.  The contact details on the website are false, and you have lost your money.  You have the business name and want to know if there is another phone number for it.

How do you find the Business Phone number of a Business? Here are five ways to help you.

Online Data Sources

  1. Online Registries

    Online Registries

    Most businesses want to be found and register or are registered in online business directories.  Yellow Pages, White Pages or the local equivalent are a good place to start.   There are usually other online business registries that can be used.

    If the company needs formal accreditation or registration, such as a pharmaceutical company, it is often possible to find the company and its contact details from the body providing the accreditation.

    Trade Associations often maintain membership lists with contact details, so it the company is a member of one, their contact details may be available from there.  Hopefully they are up to date.

    Another place to start is with company registration details.  All businesses need to be registered for tax and compliance purposes, and nowadays most registration details can be found online on a Government database.   Registration details will give you a registered address and contact details at the very least.

    Sometimes the registered address is not the head office or branch you want to find, but they can usually provide you with the  contact details you need.

    Carrying out an online search on the company name may turn up other potential sources. There may be blogs and customer response sites on Social Media applications like Facebook and LinkedIn that mention the company.  At the very least you may find a contact who can provide you with the necessary information.   

    If you suspect you have been scammed, a search highlighting other customer complaints can often confirm it.

  2. Websites and Social Media

    Websites and Social Media

    Most businesses have an online web presence.  Their web site usually has a contacts page.  The contact details will usually include the opportunity to send an email or contact a help desk, perhaps by online chat.  

    Their material, especially on Social Media often includes contact details, so you may be lucky and find a phone number.  If not, you will have a point of contact in the organisation who can help you.   

  3. Commercial Applications

    Commercial Applications

    There are several online services, PC and Smart device, that given a business name will find the business number for you.  They will be different applications in different countries, and some may be localised to a particular country or area only.  Some are free, and some need a “voluntary” donation or payment before revealing the number.

    They also can provide the reverse service, given a phone number, they will tell you who it belongs to. Be aware that their information might be incorrect or out-of-date.

Offline Sources

  1. Directory Enquiries

    Phone Directory

    Before the Internet, the ability to source a business phone number could be found from offline sources.

    All landline and most cellular service Telcos offer a Directory Enquiry service.  Given a company name and perhaps address, they will provide the business phone number.  This may be a free or charged service, and some numbers are ex-directory, though this is unlikely for a business.

  2. The Library

    Library

    The Library can be a Treasure Trove of information. It will have the hardcopy business directories, in some cases, back copies of newspapers and magazines, and often the staff themselves will be able to help you find the information.

If nothing else, most libraries now provide online access that you can use to carry out online searches.

Finding a business phone number is not difficult.  It is in the interests of most reputable businesses to make themselves contactable.  However, It can be a tedious and ultimately unsuccessful process for some, probably less reputable concerns.

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