Can You Keep Your Voip Working During a Power Failure

Can You Keep Your VoIP Working During a Power Failure

The impact of digital convergence and improvements in technology have generated widespread adoption of VoIP phone systems by businesses and individuals.   Businesses use them to substantially improve their business profile and improve communications efficiencies.  All users use VoIP to substantially reduce their communications costs, particularly for long-distance and international calls.

There is one major difference between the traditional PSTN phone systems and digitally hosted VoIP phone systems. That relates to performance during a power outage.  Power to PSTN systems is provided by the PSTN supplier and PSTN phone systems, therefore, they continue to work during a power outage.

Because a VoIP phone system is hosted on ICT infrastructure, either internally or on a hosted site, it is the responsibility of the infrastructure provider to provide backup power.

This brings several considerations into play.

Personal and Home Office VoIP

Personal and Home Office VoIP

Most domestic VoIP systems are hosted through voice-enabled apps like Skype, Telegram, and WhatsApp.  The user can either use a desktop app or a smart device connected to their internet connection by WiFi.   Some larger home offices have a software PBX supporting a WiFi-based internal phone system and the specialised functions offered by VoIP.   The handsets are usually softphone apps hosted on desktops or smart devices.

The key here is to keep the desktop, the WiFi and the Internet connection active.  An obvious need is for a UPS which will continue to supply power for some time during the outage.  The desktop and the WiFi and Internet interface equipment must be connected to the UPS.  In some domestic configurations, particularly Fibre To The Home it may not be necessary to keep the desktop running.

The size of the UPS will depend on the power draw of the equipment and for how long you want to keep it running.  A home office environment will need much longer uptime than a simple domestic configuration used for communicating with family and friends.  

If you run multiple PCs in a larger home office network, try to limit usage to the one device supporting the software PBX.   If the individual phone extensions are to remain active, they will need individual power support, either to the handset or to the desktop supporting the softphone app.  

In some cases, the extensions are hosted using SIP on smart devices.  Extension services will, therefore, last as long as the devices remain charged.

A fairly beefy UPS will not take up too much space and should keep the configuration running for a few hours.  One thing – printers use a lot of power, so try not to use them during a power outage, 

Another way, particularly in areas with regular power losses or poor power supply is to get off the grid and use solar power or an inverter and generator to supply domestic power.

Business VoIP

Business VoIP

Businesses are more than their VoIP systems, even though VoIP is very important as it is often the first point of customer contact with the organisation.  It is essential therefore to include VoIP in the overall backup and power management strategy adopted by the organisation.

The first step is to decide what needs to continue if an when a power outage occurs.  Is it just VoIP, or does the entire ICT infrastructure need to keep running?  Remember if VoIP is to continue, you will need to decide which extensions are to keep running.  If you are using Power over Ethernet (“PoE”), then keeping the appropriate switches up and running may be sufficient.

The steps to keeping VoIP running during a power outage will therefore include:

  1. Creating a power management strategy.  This will entail analysing business requirements and working out what is needed to be available during a power outage.  Most businesses will have a disaster management plan prepared by ICT setting out what will keep running and for how long.

    A good example is a specification for a Tier III data centre which comprehensively sets out the requirements to keep the show running, both in terms of power conditioning and power supply during outages. Keeping the Internet connection to your ISP running is essential.

    What must be borne in mind is that if other elements of the corporate VoIP network are to remain operational, then power backup will be needed in distribution layer network rooms, and for access layer switches that provide PoE power to desktop handsets.

  2. Implementing the strategy.  It might look a good strategy on paper, but it needs the financial CAPEX budget to buy UPS equipment, generators and any other electrical equipment needed. There is also an OPEX budget component for installation and maintenance costs and ongoing running costs, for example, fuel for generators.  Solar panels and oodles of batteries are a greener option than generators.

It is entirely possible to keep VoIP running during a power outage, but it requires planning, preparation, and some expense.

 
5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

The increasing effect of digital convergence and the undoubted cost and other benefits of VoIP networks has led to their widespread adoption in all sizes and types of business.   However, as with all things, there are two sides to the coin, and maintenance of an acceptable level of service for your VoIP system is of paramount importance. 

Before looking at monitoring techniques it is important to see what we are looking for.

Typical complaints and their cause  include:

Dropped Calls

This is the common experience of a call abruptly terminating with no apparent reason.  The reason is often insufficient bandwidth, incorrectly configured Quality of Service parameters, or something as simple as a defective handset.

Sound Quality

  • Echo

    Echo

    This is one of the most common VoIP issues.  The usual symptom is callers hearing their words repeated, often with a slight delay.  The reason is usually that the handset volume is set too high, the microphone hears the incoming call from the earpiece and rebroadcasts it.

    The obvious cure is to turn down the handset volume at one or both ends.  Another resolution is to use a headset.

  • Choppiness

    Choppiness

    This often described as “breaking up”.  Each caller loses whole or parts of words or sentences, often making a conversation impossible.  This is caused by the network losing voice information.  Voice conversations are carried in data packets, and if the connection is unstable and packets arrive in the wrong order, (“jitter”) the conversation becomes scrambled with missing information.

    A common cause on office networks is insufficient bandwidth, either inherent or following use of video-conferencing or streaming video. 

  • Delay

    Delay

    Delays are basically lagging in the voice information There is an excessive gap between the caller speaking and the words being heard.  This can result in callers speaking over each other or interrupting each other.

    Delays usually result from high latency, causing packets to take too long to reach their destination.

The key to a successful VoIP implementation is to monitor call quality to ensure an acceptable level of service to users of the VoIP system.

Here are five suggestions on how to monitor a VoIP implementation to address the issues outlined above.

  1. Good Monitoring Software

    Good Monitoring Software

    The key phrase is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.  Addressing hearsay complaints about call quality is made much easier by using network monitoring software. There are several software applications available that run either in-house or in the cloud that can monitor the immense amount of data generated by VoIP activity in real-time and produce meaningful information about calls.

    Key metrics include latency, jitter, and packet loss.

    • Latency should be less than 150 milliseconds. 
    • Jitter is the latency of arriving packets.  This must be minimised to ensure that packets arrive in the correct order.
    • Packet loss. Packet loss is a specialised form of jitter, in that there must be a minimum of lost packets.  If a packet is lost, the audio is recreated without the missing packets, thereby creating choppiness.  
  2. Codec Choice

    Codec Choice

    When calls are transmitted, they are compressed, digitised and made into packets.  The formula used to do this is called a Codec.  The wrong Codec can degrade call quality, particularly if the organisation is reaching its bandwidth limit.

    If call quality is degrading, checking the Codec and if necessary choosing a more bandwidth-efficient codec can alleviate and possibly remove call quality issues.

  3. Internet Connection

    Internet Connection

    The prudent operator will check their Internet connection equipment configuration router to ensure that VoIP traffic has priority.

  4. Network Equipment Configuration

    Network Equipment Configuration

    Networks are not static.  They require monitoring and from time to time to be reconfigured particularly after equipment or software upgrades. 

    This consideration also applies to the overall configuration of the corporate network.  It is essential to ensure that Quality of Service has been configured to prioritise VoIP, and regular monitoring of equipment upgrades and replacement to ensure that this situation is maintained is essential.  Increases in complaints in a particular network segment is an indicator of misconfigured equipment.

  5. Your Service Provider

    Your Service Provider

    Not all VoIP problems are internal.  It is essential to monitor the performance of external service providers such as your Internet Connection provider.  Once voice traffic leaves your network, you have no control over its route or if their configuration prioritises voice traffic.

    You need to agree and check regularly with your service provider that VoIP traffic has priority over data traffic. This is one of the more difficult problems to resolve.

 

 

 

 

Five ways to tailor your telephone system to match your business needs

Five Ways To Tailor Your Telephone System To Match Your Business Needs

One of the more significant developments in computing in recent years has been the wholesale adoption of VoIP systems by businesses and increasingly by home and mobile users.   Simply put, VoIP systems remove the costs and restrictions imposed by the traditional PSTN service providers.

Because of digital convergence among other things, the initial objective, to replace PSTN connections with digital connections has grown by leaps and bounds into fully-fledged integrated communications environments supporting media connections, not just voice.

Businesses are now presented with options among others to improve their presence and reduce their costs.  Here are five such.

  1. Cost reductions through Call Security

    Cost reductions

    In the past, PBX systems were location based.  Extension numbers were tied to a physical location such as a desktop.  The ability to restrict calls was linked to the physical device. Anyone using the handset could only make the calls that were allowed for that extension number, for example, local calls only, no national or international calls.

    VoIP systems are by contrast person based in that an individual uses a PIN number to log-on to the VoIP system wherever they might be.  They can log-on from the traditional desktop handset or by using SIP technologies from a smart device.   Call security, therefore, becomes person based rather than location based.  The ability to make calls resides in the individual profile. Applying call security according to individual needs becomes that much easier.

  2. Business presence

    Business presence

    Using VoIP can make a business seem much larger than it actually is. Two examples are automated call forwarding and departmental assignment.

    With automated call forwarding, calls made to a local number are automatically forwarded to a central number.  In this way, a company can seem to have a local presence, but in actuality operate a central support organisation.  Many companies have done this with their call-centre operation.  For example, British Airways operated a centralised call centre in India.  All calls to a local or national call centre were automatically forwarded there.

    With a departmental assignment, different extension numbers can be published for sales, finance, procurement, and so-on.  However, they can be automatically forwarded to a single extension number.  The company looks like it has different operational departments when in reality it does not.

  3. Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”)

    Customer Relationship  Management

    An organisation that operates a call-centre to provide customer support can tailor its VoIP system to support a CRM environment.  The VoIP system can be linked to a database application.  In this environment, the call-centre operative will have customer information displayed on a local computer screen when that customer calls in.  The data is retrieved using the incoming telephone number.  The operator can then answer the call with “Good day <customer name> “ giving a much more personal and warm aspect to the interaction.

    Often details of previous and current interactions with that customer are shown giving the ability to deal more effectively with the customer.  VoIP provides that capability.

  4. Automated Documentation Support

    Automated Documentation Support

    A large part of customer support is providing documentation, usually product related.  This obviously can be accomplished via a website application, but most VoIP systems can also provide this facility.

    The requestor dials a number, taken for example from a media advertisement and is presented with the option to email a document to a specified address.   In this way, the requestor receives the information they want, and the company has an email address for future marketing activity.   All without any manual intervention thanks to VoIP.

  5. Automated Call Handling

    Automated Call Handling

    There is nothing more frustrating than calling an organisation and being forwarded from extension to extension as your call is not answered. The use of calling, hunting and auto-forwarding groups maintained by the VoIP system can significantly ease that pain.

    While they are similar there are differences between calling and hunting groups.  Calling groups allow anyone in that group to pick up a call for anyone else in the group.   For example, a call to an extension where the normal answerer is unavailable can be picked up by someone else nearby.  This is especially useful after hours where desks are unattended.

    Hunting groups automate this process.  If a call is not answered after a certain time interval it is automatically forwarded to another extension number.   Calling and Hunting groups often work together to improve customer service.

    Auto-forwarding is particularly useful for support and alarm calls.  The VoIP system can be programmed to auto-forward calls to a particular number to another number, for example, the duty engineer. The forwarding can be done manually by manually programming the number into the extension profile itself, or in some cases can be accomplished via a calendar. In this way, incoming calls should be answered, not just ring out.

    The increasing sophistication of VoIP systems now enables small businesses to punch above their weight and bring improved customer service levels at little or no cost.

3 simple tips on saving fees on International calls

3 simple tips on saving fees on International calls

The advent of Voice over IP telephony (“VoIP”) has radically changed the face of communications for both personal and business users.  It has opened up opportunities for enhanced, and substantially cheaper communications, especially for long-distance and international calls.  VoIP for Business has provided communications options that are not possible with a fixed line environment.

However, the prudent personal and business user needs to be vigilant to make the best return on their investment and achieve the lowest possible international call rates.

Here are three simple tips for personal and business users to make sure that they accrue the full benefit of cheaper international communications.Continue reading

3CX: A PBX System that doesn't break the bank

3CX: A PBX System that doesn’t break the bank

The case for moving to Voice over IP (“VoIP”) telephony is undeniable.  Cost savings, flexibility, and additional functionality are all major benefits of making the move.  However, for some organisations the cost of acquiring and installing a full-blown VoIP PBX System makes the move uneconomic.  There are alternative ways of having a VoIP PBX System that are easier on the budget, and not just by using some fancy financial footwork.

One way is to turn capital expenditure into operational expenditure by moving to a hosted PBX environment. 

In this scenario, you move your telephony to a third party who manages and maintains your PBX System on their equipment, on or off your premises. The only potential one-time costs of the move are any infrastructure upgrades and the supply of appropriate handsets.  In most cases, the handset costs can be included in the hosting charges.Continue reading

6 Business benefits of using virtual numbers

6 Business benefits of using virtual numbers

A major advantage of a hosted VoIP service is that of low-cost flexibility and function.  Compared with copper-based PSTN telephony, the use of IP as a communications base allows the savvy user to capitalise on new technologies at very little additional cost, if indeed there is any additional cost at all.

Often implementation of a VoIP system in an organisation focuses on replacing the existing PSTN systems, and other useful features and functions can be overlooked or deferred till later.  As we all know, sometimes later never comes.

One easily implemented function that can be overlooked is that of Virtual Numbers.

Continue reading

When and why should you choose an IP PBX Systems?

When and why should you choose an IP PBX Systems?

One of the more commonly encountered results of the digital convergence between voice and data is the IP PBX System. There are obviously costs and benefits to moving to IP telephony, and a business needs to consider if it should move to a IP PBX System and if it chooses to, when is the best time.

Typically, an IP telephony installation consists of a central PBX function and VoIP phones on user desks. Rather than dedicated cables needed for traditional non-IP systems, conversations are digitised and carried over the cabling that supports the office network.  For the very small business there is the option of a Hosted PBX system, where the IP PBX is hosted at an external service provider.Continue reading

Reasons to embrace VoIP

Ten reasons to embrace VoIP

A digital revolution in communications has been ushered in by the convergence of telephony with television, video and IT networking.   This revolution is driven by a digital voice distribution protocol Voice over IP, (“VoIP”).

VoIP telephony in both home and business is one of the fastest growing segments of the VoIP market.  It provides advantages in cost, in mobility and increased functionality with a range of compatible devices.Continue reading

Troubleshooting the VoIP call quality issues

Troubleshooting the VoIP call quality issues

We have all been frustrated at poor voice call quality on phone services.  It can be noise or chopping on the line or sounding like you have breathed helium.  VoIP is no different.   The typical business will refer problems to the business VoIP phone service supplier providing the VoIP support contract. It causes further frustration and delays if the fault is not with the VoIP for business system and the business needs to make a second support call to another service provider.

In the event of failure or call poor quality there are a few steps that the business can take prior to making the call to make sure that the problem does not arise elsewhere and the support call can be correctly placed.

Poor call quality can arise in at least three areas: the business network itself; the VoIP system – centrally and at the desktop VoIP phone for business; and the Internet or PSTN service provider.Continue reading

Six must-have features of a business VoIP Phone

Six must-have features of a business VoIP Phone

The convergence of telephony with television, video and IT networking has enabled a digital revolution in communications.   At the core of this revolution is Voice over IP, (“VoIP”), a digital voice distribution protocol.  All sizes of business are replacing their existing telephone systems with VoIP systems from a specialised VoIP provider operating over the company network.

Most businesses will need the assistance of a VoIP provider to help them navigate through the various options available in tariff plan, equipment, and feature selection.  There are several websites that compare and contrast the best UK VoIP providers. It will also be useful to ask other business owners their experiences.

The first introduction of a VoIP phone system to an organisation is a lot more than just changing the handset on the desk.   The features and functions offered by a VoIP system to the end user are a world apart from those of the traditional telephone system.Continue reading