Sunday, April 5, 2015

On the Cloud: VoIP and VoIP Monitoring

This year, organizations are turning to the cloud to take advantage of business VoIP. Where VoIP levels the playing field – reducing communications overhead and enabling greater access to business opportunities regardless of where you are – cloud VoIP makes the benefits of VoIP more affordable. Today, practically any organization that knows the positive difference with VoIP can switch to it with minimal investment.

Zero Hardware Requirements
The biggest initial investment that you'd have to make when you switch to on-premises VoIP is your hardware, which includes your IP-PBX or gateway device, as well as cable upgrades and SIP phones. This can amount to a lot, especially when you'd have to project to the capacities you'd require at least five years in the future.

With cloud VoIP, you skip through this. You can start simple and communicate through softphones, installed in desktops and BYODs (Bring Your Own Devices). The likely hardware investment that you might need to make is your office cabling. For VoIP communications to be as clear and powerful as possible, you need to use at least Cat5e cables. If you've used traditional phone lines for the longest time, your cables are likely Cat3s. While you can make do with this initially, it is best to upgrade to ideal cables for VoIP. This allows you to maximize your use of the technology, and not have to make do with bad audio and video connections.

Expert Communications Management
For many organizations, communications systems – be it traditional telephony or VoIP – require dedicated manpower, an expert or two in your payroll who can install, maintain and manage your system. You are reliant on your human resources department to get the best person for the job, at the price you can afford.

With cloud VoIP, this is no longer an issue. Getting expert technical support for your communications systems now relies on your VoIP service provider. You don't need to retain and spend for additional technical manpower. You do not need to rely on the level of expertise that you can afford. This now lies on your service provider.

And since they are focused on VoIP as a business, you can rest assured that they have the best people on the job.

Scalable VoIP
Perhaps one of the determining qualities of cloud VoIP that makes it an easy decision to switch is its scalability.

With on-premises VoIP, you would need to plan ahead and put together a communications system that can handle your projected requirements, at least five years into the future. This is well and good if you have the budget for it. But, for many small- and medium-scale, it is what has kept them from making the switch.

Cloud VoIP paves the way for small- to medium-scale business to make the switch and equip themselves as needed. They can add (or deduct) users and features, as required and without having to make an investment beyond their requirements.

Aside from making VoIP more accessible to organizations that can definitely leverage it to forward the company, it also frees up funds and allows you to invest elsewhere – other than your telecommunications system.

Grow with the Flow
With cloud VoIP, you don't have to plan your business investment around telecommunications. And definitely, you shouldn't be placing all your eggs in one telecommunications investment basket. There are other aspects of business that can use an infusion of funds, such as marketing and sales.

Through cloud VoIP, you can focus on these other aspects. Since you only need to plan for your monthly (or yearly) VoIP fees, you have more leeway to focus on growing your business.

Monitor your VoIP
Of course, to guarantee that you get all this, make sure you monitor your VoIP service. You can't fully take advantage of the benefits of VoIP when your service falls below acceptable standards. After all, you need to stay constantly reachable to your clients and partners through consistently clear audio and video communications.

For above part VoIP monitoring, choose VoIP Spear. The company provides 24/7/365

call monitoring and testing services from several global locations. Chart your VoIP's MOS, latency, jitter and other key performance indicators. Get reports and alerts. Stay on top of your VoIP.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

VoIP 2015: What to Look Forward To

The past few years have been great for VoIP. The technology made headway to become telecommunications' leader. There's more room for growth, and it looks like 2015 is another big year for VoIP.

Cloud VoIP
Cloud-hosted VoIP is going to be bigger this 2015. Cloud computing has become reliable and more affordable, of late. This is good for VoIP, particularly small- and medium-scale businesses that want to benefit from the cost advantages of the technology but do not have enough funds for on-premises IP-PBX and other requisite hardware, plus dedicated manpower to manage these.

And it's not just about the price. Cloud-hosted VoIP comes with other advantages.

The transition to VoIP can be implemented swiftly, at a scale fitting the size of the organization. A company can switch to VoIP within a month. Management and maintenance are responsibilities of the service provider, saving you from needing to hire a dedicated staff for it.

Another important advantage here is its scalability and easy integration. You can add or subtract users, as needed. Support applications can be integrated, again, as needed.

Integration On The Cloud
Like what's said earlier, integration is simple and fast when it comes to VoIP, especially cloud-hosted VoIP.

Communications convergence, where a singular device can facilitate the flow of voice and data, can mean more efficiency in information handling and processing, and coordination among stakeholders. Examples of what can be integrated into VoIP include CRM and productivity software.

Mobile VoIP
The popularity of smartphones has also paved the way for the boom in mobile VoIP. Expect more of this in 2015, particularly because of businesses that want their members to be more accessible.

Mobile VoIP can increase accessibility when installed in BYOD or corporate-owned devices. As Wi-Fi and data services become more reliable and wide-ranging, it becomes harder to be “out of reach.” Mobile devices become tools for increasing productivity and connection between partners ad co-workers.

VoIP Security
VoIP will also be increasingly under threat of attack and intrusion. As it gains traction with more and more users, malicious elements will want to take advantage of the technology's vulnerabilities for financial gain, control and information.

Threats can be as common as stolen account information and malware infiltration. Or, it can be targeted and vicious, such as call interception and denial of service (DoS) attacks.

Securing your VoIP becomes a requisite. This is not just something that your service provider needs to do. Users and system manager should also implement safety measures. It could be as basic as protecting computers that connect to voice services with anti-virus software, and physically securing servers and network connections. VoIP encryption can also be implemented from the user's side through the use of zfone, an encryption software that works alongside VoIP clients.

VoIP Monitoring
As dependence on VoIP increases, it becomes more and more necessary to have safeguards in place.

First in line here is VoIP monitoring from 3rd service providers, such as VoIP Spear. Service monitoring lets you stay on top of your VoIP's performance. You are alerted about performance dips and suspicious activities, and can potentially address issues ASAP.

Next, think about security when it comes to everything that you do online, be it voice or data-centric. Secure your system by installing an anti-virus software and regularly screening for malware infiltration. Get zfone and implement on top of your VoIP client.

Of course, it also pays to be selective when it comes to choosing your VoIP service provider. Don't just look at the cost. Ask questions about security measures, as well as backup plans.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

VoIP Quality of Service: What You Need to Know

Many things come to mind when you say VoIP quality of service. Taken at face value, quality of service is the level by which you enjoy consistently good quality service from your VoIP. There are many factors that affect your VoIP quality of service, which can either be internal (your system) or external (your service providers).

In determining quality of service, you need to use a VoIP monitoring service, like VoIP Spear, that runs tests regularly and persistently. You then look at different parameters of VoIP quality. These are mainly: MOS, latency, jitter and packet loss.

Why is it Important to Determine your VoIP Quality of Service
You need to know how your VoIP performs at all times of the day. This will give you a true profile of your VoIP service, which is important if you rely on VoIP for communications. You stay on top of your VoIP's performance. And you can actually try to troubleshoot problems where you can. Or, you can act immediately if issues are external and you'd need technical assistance.

VoIP Quality of Service or VoIP QoS?
If you are using a modern router, you may have encountered the term VoIP QoS. For VoIP hardware, VoIP QoS has come to refer to the configuration settings on routers where you can give priorities to your select application and lessen priorities for other applications.

Through VoIP QoS, you implement an immediate fix to slow VoIP connections on your end. By prioritizing voice applications, you allot majority of your bandwidth to VoIP. Ideally, as you do this, you should also deprioritize other bandwidth-heavy applications, such a gaming. Gaming is a major bandwidth eater.

Bad VoIP Quality of Service: Now What
You've tested your VoIP and you've come to the conclusion that your VoIP quality of service is lacking. What do you do?

The first step here is to determine the cause of bad quality VoIP. It could be that the proximity of your hardware is causing feedback that makes your conversations inaudible. If that's the case, all you need to do is keep them at a good distance from each other. Or, you may be using your VoIP via a laptop that's too far. In that case, move closer. You might also find that you have faulty or low-quality equipment. Before buying your router, ATA, SIP phone and other VoIP equipment, it's a good idea to read technical reviews first. If possible, choose mid-priced to top-priced products.

Next, see if configuring your VoIP QoS will improve your digital communications. If all that's using up your bandwidth is VoIP, do you see a marked improvement on how you enjoy VoIP? In cases like this, you will want to examine your bandwidth allotment and usage. Does your VoIP package come with too little bandwidth for your requirements? Are there too many people in your network, such that there's always network traffic? Here, you can consider tacking your VoIP to a different internal network, upgrading your account or moving to different service providers.

With VoIP monitoring, you can know right away if you main problem is your service provider. Are you experiencing dips in the performance of key VoIP quality parameters even when you are not actively using your phone service? You might need to move to a service that provides you with consistently good service. Dips and downtimes are natural for anything, even traditional phone services. However, these should never be regular occurences. You need to be able to rely on your service, especially if it's business VoIP.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Additional VoIP Testing Servers at VoIP Spear

VoIP Spear, our VoIP monitoring partner, recently added VoIP testing servers to its network. This is great news, especially for some of our followers located outside North America. With new monitoring servers in North America, Europe, Asia and South America, VoIP users can get more accurate quality profiles of their VoIP phone service.

North America: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami
Europe: London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Moscow, Milan, Madrid
Asia: Hong Kong, Japan (Tokyo), Singapore, India (Chennai)
South America: Chile (Vina del Mar), Panama (Panama City)

Setup is easy. VoIP Spear users can just log into their account and select endpoints to configure each to use specific testing servers for each. New users can select VoIP testing servers when they setup endpoints.

If you still haven't signed up with VoIP Spear and you rely on VoIP, then you should sign up soon to check out the service. It is always a good idea to monitor your VoIP and get a clear picture of how your service performs. This is the only way that you can truly become reliant on your VoIP -- you have to be sure with how it performs:

The VoIP Spear team worked on this development for almost 6 months. And it looks like they did great work. This update enhances the whole VoIP Spear user experience, and provides more accurate quality scores.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Switching to VoIP this 2014

This New Year is a great time to consider switching to VoIP. Not only has the technology greatly improved. It has become easier to switch from traditional wireline service to digital communication. Support is easily accessible, and there is an array modules, applications and support services that you setup to protect your VoIP investment.

However, there are still considerations. Answer these questions to know if you are ready to switch to VoIP this 2014:

Do you think switching to VoIP will improve your productivity?
An increase in productivity can lead to so many things. VoIP can help achieve this. Through communications convergence, a single platform makes all communicated data available easily for anyone anywhere. The flow of information is faster. Ideally, this leads to work being done faster. For instance, deliveries can be made faster if the central office’s stock database is updated right away.

But then again, this does not really work for everyone. While work can become faster, it can also slow down. VoIP adds bandwidth traffic. In fact, bandwidth usage can multiply by at least four times. An office which relies on file sharing on a limited capacity office network will definitely suffer when it comes to the speed/ pace of work.

Do you think switching to VoIP can improve work efficiency?
Apart from increasing productivity, employees can also become more efficient. Again, this is partly a product of communications convergence, which allows easier access to information. But then again, in some corporate settings, this can work on the contrary. In a small office that is not reliant on digital information, VoIP can prove tedious and add to existing processes.

Can you afford the prerequisite equipment necessary for VoIP?
Equipment that you may need include SIP phones and an IP PBX system, or alternately ATA boxes and a gateway system. This is on top of your VoIP signup and usage costs. While VoIP can save you a bundle in long run, the initial funds required to make a shift can add up. If you run a big office, you need to plan for your switch to VoIP.

Can your current network take all that VoIP traffic?
This is a major consideration. The quality of VoIP conversation deteriorates when your network is unreliable and provides inconsistent service. To ensure that your network is good enough for VoIP, test its health through services like VoIP Spear. Should you find lacking capabilities, you can either increase your bandwidth capacity or change network service providers.

When you’re positive about your switch to VoIP this 2014, install the necessary safeguards. Monitor your VoIP performance through VoIP Spear. This way, you’re ahead and can anticipate telecommunications problems, which is vital for your office’s day-to-day. It is also a good idea to create a backup power plan, in case of outages. Here, you can either buy backup power boxes (UPS) or set up call forwarding to wireline or mobile accounts.

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.