It is virtually impossible to get the most out of VoIP if you are not consistently monitoring your VoIP service. Digital telephony is highly dependent on the quality of your network, and let’s face it, no network is perfect. It will often experience downtime, peak traffic issues and infrastructure and equipment problems.
You cannot afford to leave your VoIP quality to chance. You need to know how your network works vis–à–vis your VoIP. A VoIP monitoring service is the answer here, but which one, after all there are a lot of options these days. In this guide we will address some of the problems that can occur with networks, ways to measure quality and present some monitoring solutions at the low, middle and high ends of the spectrum.
What It All Boils Down To
The VoIP industry’s standard way of measuring voice quality is MOS (Mean Opinion Score), a score between 1 (bad/very annoying) to 5 (excellent). In traditional telephony, this is a subjective perception by a listener in a quiet room. MOS in VoIP is more objective. We can calculate MOS based on network performance.
Your VoIP quality profile will include your MOS score, as well as the performance ratings of other VoIP monitoring parameters, such as packet loss, jitter and latency. Even just a small percent of packet loss, in which data/ voice packets are dropped usually because of network congestion, is unacceptable. Latency, on the other hand, refers to the delay during propagation, packetization and jitter buffer. There are several causes of latency problems; some of which you can address at your end while others may be symptomatic of network and VoIP service issues.
VoIP Monitoring Options
The goal in monitoring your network and VoIP service is to pinpoint problem areas so you can address these before they affect your day-to-day operations. There are several options here.
Low-End Monitoring Services
At the low end of monitoring there are free (or low cost) one-time testing services, such as Visualware’s MySpeed service. These types of service tend to be Java applet based and are often free to use but involve license costs typically, for the website hosting the service.
Note that this type of service is good for one-time testing to try and help troubleshoot basic problems but it is not a service that is run constantly. For this reason, it is not really a great VoIP monitoring solution for businesses that are serious about the quality of their phone service. VoIP quality issues tend to be intermittent; a poor VoIP experience can be caused by issues with just 1-5% of packets. Thus, it’s often imperative to monitor 24/7. One-time testing is not an effective way of monitoring your VoIP service, though it may be of value for smaller businesses that are trying to troubleshoot a VoIP set-up type issue. It is for this reason that we offer our WhichVoIP.com VoIP Test suite to our visitors for free – to help residential and small businesses troubleshoot fundamental VoIP set-up problems. This is a Java applet, licensed from Visualware. Another item to note here about this type of test is that Java can be a pain for people. There are security concerns, constant software updates and compatibility issues with some browsers. We try to address this on our test page to help our visitors run the test suite. Below you will find an example of the results you will get when you run the WhichVoIP test.
Mid-Level Monitoring Services
Mid-level monitoring is a great solution for most Small and Medium sized Businesses (SMBs). Typically this kind of service does not require any installation, extra hardware, or even additional staff. It is an online VoIP testing system that assesses crucial performance parameters 24x7x365, and provides you with easy to understand reports and alerts to let you know when your service is performing below par. You just plug in your endpoints and preferred testing location, and you’re good to go.
One such company in this space is VoIP Spear. It monitors key characteristics of your Internet connection to determine VoIP quality. The control panel gives you access to reports that chart your MOS, latency, and packet loss in 3 hour, 6 hour, 24 hour and 1 week periods. You can easily pinpoint the cause of problems when quality impairments occur. It is an affordable network monitoring service for most SMBs that are serious about monitoring the quality of their phone service. Below you will find a snapshot of the charts you can monitor.
High-Level Monitoring Services
On the upper end of the spectrum are services like Appneta’s PathView, which is part of their cloud-based full-stack application performance management solutions. PathView is great for large corporations that operate their own network of servers across several locations (view chart below as an example of the location monitoring). It is a very good, feature rich, VoIP monitoring solution – if you can afford it! Yes, this solution is expensive and also hard to install hence the reason this solution typically is more applicable to larger enterprises that have full time IT staff in place to manage it.
PathView is expensive and requires complicated setup, management and maintenance. At $5,000 per server, it is more suited to large operations where stringent monitoring of all servers is necessary.
Hopefully this guide has helped address some of the reasons for needing a VoIP monitoring service along with some options currently in the market place for lower end one-time troubleshooting, mid-level monitoring for the majority of SMBs and high level services for large Corporations.
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