Saturday, September 5, 2015

Common Business VoIP Problems and How to Troubleshoot Them

VoIP is great for business.
A lot of businesses are making the VoIP switch mainly because of the cost-savings that the technology has become synonymous with. This is well and good for the business and the industry, in general. VoIP does present real and significant opportunities to cut costs and make other business functions run more efficiently.

However, it is of utmost importance to also understand the technical requirements of digital telecommunications, as well the possible problems that come with it. Some of these problems can be dealt with from your end, without resorting to tech support help. While there is nothing wrong in relying on outside help, this could take time and disrupt your business' day-to-day functions. It is always ideal to know which problems you can deal with and how.

VoIP Problem 1: No Dial Tone or No Audio
The lack of dial tone and/or the lack of audio is probably the most alarming issue you can experience. This usually happens at the start, when you've just made the switch. The setup – done by your IT team or your service provider's – may be misconfigured, resulting in zero dial tone and/or zero audio.

What could be the problem then?

If you don't hear a dial tone, your problem could be rooted to your phone system's provisioning. Your tech people should have provisioned your phones automatically. Your phone needs to be recognized by the system. Likewise, make sure that your router port forwarding is set up correctly. Typical ports used are 5060-5090 and 16384-16482.

The lack of audio is also rooted to misconfigured router port forwarding. Voice uses ports 16384-16482. Check to make sure you forward to the correct ports.

VoIP Problem 2: Choppy Voice
In actuality, lack of audio or dial tone is not that much of a problem. The root cause and solution for this is pretty much clear-cut. This is not the case when it comes to choppy voice.

Choppy voice or audio is an annoying problem that may recur every now and then. You need to get to the root cause and implement fixes, albeit temporary. Otherwise, it will compromise your digital telecommunications system and make it less effective.

For most cases, choppy voice is caused by insufficient bandwidth. VoIP is necessarily bandwidth-heavy since voice and video data packets are transmitted wirelessly using internet protocol. When your business relies on VoIP, it is important that your internet connection is reliable and robust. You should have ample broadband allotment, as well as proper cabling and hardware.

When choppy voice occurs, your broadband performance is the first place you check. You can stay on top of this through third party services, such as VoIP Spear, which test your MOS, latency, jitter and packet loss, among other performance parameters. When you have this set up, you can make everyday assessments about your VoIP's performance, particularly if your network can take the demands of digital communications.

If your network falls below par, the best solution is to find a more reliable service provider. Ask your peers and colleagues for recommendations.

Of course, switching providers takes some time – with the paperwork and all. You might also be held back by contracts and all. If this is the case, you can implement temporary solutions that can ease the problem a bit.

First thing to do is to reconfigure your QoS. VoIP makes use of voice and video applications so you should prioritize these. These are bandwidth-heavy and you would need to lower the priority allotted to other bandwidth-heavy applications, such as gaming.

Another solution is to tweak your codecs and use compression that does not require much bandwidth. Use the G.729 codec, which use minimal bandwidth while retaining good audio quality. Another thing you can do is to reconfigure your jitter buffer to increase its depth.

VoIP Problem 3: Echo
Echo is another annoying problem. However, this one can easily be solved.

Most of the time, your equipment is the cause of echo problems. It may be a matter of just lowering the volume of your speakers so your headset does not amplify the audio. If this does not solve the problem, have a technician check your phone unit. You might need to have it replaced.

Other VoIP Problems
There may be other issues that you'd encounter every now and then. For the most part, these may be latency related issues that can be resolved through careful assessment and selection of service providers.

Always stay on top of your business VoIP through 24/7/365 persistent and consistent call monitoring. This is your first line of security and ensures that, should there be crucial dips and issues with your service, you can do something about it before it affects your day-to-day operation.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why Choose Cloud VoIP

We've come to a point when one of the best things that you can do for your business is to make that VoIP switch. There's absolutely no reason now to not take advantage of the cost benefits and productivity improvements that come with VoIP – especially with the increasing popularity of cloud VoIP.

No Hardware Required
On-premises VoIP requires a huge investment in hardware. You need to purchase an IP-PBX or at least a gateway device to work with your old PBX. You'd want SIP phones to replace your analog phones or ATA devices for them. Plus, there's your network cabling to think about. You should at least have Cat5e cables.

This can amount to a lot – which is why it has taken time for business to make a massive shift to VoIP, even with all its benefits.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case today. You can enjoy the benefits of VoIP without needing to make as much hardware investment. You can make do with a basic setup, wherein you use softphones via desktops and BYODs (Bring Your Own Devices).

For the most part, you will just need to invest in upgrading your network cables. Other than that, you won't need anything else. You can switch to VoIP within a month, and without the usual hardware investment.

Expert Managed Telecommunications, At No Additional Cost
You also need expert manpower when you switch to on-premises VoIP. Your service provider will help you out a bit at the start. But eventually, the maintenance and management of your system would fall on you. You then need to hire or train at least one staff member to focus on this. The health of your VoIP system is then also dependent on the quality of help that you hire.

This is now a non-issue with cloud VoIP. With your IP-PBX, switches and the rest on a cloud, your system is now managed by industry experts who are focused on VoIP. This is definitely a level up from being dependent on a person or two who you can afford.

Scalable VoIP
With cloud VoIP also comes incomparable scalability. You no longer have to plan and spend five years into the future. You don't have to project your capacities five years ahead, and invest in being able to fulfill these capacities.

Cloud VoIP allows you to add and deduct users, as needed. You can also add or deduct features, as needed. You only have to factor in changes in your monthly or yearly fees.

The implication here is that you can funnel your funds elsewhere. When your telecommunications costs just boil down to monthly or yearly fees, you can invest in growing your business. Put funds into marketing and production. There's no need to project and spend for your telecommunications too far ahead into the future.

Grow Your Business
One of the main targets of cloud VoIP are small- to medium-scale businesses, and they are buying. This is not surprising.

There are several means by which cloud VoIP can help a business grow. Telecommunications savings are just the start. Yes, you can do a lot more with the money you save through VoIP. You can invest in key areas, such as marketing and sales.

Your team's productivity will also likely increase with the different features and capabilities of VoIP. You can work and communicate from anywhere, and collaborate with team members. Communications convergences means that data is accessible across different platforms. The flow of information is faster.

All this is available to you at just a fraction of what it used to cost to get into VoIP. This is a great opportunity to build on the potential of you business.

VoIP Monitoring
When you want to guarantee that you get the most out of your cloud VoIP, make sure that you implement VoIP monitoring. Your cloud VoIP service is likely to have this running in the background too. As a customer, it is also important to stay on top of your VoIP's performance. So, run your own call performance tests 24/7/365. VoIP Spear offers consumer-scale and commercial-scale call monitoring, where key factors, such as MOS, latency, packet loss and jitter, are charted and analyzed. You get regular reports, as well as alerts when something goes wrong.

With VoIP Spear, you keep apace with your business' telecommunications.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

VoIP in 2015: What to Watch Out For

As 2014 comes to a close, we look back to a great year in telecommunications and ask: can things be any better? The answer is a resounding yes!

By the looks of it, VoIP is hardly done with spearheading all the wonderful changes we have been enjoying, in terms of call quality, ease of installation and management, unified communications, and affordability. The industry is still on the cusp of really exploding and taking over telecommunications as we know it! Here are some of what we see happening in VoIP in 2015.

VoIP on the Cloud
There will be a massive move to the clouds. Cloud hosted VoIP is the more affordable option, especially for small- and medium-sized that have just decided to give VoIP a try. There are a lot of benefits in switching to VoIP. However, installation and technology management are the immediate issues for companies that do not have huge budgets for telecommunications.

Cloud-hosted VoIP is not just about affordability. Companies also benefit from the ease and speed of transition. Maintenance and technology management are also handled by the service provider, which takes off the burden and cost of premises-based telecommunications that requires expensive hardware and a dedicated team managing them.

At the same time, you benefit from scalability, integration with other communications platforms (unified communication) through your data network, and reliability.

So, in 2015, don't be surprised when more businesses make the switch. As the services and driving technologies of cloud-hosted VoIP improve, moving toward this is the best choice for VoIP newcomers and old-time VoIP users.

Cloud Platform Integration
The VoIP trend toward the cloud will also lead to increased integration with other applications on the cloud. This is a natural course in business VoIP. There are many possibilities in the integration of other data-centric technologies with digital communications. We are now seeing this in cloud-hosted CRM and productivity software.

Mobile VoIP
Mobile VoIP has also made headway in 2014, and will continue to be a major force in the industry. The driving force here seems to be the rising use of mobile gadgets (corporate property or BYOD aka bring your own device) within the work setting. With increased mobility through mobile devices, it is a productivity ideal to have essential members of the organization reachable even when not within the office premises.

Through mobile VoIP, this is made possible through VoIP applications. As the rest of the apps on your phone, coordinating between team members and partners then becomes a function done within your data network, separate from mobile voice.

With increasing availability of Wi-Fi and the decreasing cost of data services, this will be utilized more by organizations in 2015

VoIP Security Threats
And as with any online technology that is becoming increasingly popular, VoIP is now a target of malicious attacks. This ranges from the usual theft of service and the more vicious denial of service to malware and call interception.

There are vulnerabilities within the technology that require diligent monitoring from third party services, such as VoIP Spear. You need to monitor the different performance parameters in order to pinpoint lags in quality that might be from attacks.

VoIP Spear
The trend toward hosted VoIP pinpoints an increasing need for third party services that provide back-end analytics. The advantage of VoIP Spear is the ease and cost of implementation, management and maintenance. It is reliable service that provides regular reports and alerts when something is off. The service is perfect for businesses, regardless of size, that require consistent quality performance from their phone system.

In 2015, there's a lot more in store for VoIP Spear users. They can look forward to a new year of excellent VoIP testing and monitoring. Check out their website:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Telecommuting Basics

Are you thinking about working from home, part-time or full-time? Here are some basics that you need to have. Telecommuting can change your life positively, and give you more work-life balance. But, before this happens, you have to have the proper setup. Here are a few things to start with.

1. Make sure you've got reliable network connection: One of the foremost requirements of working from home is that you are able to stay connected with your office and your partners. This has to do with your accessibility and basically your ability to do work like you would in an office. You need to access databases, shared work space, as well as your voice calls (via VoIP). You cannot make do with intermittently "OK" connections. Remember that people need to get in touch with you too. It is not just about connections that you can make do with.

2. Implement checks / monitors: Like a real office, you need to stay on top of systems you rely on, such as your network and VoIP. There are a good number of monitoring companies out there. Your best bet is VoIP Spear, which offers trial accounts and affordable service packages depending on the size of your organization. 

With 24/7/365 monitoring, you ensure that your system's performance is at par with your goal of always being available/accessible even when you work from home. If it's not, you can do something about it immediately.

3. Go to the cloud: Cloud computing has made working from anywhere easier and more efficient. Applications and files can be centrally located in the cloud servers. You can access this from anywhere, as long as you have secure internet access.

Having your files on cloud servers also makes collaboration with your co-workers and partners easier. You can conduct meetings, view, share, and revise files using the same platform, as well as access files, databases and such.

At the very least, you get the peace of mind knowing that all you latest files are secure in one location. In case of networking emergencies and you happen to lose connection, the office can continue to function with your data hosted in the cloud.

4. Create a conducive work space: While it is tempting to conjure images of you working from bed or the kitchen table as you telecommute, this is not really ideal. The bed is associated with sleep; while the kitchen table is associate with food and family time. These aren't space where you're supposed to be doing hard work. Plus, in all likelihood, you will run into distractions while in this space. It could be in the form of a family member, or cooking that needs to be done.

When you work from home, it is ideal to designate a space where you can have some privacy and place to work. Locate a corner or room where there's little "traffic." If this has a work desk and a comfortable chair, then great!

Once you've designated a space, meet with your family member or housemates. Tell them about the work that you need to do from home, and how you need a conducive environment. Ask that they respect your isolation when you spend time in your work space.

For your part, make sure to schedule ample time to spend working in your space. Be conscious of possible distractions and limit the "little extras" (such as indulging in an afternoon nap or playing online games) that have become so doable when you allow it.

5. Have a plan: Another must-have when you want to do effective telecommuting is a plan. This includes a daily to-do list, as well as weekly deliverables and work schedules. This may sound off tangent to the common idea of how it is to work from home -- freedom, free time and all that. The reality is that you need a plan more when you telecommute. You will be faced with too many distractions, such that you really need to decide on what you should be doing at each exact moment and sticking to this decision.

6. Have discipline: When you have everything set up, don't forget to add in some discipline. This goes a long way when you face the myriad of temptations typically faced by someone telecommuting. There is always room for distractions, of course. It is one of the fun things about working from home. But, after you allow yourself a little indulgence, always go back to your scheduled work. This is the only way you can get things done while telecommuting.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why Businesses Need Mobile VoIP

There are several good reasons why your company should take advantage of mobile VoIP. This is not just a matter of keeping up with what's popular or current. Mobile VoIP is about enabling your partners and employees with what is perhaps the best telecommunications tool around.

What exactly are the benefits of mobile VoIP? Here's the short-list.

Connectivity: Probably the most important aspect of VoIP – mobile or otherwise – is the unparalleled connectivity you get to enjoy. Anywhere you are, in or out of your office, you can remain connected and collaborating with your co-workers and partners. You can be on a business trip somewhere and still make meetings at your home office through VoIP. You just need to make sure you have access to a Wi-Fi network so you can keep your costs low.

Cooperation: Mobile VoIP is a great way to keep your staff working together. Through mobile applications that integrate connectivity and function, you can attend meetings, share documents, chat and collaborate as needed. You can also gain access to data centers to manage databases and such.

Usage control: Mobile VoIP allows you to take control of all your communications. Your voice mail, data collaborations, emails and all else can be accessible through one interface while you're mobile. That's a lot of power in such a small convenient device.

Presence: While on the go, your workforce can stay connected and working together. This is crucial when you want to grow your business. By taking advantage of the perks of VoIP, people can stay connected wherever they are – all while spending pretty much the same for communications. There are no long distance or roaming costs to worry about.

Reduced Cost: Of course, you can't ignore the tremendously slashed down prices available via VoIP. When you equip yourself with mobile VoIP, you reduce communications costs that you'd otherwise incur from long distance calls and the like.

When you do use mobile VoIP, it is important to ensure that your VoIP works 99% of the time. It is useless to go mobile and not have your phone network deliver good service. You can't stay connected if your service provider is bad in the first place.

You can do this with services like VoIP Spear, which monitors your phone service 24/7. You get to know problem areas before they affect your day-to-day. The service monitors key factors in VoIP quality, such as jitter, packet loss and latency.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Best Mobile VoIP Tools for Business

One of the perks of switching to VoIP is the viability of working efficiently outside your office. You can be on the go, and still be reachable and “fully-functional.” You have access to data and can integrate with the office work flow remotely.

To do this, you need the help of reliable mobile VoIP apps. There are several options when it comes to this, varying in terms of simplicity and features. When you select one for your “official” use, choose one based on the tasks that you need accomplished while on the go. If you think that you need to rely on your mobile VoIP tool for long periods of time and for a lot of tasks, get the feature-rich ones, even when you have to pay for it.

Here are some of the best mobile VoIP tools that you should try:
Skype: Of course, Skype is on this list. As one of the pioneers in free VoIP, Skype has endured the rapid growth of the industry. It still offers free VoIP, on mobile or for your desktop, which comes with chat. Plus, it offers business VoIP options for those who want more powerful and dedicated service.

Skype remains one of the more useful apps that you should download to your phone. Many users who have paid VoIP accounts elsewhere retain their Skype account because of the big number of users still on Skype. It is a guaranteed way of linking up with new partners and prospective clients.

Fring: The great thing about Fring is that it tries to be your mobile communication hub. It has features that allow you to integrate mobile calls, chats, social media and email, all in one place. That's a lot of power for a free app. Get Fring if you want convenience in your mobile communications.

Vopium: This is another free VoIP app that works well with an account with Vopium. The features are basic. You can make calls at slashed down rates. When there's wi-fi, calls and roaming are free. Apart from being a mobile app, you can also install the app on your desktop.

Truphone: Truphone is similar to Vopium such that its defining feature is the ability to make long distance calls at discounted rates. The call quality is better though. And it is rated more highly by its users.

Nimbuzz: This is a nimble little app that can be installed in different devices, from phones to desktops. It is also very powerful. It offers several VoIP options. Plus, you ca integrate the app with several chat services. It then becomes a one-stop mobile shop, where you can keep in touch with your clients and partners on the go.

Beejive: This is a paid service but can be worth it when you want a powerful tool to assist you as you work on the go. Through it, you can integrate several chat and VoIP accounts. When you've got a lot to deal with while on the move, get this app.

Remember that when go to the trouble to set this up on your phone or tablet, make sure you are on a VoIP network that works as hard as you do.

Ensure that your VoIP works 99% of the time by getting a VoIP monitoring account at VoIP Spear, the no-hassle provider of reliable 24/7/365 VoIP testing services.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Fix Common VoIP Problems

When you rely on your VoIP for business communications, it is important to be able to fix certain issues internally first, before calling for support. Reliance on tech support for some VoIP issues that you can handle yourself can make you lose hours, if not days.

Here's a quick guide to help you.

Echo. Echo is an easy-to-fix VoIP problem when you know what causes the echo that you're dealing with. It could be any of these three: acoustic, electromagnetic disruption and equipment.

If it's an acoustic problem, you would just need to reduce the volume of your speakers or earpiece. You can tell that it's an acoustic echo simply by covering the mouthpiece. If it reduces the echo, then you've found your problem.

Electromagnetic disruption, on the other hand, is caused by equipment that's too near to your phone. To see if this is the cause of your VoIP echo, try to move your phone away. Did the echo disappear? If so, to solve your problem, you just need to move your phone away from typical sources of interference, such as your computer and router.

If all else fails, there is likely a problem with your equipment. You can check by switching phones. If there's no echo when you use a different phone, then you should just replace the one you're currently using.

Bandwidth. Bandwidth is somehow a general problem in VoIP. Insufficient bandwidth can cause a number of problems – we will mention some of these later.

A way to diagnose bandwidth problems is to check out your setup. Do you experience call problems when you are running other programs that eat a lot of bandwidth, such as gaming? Are there other computers connected to your network when you experience problems?

The first thing to do is to turn off and disconnect everything else. You are testing for bandwidth problems here so you need to isolate the issue. Disconnect all connecting computers. Close all other applications that use up bandwidth. Does this make your calls sound better?

If so, then, the problem really does have something to do with your bandwidth. You can implement a stopgap solution at the start. Here, you need to configure your router's QoS so that you prioritize voice and video applications. Voice apps, of course, pertain to programs that you use for VoIP. Video, on the other, is for when you use video conferencing. This may be optional if you don't really use that feature.
Eventually, especially if you use VoIP for business, you will need to upgrade your bandwidth allotment or dedicate a separate network service for your VoIP. It is problematic to have to contend with bandwidth issues. As a technology, VoIP will really eat up bandwidth. You have to be prepared for this from the get-go.

Choppy Voice. Choppy voice is one of the bandwidth issues that we mentioned earlier. You need to deal with this similarly as the above mentioned. If reconfiguring the QoS does not work, then you will need to check with your network administrator. There might be incompatibilities in how you're set up.

Jitter and Jitter Buffer. Jitter and jitter buffer are VoIP staples. Regardless of the quality of your network and VoIP service provider, jitter and jitter buffer will always be a factor in how your VoIP works.

Jitter is the different pacing of how packets arrive to the receiver. This is a natural occurrence. To make up for it and ensure that conversations can be understood, the jitter buffer gets to work. The buffer holds the voice packets before releasing them at a controlled pace. This is where problems might occur.

It could be that your jitter buffer is configured incorrectly. This will cause poor call quality and packet loss. If your buffer is too small, there's not enough to retain packets up until they can be released at an even pace. So, packets may be dropped. If it is too big, packet delivery may be delayed.

You can address these problems by configuring your dynamic jitter buffer. There is a static jitter buffer built into your router – you cannot change this. But you can configure the dynamic one via the software control panel. Ideally, the buffer depth should be at 30 to 50 milliseconds.

Monitor Your VoIP. If there's one major takeaway here, it's that you need to monitor your VoIP 24/7. For businesses that rely on VoIP communications, this is an imperative. Services of companies, like VoIP Spear, will test your VoIP quality round-the-clock. This means that you are on top of issues right away. You can do something about it, or you can decide to forward the matter to tech support.