Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dealing with Packet Delay

The wonders of VoIP is all for nothing if you experience network problems that compromise the quality of your calls. Problems like packet delays may be minor irritants if these happen once in a blue moon. However, if this is a chronic problem, you should do something about it.

The solutions, when it comes to packet delay problems, can either be with you or your service provider. Sometimes, you just need a little tweaking on your end to enjoy better VoIP.

What Is Packet Delay

Packet delay refers to the delay in the travel time of data packets between endpoints. This delay is natural up to a certain degree. After all, data packets go through a series of hardware, plus the wireline telephone system. In a healthy network, this delay is not perceivable. You can use your VoIP and conversation is clear and without pauses.

However, in problematic networks or setups, packet delays are perceived by users as delays in audio and video, echo, feedback, and pauses in conversations, among other problems. In really bad situations, packet delays can affect how you enjoy (or not enjoy) VoIP.

Types of Packet Delays

There are two main types of packet delay, namely End System delays and IP network delays. Of these two, you can tweak settings to affect some end system delay issues.

IP network delays are delays that occur during the packet transmission. This may be caused by too much network traffic or being on a network that’s inappropriate for VoIP. The delay usually between ten to a thousand millisecond.

End system delays happen in the handling of the packets at the endpoints. Here, data packets go through decoding, encoding and buffering, with buffering being the main culprit in delays. Jitter buffer delay can take up to hundreds of milliseconds. Coding and decoding, on the other hand, only takes up to 40 milliseconds of delays total.

How Monitoring Your VoIP Helps

When you monitor your VoIP through third party services, such as VoIP Spear, you can know the root cause of your communication problems and be able to deal with this accordingly. VoIP monitoring services do consistent tests over a period of time, at set intervals. This means that you get a complete picture of your VoIP’s performance and can get to the problem right away, either to deal with this yourself or to report to your service provider.

Tweaks to Minimize Problems with Delay

There are things you can do at your end to help lessen problems caused by packet delays. Remember, however, that these are only tweaks.

1.      1.  Lessen the “path” that voice packets go through. If you are connecting to your internet via wifi, connect directly to your router instead.

2.     2.  Close all other applications that use up bandwidth. When you want to focus on VoIP, stick to that for the meantime. Close all applications that are not connected to VoIP, especially the big bandwidth eaters: file sharing and gaming.

3.       3. Customize your QoS setup. Your QoS refers to a tool when you login to your router. This lets you set upload and download speeds, bandwidth priorities. When you want to enjoy VoIP, give voice and video application top priority. Deprioritize gaming and file sharing. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

VoIP Quality Testing to Prepare for Holiday Call Traffic

Doing VoIP quality tests regularly is one of the basic steps that you need to do when you want to be prepared for the holiday's call traffic. And trust us, there will be call traffic. The next couple of months will be all about loved ones who will try to get in touch with you. When you're on VoIP or if you rely on the technology as your main means of communication, it's best to be prepared. The steps are simple but you have to start now.

Test Your Network and VoIP
As mentioned earlier, you need to have a VoIP quality monitoring service set up for your VoIP service. This does not need to cost you anything. There are free services for single endpoint setups, which is what most home users have. Check out VoIP Spear for a free account.

The services of VoIP Spear monitor your network and VoIP at set intervals, and provide you with online reports. These ensure that your system works okay, and that you can make quality VoIP calls, without interference, feedback or low quality audio. You can pinpoint problem areas and address these accordingly, either on your own or with the assistance of your network administrator.

See How You're Setup
Sometimes the problem isn't actually rooted on your network or VoIP service. It could be that you have broken or low-quality gear. Make sure that your router and ATA work at acceptable capacities. Likewise, see if you have cut wiring. Cut cables will definitely affect how you receive voice data packages.

Another aspect to check is how your gear is lined up. VoIP hardware that are too close to each other may produce interference, such as feedback and other background noise. For this, do test calls and see if you experience noise. Move your equipment around until you get better audio.

Tweak Your QoS
On top of testing your VoIP quality and your gear, it's also a good idea to tweak your QoS. QoS refers to the tool that comes with most modern routers. When you login to your router's control panel, you'll find that you can set upload and download limits, as well as bandwidth priorities based on application, device and MAC addresses, among others.

When you want to tweak your QoS for optimal VoIP performance, you need to set limits on your download and upload bandwidth usage, which would then trigger the implementation of your QoS priorities. Download and upload bandwidth usage should just be 70% to 80% of normal capacity. Use an online speed tester to get to your normal capacity. Make sure that you do not have any active transfers when you test.

Then, it's time to set your priorities. For this one, remember that you have three major bandwidth users on your setup. This is: voice, file sharing and gaming. When you want to give priority to VoIP, you need to deprioritize the others. To do this, assign Standard or Bulk priority to gaming and file transfer applications. For voice and video applications, assign Exempt as priority. When this is set at Exempt, the system assigns 60 to 100% of the bandwidth to voice and video.