The challenge for Voice over the Internet
Having been involved with the delivery of both Voice and Internet Connectivity services for well over a decade now, if there’s one lesson I’ve learnt along the way, it’s that customers will not tolerate even the slightest ripple of disruption to their Voice services!
The sensitivity of customers to Voice outages is, to my mind, far higher than to interruptions to their Network or Internet services – and understandably so; it’s embarrassing, frustrating and highly visible if that meaningful conversation is suddenly cut short, reduced to “hello, hello,” or lost to underwater garble of an ineffective VoIP solution.
In the Contact Centre, the effect is of course magnified, with scores of agents now sitting idle, scores of new customers left to float towards the competition, or scores of existing customers instead reverting to Twitter!
It really is no wonder that Hosted Voice – a solution where a Cloud Service Provider builds a multi-tenant environment and offers voice extensions on a per-user, per-month basis – raises mixed feelings amongst the customers I speak with about the technology.
The conversation around Hosted is similar to the conversations of yesteryear, with our customers considering a Voice-over-IP system as replacement for their Digital system, and especially for the customers considering SIP trunks as a cost-effective replacement to rock-solid ISDN.
For those considering an internal VoIP telephone system, that was straightforward – it’s great – but get your Network right! If you’re carrying real-time Voice traffic on the same wire as YouTube and Facebook, you need to ensure Voice has priority, with network technology called Quality of Service (QoS). Obvious, right?
For those wanting to start pushing Voice over the Internet and save cost dropping ISDN in favour of SIP Trunks, the conversation is harder – but at the technical level it’s the same as the Hosted Voice discussion.
ISDN is dedicated to carrying Voice traffic – it just works, but with SIP there’s a tendency to push Voice over the same Internet Service carrying all that YouTube and Facebook traffic. That Internet Service is often the slowest link in a network, and if it becomes congested that’s when the problems with VoIP and SIP arise.
Yet most generic Internet Service Providers are not sensitive to Voice traffic. There is seldom any prioritisation of Voice traffic up or down the Internet pipe even on dedicated Ethernet Leased Line services, and very rarely on inexpensive, entry-level ADSL and FTTC products.
Even those handful of enterprise Internet Service Providers with bespoke services that do offer QoS prioritisation can only do so across their own Service Provider network; as soon as that traffic reaches the public Internet there are no guarantees, with traffic transmitted between service providers being handled on a best-efforts basis.
Regrettably, prioritisation and off-Internet networking is rarely factored into the cost-conscious Sale and network design for SIP trunks or Cloud Hosted Voice, reducing confidence with Internet Voice technologies. Hosted Voice and SIP Trunks are too often sold as a cost-cutting exercise, with the (perhaps not so) obvious technical basics often overlooked, leading to poor quality Voice and a frustrating experience.
Herein lies the problem with Hosted Voice. VoIP systems and SIP absolutely do work, but the Internet Connection needs to be architected to support them with two-way end-to-end prioritisation. Yet, whilst a quick Google search will demonstrate that nearly any IT organisation can prop-up a Hosted Voice Server within a Cloud Provider’s network, and run zero-cost, zero-support Software to run an attractive (on the surface) low-cost Hosted Voice service; unless they are a true Internet Service Provider with their own Data Centre Infrastructure they cannot prioritise or guarantee the quality of Voice traffic from the customer network into the Voice Server over the public Internet – or even guarantee the upstream traffic from their Cloud Voice Server into the Public Telephone Network if this traffic is also travelling over the public Internet.
A successful voice strategy mandates a different approach. At Syscomm we follow basic network fundamentals to offer our Hosted Voice platform without sacrificing the quality of traditional On-Premise systems, or ISDN.
Our Hosted Voice platforms are entirely private within own Network of UK Datacentres to keep all customer Voice traffic away from the vagaries of the public Internet.
We offer true, cost-effective multi-service Internet connections into SMB, SME and Enterprise sites to support the prioritised delivery of Voice, and at the back-end have private links into major transmission networks to deliver ISDN quality voice without ever gambling with our customer traffic routing over the public Internet.