If you've purchased a business voice-over-IP (VoIP) service, you should savor the bliss of crisp conference calls. Typically, solutions such as Editors' Choice tools Fonality and RingCentral offer incredible voice quality. Even mid-tier solutions show a marked improvement over local telco systems and smartphones. Yet, regardless of the system you're using, problems can arise. Thankfully, we've put together this list of problems and solutions to bring the harmony back to your business calls.
Continue Reading Below
However, before you continue investing time and effort making adjustments to your hardware and network, it might be prudent for you to contact your VoIP service provider. They might be able to pinpoint your specific problem and offer you a quick fix. You should also contact your internet service provider (ISP) to ensure they're not suffering a major broadband meltdown. If both of those calls prove fruitless, or if you've already spent too many hours listening to the sweet sounds of elevator music while on hold, try the following six recommendations.
1. Jitter Jui Jitsu
Cisco has a wonderful explanation of what jitter is and how it can impact your VoIP call quality. Essentially, voice data is sent through your network in packets organized in chronological order. According to Cisco, "network congestion, improper queuing, or configuration errors" can cause delays in how these packets are organized and received.
In order to fix the issue, upgrade your Ethernet cord to a Category 6 (CAT6) cable. Your VoIP provider may have given you a previous-generation Category 5 (CAT5) cable, which only supports about 125 MHz, while CAT6 cables can transmit data at around 250 MHz. This is the easiest fix. For minor VoIP issues, this trick should solve your problem.
If the new cable doesn't unjitter your jitters, try implementing a jitter buffer. Your VoIP vendor will happily help you configure a buffer, which will temporarily store your data packets in the sequence in which they are received, and then transmit those packets into your network in evenly spaced intervals. This will help to deliver voice data in a manner that is more accurate to how it was spoken.
2. Buy a New Headset
VoIP headsets range in price from really cheap $1 earpieces to $400 luxury headsets. You wouldn't expect your favorite recording artist to mix an album using a cheap set of headphones, though, so why would you manage your business with a cruddy VoIP headset? When choosing a headset, there are a bunch of factors to consider. For one, if call quality is your main concern, choose noise-cancelling headphones that deliver sound in both ears. Corded and USB headsets typically deliver more stable sound quality than wireless or Bluetooth headsets.
Continue Reading Below
3. Monitor Your Network Traffic
As I previously mentioned, the amount of bandwidth being used on your network will have an impact on your call audio. If jitter buffers don't solve your problem, try minimizing the amount of data streamed across your network during important calls. Tell your employees to get off Netflix and Pandora, pause massive file transfers and data synchs, and only update applications and operating systems (OSes) during off-hours. If none of that works, ask your ISP to increase your bandwidth capacity.
4. Buy a VoIP Router
Don't let your standard home router transmit your business VoIP calls. You should buy a router that prioritizes VoIP traffic over other types of internet data. These routers can be as inexpensive as $200 for small businesses or as expensive as $3,000 for more heavy-duty use. It's also important that your router supports the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which helps to deliver data reliably between the client and the server. You'll also want virtual LAN (VLAN) support, which helps to group and disperse data based on where latency is lowest.
5. Interference Clearance
Phones with higher GHz frequencies tend to produce interference. Your typical VoIP phone runs at 2.4 GHz. However, there are also 5.8-GHz phones on the market. If you're experiencing interference, check to see on which frequency your phone runs. If you've got a 5.8-GHz phone, switch to a 2.4-GHz phone.
6. If All Else Fails, Hire an Expert
There are tools such as Riverbed VoIP Monitoring and VoIP Spear whose sole function is to proactively monitor the quality of your VoIP calls. These tools will alert you if there's a bandwidth issue or if you're experiencing jitter, before you even realize that your calls sound awful. VoIP Spear even rates the quality of all your calls on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being high-quality) to let you know whether or not your call quality could be improved. These tools could be invaluable for you if you've tried everything else on this list to little or no effect.