With so many businesses and homes relying on internet to handle their methods of communications, it can be paramount to ensure that your calls will complete every time, with crystal clear quality. But, since the beauty of VoIP lies in transmitting voice and telephony data through the internet, your phone calls will only be as steady and clear as your internet connection.
Take a look below to perform a full, real-time scan of your network. This test will simulate data being transmitted from your network to another, essentially replicating the transmission of data during your VoIP calls in order to measure the most important aspects of your connection.
Don't worry if this all seems confusing at first, we'll dive into the details further down to help make sense of it all.
Why Test Your Network?
Unfortunately, slow internet speeds, high packet loss, and even high latency in any network connection can quickly deteriorate not only the quality of VoIP calls, but even the overall service your business pays for.
When working with a provider, it is important to understand the aspects of your network that will determine the quality of your service to help implement a successful solution from the beginning. Depending on the level of service a business requires, VoIP hardware and network configuration each specific implementation will vary greatly.
However, with the results of these tests users can determine whether their network is up to the job, or if an upgrade will be necessary before adopting a new VoIP solution to ensure the best call quality possible.
Testing Network Speeds
One of the first many will notice when testing their internet connection is the listing of two individual speeds, upload and download. For VoIP calls, it is important to take into account both the upload and download speed of your network to prevent any unnecessary bottlenecks, or congestion.
Upload and Download Speed
To break it down simply, download speed is how fast your network can pull data from the internet to your device. Meanwhile, upload speed is how fast your network can send data from your device the internet, and other users. Both speeds are measured in megabits per second, represented as Mbps.
These speeds can also be referred to as "Bandwidth," which essentially represents the overall capacity of your network to process information. While both speeds are important and will have an effect on your calls, your network can only process information as fast as your slowest speed allows.
For our scenario this translates to not only how stable your clear your calls will be, but also how many calls can occur at the exact same time - mixed in with your office's normal internet usage on top. If your business plans to successfully allow 20 calls at once, it will require a higher bandwidth than if that was only 2 calls.
Bottlenecking Your Network
If your network's download speed is a blistering 100Mbps, but your Upload speed is limited to 5Mbps, your network and by extension VoIP service can only receive 5 megabits of data per second, even though 100 bits come in every second. This is what it means when we refer to a "bottleneck," and this exact scenario could directly lead to poor call quality. Generally, upload speeds will be lower than download speeds, so for our use this is the important number to look for.
Latency and Laggy Connections
After the bandwidth, or speed, of your network the next aspect to take into account is the latency experienced in your connection. At its simplest explanation, latency simply represents the delay that occurs when transferring data. If you've ever heard someone complain of "lag" or a laggy and slow connection, this is generally due to high latency in the connection.
Measuring Latency with Ping
When running a speed test, latency is measured directly in the ping time - for example in our speed test that attempts to recreate data transfer like that of a VoIP call, the latency test will determine how long the system takes to open and establish a connection. If data is transferred between two locations, we will know what kind of delay exists thanks to our ping measurement. Ping measurements will always be in milliseconds (ms).
For a quick reference, Ping can generally be regarded as such:
What Causes High Ping?
High latency can occur from a number of factors, but usually when there is a lack of bandwidth on your network, or if your network bandwidth is maxed out by multiple users operating at once. Lag, ping or latency can also be worsened due to an increased distance the data has to travel (across the country will have a higher latency than sending data to your neighbor's office), or any hardware in between your device and the network. This could include firewalls, routers, switches, and of course other devices and users on the network.
Ping measurements can offer a solid idea of how well your network is performing: if your ping is very high, then part of your network infrastructure might be holding everything back.
The Dreaded Packet Loss
Packet loss is when “packets” or pieces of data traveling across a network do not reach their end destination. Packet loss results in packets of data failing to reach the opposite end of the network, and in a VoIP call this will show up as jumbled conversations with missing information, words and even sentences.
Packet loss occurs when the network drops data, most commonly due to network congestion or a lack of available bandwidth. Where exactly that congestion comes from, however, can differ in every setup. Issues can also arise from outdated hardware, or even an improperly configured network. Generally, wireless networks will lead to more packet loss and should be avoided in your office if possible. Wired is always better.
How bad is Packet Loss?
For VoIP calls, dropping one or two minor packets won’t cause too much of an issue – if only one or two words are jumbled, we can generally understand the overall context of the message. However, if packet loss reaches a steady, significant level of 5% to 10% loss, users will notice entire sentences missing, and awkward pauses in the middle of a conversation.
While fixing packet loss can be out of our hands, it is just another incredibly important aspect to take into account when establishing, or improving a VoIP connection simply because packet loss is one of the most common causes of poor call quality with VoIP. We can't fix it, but your ISP and VoIP provider can certainly work with your business to ensure the best, packet filled connection.
Checking Your Firewall
Starting from the basics, a firewall is a system specifically designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from your private network.
Firewalls can be hardware or software implemented, and simply act as the gatekeeper to your network - depending on settings this gatekeeper will allow or deny entry to certain data. Essentially, a firewall will be your business' first line of defense to protect sensitive information, and overall network infrastructure.
So while firewalls are a very crucial aspect of any business' network , if your gatekeeper is not setup properly, a firewall can also act as a massive barrier to crystal clear VoIP calls. A Firewall test can help determine any vulnerabilities or data blocks in your network. To do this, a Firewall test will examine each individual "port" that your network has open - ports are the openings that a firewall creates into your network to establish the available tunnels for your data to stream through.
Open Port Tests
However, too many and unnecessary open ports simply allow even more vulnerability and access into your network. If your network does not need a specific port for a specific function, it's best left closed. These tests can range from simple common port tests to specific port tests like those used for file sharing, or messaging services.
Putting It All Together
The first place to start is of course the foundation, and if that foundation in shaky the entire structure will not stand as solid as intended. The same exact scenario can play out time and time again, with users complaining of poor VoIP service only to unknowingly be held back by their outdated, slow or improperly setup network.
Network speed tests simply arm us with the proper data and information necessary to understand how our internet connection will impact our VoIP call quality. Unfortunately the resolution of many issues are in the hands of providers, but with this understanding any business can stay on top of their service and ensure they are receiving the level of quality and service that they are paying for.