Posts Tagged ‘Cat5e’

Increase Your VOIP ROI By Connecting Remote Locations

May 19, 2009

Once your company has made the investment in a VOIP phone system, there are ways to keep expanding the use of the technology to increase your profits and ROI. A VOIP phone system connects the IP-PBX phone server to each of the phones in any of three ways, all of which work very well. 

The most common method is through the data network infrastructure at your office, using the cabling, switches, routers and other network equipment that is also used by the data side of your business. That would be the main computer server, workstations, printers, etc. Instead of a separate phone system such as was used in the last century with CAT 3 cabling, the modern VOIP system can piggyback on your existing data network, eliminating cost and delays at the startup. With Quality of Service (QoS) enabled in your network, voice traffic is given priority so that the talk is crystal clear to everyone. 

The second method is by wireless networking. Again, when you can run your data network across a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), you can add your VOIP phone system as long as you have enough bandwidth to support it. Most G and N band WLANs are fine for office use. 

The last method is via the Internet, using your broadband provider as the conduit for your phone packets to travel to the destination. This opens up your VOIP phone system to connect to telecommuters, field service technicians, sales people, temporary offices, branch offices, and home offices. Everyone who activates either an IP phone or a softphone (computer program installed to work like a screen image cell phone) can connect to the main office as just another extension for the office. They can use the voicemail, page other employees, transfer calls, and use all of the other features used while actually located at the main office. 

A specific example of how useful this VOIP phone system remote connectivity can be are companies with temporary locations such as construction companies for homes, buildings, and everything else you can think of. It is a tremendous advantage to have a live phone at the trailer and worksite to enhance communication between management and the remote work crew without waiting for Ma Bell to run a phone line with a setup and monthly cost attached to it. 

Another example is a managing entity with a main office and many satellite offices. For instance, if a government agency was managing a district with lakes, pump houses, laboratories, fleet offices, warehouses, etc., they could all be connected and just an extension away from each other, even if separated by many miles. How far is many miles? It doesn’t matter if it is on the other side of the city, out in the country, in the next county or on a remote island. As long as a good internet signal is delivered by the telecom company, the connection is strong. 

A franchised business with multiple locations can really benefit from having one VOIP phone server in the main office creating their own hosted solution for every remote store. The cost of the total phone system company-wide might be a fraction of what a normal pre-VOIP system would have cost them. In addition, having the VOIP phone system in place company-wide allows the management to filter all of the phone use data via their desktop Internet browser at any time they need to see the company Call Data Reports and associated metrics. 

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”

QoS – Voice Quality is Job Number One – Part 2

May 9, 2009

In the previous article we defined how a phone call is composed of four distinct components, all of which must be operating at peak efficiency to provide premium Quality of Service (QoS) for your business. The components were:

 Connectivity – the dialtone or broadband connection to the outside world. It could range from a plain old analog copper wire pair (POTS) to a digital T-1 optical fiber or better.

  1. Hardware – this is the phone system that you buy. Part of it is the PBX in the back room, part is the handset on your desk that you use to answer a call. Hardware is the fastest component to become obsolete and is also typically the most expensive. A VOIP system has an IP-PBX which is a reprogrammable computer and is not as likely to be obsoleted.
  2. Software – this component drives the phone system hardware to do what it needs to do at your command. Old PBX systems are heavily dependent upon the hardware for features that you can use. Modern VOIP phone systems are mainly driven by the software which can be reprogrammed as needed, updated and kept from obsolescence quite easily. This extends the useful lifetime of your phone system investment.
  3. Network – Your phone system requires a network of cables, routers and switches to connect the brain (PBX or IP-PBX) to the handsets unless you are wireless. A radio can broadcast phone signals to built-in corresponding wireless receivers – see hardware. Digital VOIP phone systems piggyback on the data network and avoid the cost of a duplicate network as in analog wiring pre-2000.

Never make the mistake of using consumer quality equipment that is designed for low traffic volume on a high traffic office network. You may save some money at the store but you will pay for it many times over in equipment reboots, system failures, data loss and lower productivity for your business. Get a recommendation from your IT/phone system vendors and buy the best router and switches that you can afford. Have a qualified technician install real CAT5e or better cabling, not patch cables running through your ceilings

A VOIP phone system goes further than other phone systems in bringing clarity to your business phone. Since the phone system shares a network with the data network, the packet traffic must be prioritized such that the voice packets go first at all times. This is implemented in VOIP QoS. The network is instructed to differentiate voice traffic from data traffic and prioritize the voice traffic. There are metrics that VOIP technicians use to measure how well this works and see where it can be improved. QOS does not particularly slow down data packet transfer. There is no noticeable lag in Internet usage or file transfer across your local network.

 The key to all four components in QoS is planning. Talk to your vendors and see what your options are, particularly from the telco for connectivity and the phone vendor for the other three components of hardware, software and network. An IT company may understand the network component but may not be familiar enough with phone systems to know the pitfalls that are out there. Would you bet the quality of your phone system for the next ten years on an IT staff that has little experience in business phone systems? Acquire the right vendor for this vital part of your business communications and your business will be far better off in the long run.

 Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”

Adding An Intercom System Has Never Been So Easy

April 18, 2009

As a business grows from a few rooms into a larger suite and even adds a warehouse for storing materials, it comes harder to find employees who are immediately needed for phone calls and meetings. Do people at your office yell at the top of their lungs for someone to answer the phone call that just came in for them? That’s not a very professional way to handle finding a particular person. It’s also quite annoying for the other people not involved.

A VOIP phone system connects throughout your office via the network cabling system. It can easily be extended to cover any part of your office or warehouse by installing additional CAT5e cabling. Once the cabling is connected to an IP phone, your IP-PBX phone server can direct calls, pages and intercom service as you wish.

If you extend your phone to an area without power capability such as a remote part of a warehouse or up in a ceiling for a paging horn, a special type of network switch can be installed to send an electric current through the network cabling. This current is standardized as 48 V DC current and is known as an IEEE 802.3af compliant system or Power Over Ethernet aka POE. CAT5e cables have 8 wires inside in four twisted pairs. The network only uses wires 1, 2, 3 and 6 for transmitting and receiving data. The other wires can carry the DC current between the “injector” at the source and the “picker” at the destination.

The special switch mentioned earlier is called a POE switch. Some or all of the ports are powered with the POE current so that devices at the other end of the cables can use the 48 V DC current. These switches are a bit more expensive than a plain switch but when compared to the cost of having an electrician run a new circuit through conduit across a warehouse, it comes out as a bargain. Since POE is standardized, it works quite well with IP phones, paging horns, entry door security panels with microphones and speakers, surveillance cameras and other devices attuned to IEEE 802.3af. Performance of these POE-powered devices is identical to those plugged directly into a wall outlet for power.

When a POE-powered IP phone is mounted on a wall at eye level where the CAT5e cable comes from inside the wall, it has no visible trailing network or power cables. With some planning on where POE phones are best placed within an office or warehouse, a more professional appearance is achieved and a potential safety hazard is avoided.

Some IP phones have Intercom buttons built into the keypads. Aastra IP phones have them and an intercom/paging system is easily installed by an IP phone vendor. That allows employees to talk to any other extension alone, a particular group of extensions, or to broadcast over the entire phone system if necessary. When the shouting is all over with, you will have improved your office atmosphere and your employees will appreciate the benefits of the new easy to learn intercom and paging system.

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”

How Does A Business Phone System Work? Part 2 – The Cables

April 5, 2009

Much of the time spent on designing and implementing VOIP phone system hardware concerns the PBX and the handsets. Think of the PBX as the brains of the system and the handsets as the hands and feet that are told what to do by the brain. How does the PBX signal the handsets to ring? To display certain features? To transmit the voice packets?

Simply put, the cables connecting the handsets to the PBX are the nerves of the system. They carry the signals back and forth across the network that comprises the vital infrastructure of the entire system. What types of cables are used and what should the typical business owner or manager know about them?

Because VOIP means Voice Over IP, the phone system will be running across the same network that the computer data packets use to share information with each other. In essence, the voice phone packets are similar to the computer data packets which is why this concept works in the first place.

The network cables are actually several strands of copper wiring that are twisted together in a regular pattern. The minimum specification for the VOIP cable demands an eight-wire cable where pairs of wires are twisted together as a four pair helix. Some wires carry the packets in one direction, others carry them the other way. Testing many years ago found that the twisted pairs must be so many twists per foot in order to carry the full signal as far as possible with maximum data yet minimal data loss. This is known as CAT5e data cable. There are some variations in cable jacketing such as PVC insulation (the most common) vs. plenum insulation (does not emit noxious gases when burned or heated). Plenum CAT5e cable is about three times the cost of PVC CAT5e cable but is a fire code requirement in most “Class A” buildings plus some other buildings where a shared plenum air space above the ceiling is found.

Older phone systems and residential lines most often use CAT3 cabling which is not suitable for computer use and thus cannot be used for VOIP transmissions. All cables are labeled on their insulation every so often with a sequence of printed tags that show what type of cable they are. It is easy to read those tags to see what type they happen to be. The insulation color does not matter. Any cable can be one of white, blue or many other colors.

CAT6 is one more variation that is designed for high speed networks. CAT6 cable is not necessary unless the entire network is gigabit speed and has a CAT6 minimum spec. Installing and verifying CAT6 cable is about twice the price of installing CAT5e.

There are two ways that cabling is used in an office. The main cabling is run from the phone board through the ceilings and walls to each location and is terminated at a walljack port. The second type of cable is the shorter patch cable that is plugged into the walljack and then run to the phones and/or computers. Patch cables are always PVC cable because they are not supposed to be used in ceilings. They should match the CAT5e/CAT6 rating of the ceiling cable.

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”