Posts Tagged ‘network cable’

QoS – Voice Quality is Job Number One – Part 1

May 5, 2009

It is a given fact that phone systems are a key component of how a business communicates with customers, vendors, friends and family. The quality of how those conversations sound is crucial to being effective. Anything other than crystal clear talk is just not acceptable. How can we measure that clarity and decide if our phone system meets our expectations?

Let’s separate the phone call into specific components which all together create the overall experience. First we have connectivity. The “dialtone” may be standard copper lines with the same technology that was used 100 years ago. These work very well and typically provide great service at a low cost (not counting taxes and extra fees). More modern types of connectivity include broadband (DSL, cable, T-1 for example) and allow much more capacity through single cables. Frequently broadband service piggybacks voice and data together so one bill pays your telephone and Internet service together.

The next component is the phone system hardware. If you use copper lines then you may simply have a Princess Phone (dating myself!) or other handset on the desk. Very simple, works well but features are totally dependent on the PBX. Your PBX may be hosted and controlled by the telco or it might be in your own office. In a hosted situation you likely have few features and they are the same as what was available 20 years ago. If you have a modern VOIP phone system in your own office then your phone hardware has many features. Some are visible on the handset, many more are software driven and are detailed in your manuals.

The last component is the software that drives the phone system. The most desirable features such as AutoAttendant (the menu system), FindMe-FollowMe, Voicemail to Email, and many others are added as necessary and modified for your business by your phone vendor. You do have someone you can talk to about your VOIP phone system features? Someone who will make the changes you need when you need them as your company grows?

The combination of these three factors presents what is called QoS or Quality of Service. The bar must be set very high in QoS in order for your calls to be crystal clear and effective. Phone companies measure QoS with technical metrics such as Latency (delay in packet delivery), Packet Loss (missing voice data), Network Jitter (voice data packets arriving out of order), etc. They monitor the many metrics available to see if you are receiving top quality or if improvements are required. Voice data can also be given priority over data traffic in a VOIP scenario to improve QoS.

At your own office, the local network also plays a huge role in what QoS you encounter. Whether you are using an old phone system with skinny cables or a VOIP phone system piggybacking along your data network fat cabling, it must be installed properly and maintained. There should be no kinks in the cables or tears in the insulation. The network equipment in the phone room must be “business quality”, not something designed for low traffic residential use. All too often a small business owner tries to save money on routers, switches and other network equipment not realizing that the QoS goes down because the equipment is not good enough for the task. Network bottlenecks can be eliminated via a thorough audit by a quality vendor.

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”