So, you are looking to implement a hosted VoIP service, and have learned about the cost savings, reliability, and features you will get with hosted VoIP. You should however be sure your environment is optimized for this service. While having a reliable internet service, with sufficient bandwidth is critical, it is also important to be sure your netowrk is ready for VoIP. This article will focus on the router.
Routers are one of the most important devices in a customer network. The basic definition of a router, is a device that provides NAT (Network address translation). That is, it takes the public IP address provided by your Internet service provider, and then assigns a range of private IP addresss for use by various devices in your network. If you did not have a router, then you would only be able to run a single computer for each external IP address. Also, by using a private IP address, you are increasing your level of safety from being hacked. That is also why the router will typically contain a firewall. The firewall is used to keep out traffic that looks like it could be a threat., or is otherwise undersireable. The chances of being hacked if you have no protection at all, is probably about 100%.
Now that you have a basic idea of what a router does, I will explain some options you may have when choosing a router, and how to assure the router is optimized for a hosted VoIP telephone service.
1. Cable Company Routers:
Many smaller businesses will get a modem/router combination from the ISP (cable providers). So, a cable company will provide a box, and it serves as a modem (the device that delivers the public IP address to you), and also the router. The problem with this is that the cable companies will provide the cheapest, and lowest grade routers available. They frequently cause problem for VoIP installations, and generally lack the power to support a business customer. The best solution for this is to simply avoid using these routers. We suggest asking your cable provider to install a modem, or put the router in Bridge mode. When a router is in bridge mode, you will be bypassing the router and NAT functions, and delivering a public IP address. You would then install a good business class router, such as a Cisco RV080w.small business router.
2. Home use routers:
Routers which are sold in retail establishments like Best Buy, are typically designed for home use. So, if you have a business with more than 1 employee, I do not suggest using them, even if they are the “best” router sold in the store. While this type of router is certainly better than what the cable companies supply, it still may lack the security features, VoIP optimization that you will need for a hosted VoIp service installation.
3. SIP ALGs:
So, what is a SIP ALG, also know as SIP Transformations? Well, it basically describes the router manufacturer’s attempt to do NAT translations. That is, to tell the VoIP provider how to go beyond the puplc IP address, and locate the desired device (VoIP phone) based on the port.The problem is, that almost all routers do a poor job of this, and cause problems. That is why any high quality hosted VoIP provider will use a cloud basedl device, called a Session Border Controller to do that work instead of relying on the routers. This is why it is extremely important to turn off those settings on a router. A good hosted VoIP provider will be able to tell immediately if this setting is on, and will advise the customer or IT provider on how to turn it off.
4. Double NATS:
The one thing to avoid like the plague in a hosted VoIP implementation is a double NAT. What this means, iis the you have a router, providing NAT and issuing a private IP address, plugged into another router, also providing NAT. This presents a problem for the hosted VoIP provider, since it cannot consitently determine where to send the calls. This is why it is so important to put the cable company router into bridge mode when you replace it with a good business class router.
5. Other settings to beware of:
In addition to the SIP ALG, there are some other router specific settings that can cause problems for the hosted VoIP implementation. One example is a UPD Timeout. Since the default protocol for hosted VoIP is UDP, the timeout settings can cause a problem for the hosted VoIP service. For example, Sonicwall defaults this to 30 seconds, which means you will have your calls cut off before the phone can re-register. This setting needs to be at least 100 seconds. There are several other router / firewall specific settings, and so you should ask your hosted VoIP provider or IT professional about specific settings for your router before you implement a hosted VoIP service.
6. Quality of Service (QOS)
The ideal way to run hosted VoIP service, is to have 2 separate networks. That will require running a separate Ethernet cable for the phones, therefore keeping them separate from the computer network. You would then use a business class router for the phone network, and if possible, you could also run a separate Internet service just for the phones. While this is sometimes necessary (especially if you run intense applications on your local network), it is often overkill and may not be cost effective. In that case, you need to share your network between computers, and phones. While a computer may be pretty forgiving of less than perfect internet service, the phone is not. A lack of bandwidth for the phone will often cause quality problems and dropped calls. That is why we use QOS. QOS will prioritize the traffic to the VoIP phones. Therefore, when there is not quite enough for all of the requests going on in your network, it will treat the VoIP phone service as the highest priority. Any high quality business class router Will provide QOS. That is another reason to avoid cable company routers, or home use routers in a business environment.
Chose a knowledgeable hosted VoIP provider:
While this article attempted to provide a little education on the most important issues with routers, most business owners, and even many IT professionals have limited knowledge on chose the right router, and assuring the settings are correct. That is why it is important to work with a hosted VoIP service provider who will take the time to understand your environment, and work with your IT provider to assure your hosted VoIP serivce provides the best possible reliability and quality. ConnectMeVoice is a cloud base phone service provider, who has been in business for over 25 years, and is completely focused on working with each individual business to assure reliability and quality of service.
Please feel free to reach out and contact ConnectMeVoice: