Why Does Voice Quality Monitoring for Voice Over IP (VoIP) Matter?

How Voice Quality Monitoring Guarantees Your Voice Quality

Voice over IP (VoIP) technology brings many benefits to the enterprise phone system, including lower maintenance costs, improved network integration of branch offices and teleworkers, and the ability to build distributed call centers. Telephony is mission critical for almost all businesses, and network managers expect their VoIP services to deliver the same quality, reliability, and availability as traditional phone service. The concept of shared services over a common medium introduces a myriad of contention issues, which are compounded by the real-time nature of the technology. Disruptions in voice quality can easily upset a business’s productivity and with any provider there can be problems.

Disruptions in voice quality vary and may present themselves as distorted audio, cutting in and out, and more. Have you ever had a phone call with a customer where the quality was so bad that you spent the entire call asking them to repeat themselves? Or a phone call where you don’t hear anything? Or worse, you can hear them, but they can’t hear you? Problems like these can seriously impact your ability to deliver great customer service. If customers have problems calling you, then they may just quit calling. So, how can these problems be addressed before they find their way into your business conversations? The answer is through Voice Quality Monitoring (VQM).

What exactly is VQM?

In short, VQM is advanced monitoring used to mitigate and resolve issues before they become catastrophic. For example, let’s consider the video streaming guru, Netflix™, and their own variation of VQM. Netflix provides one of the biggest streaming services available nation-wide, instantly streaming your favorite content to your device of choice. Netflix wants to provide quality video to your home, namely they want to avoid buffering. To avoid buffering Netflix uses a streaming quality monitoring tool. By monitoring and reporting on every single instance of Netflix, they recognize in real-time if buffering is occurring. They can then step in and solve the problem before it interrupts their viewers.

So how is VQM performed by your telephone provider? There are effectively two schools of thought. 

  1. Active Test: Packet monitoring occurs by sending voice “packets” back and forth from the server to your phone system and constantly monitoring and reporting on their quality. Think of this as the “secret shopper” model. Your phone company’s VQM provider constantly evaluates the quality of the services provided to ensure the end user experience is optimal. This way the VQM provider knows about the issues before the end user reports them.
  2. Passive Analysis: Passive analysis refers to the analysis of live call quality. Using this model, the VQM provider is able to constantly monitor any and all packets traversing their network for issues, and fix them before it impacts the user.

Both of these solutions provide VQM, ensuring that you never have problems communicating with your customers. It’s through a combination of these two approaches that Vertical Communications tests and analyzes every single phone call for quality, allowing the provider to know if a problem is occurring in real-time, before it affects the users.

VQM for VoIP

As VoIP is deployed at the enterprise level, it’s important to implement a performance management framework, such as VQM, that is able to deal with the many operational problems that can arise. It’s well known that VoIP is very different from conventional data applications, in that call quality is particularly sensitive to IP network impairments. Existing network problems become much more obvious with the deployment of VoIP. For network managers, this means that LANs, access links, and network equipment will probably need to be upgraded and that more sophisticated management and diagnostic tools are needed when deploying and maintaining VoIP.

There are three basic categories of performance-related problems that can occur in Enterprise IP Telephony:

  1. IP network problems, such as jitter, packet loss, and delay.
  2. Equipment configuration & signaling problems.
  3. Analog/TDM interface problems, which include things like echo (signal reflection) or signal level.

Network architects and managers need to address call quality and performance management problems during the planning and deployment phases, but they should be aware that these problems also occur during normal day-to-day network operation post-deployment.

Many VoIP-related problems are short-lived, temporary in nature, and can occur anywhere along the network path. For example, a user accessing a file from a server may cause a brief bottleneck. This can cause short-term degradation in call quality for other users on the network. Thus, it’s important that network managers use performance management tools, such as those provided by VQM, that are able to detect and measure these types of network impairments. VQM will ensure that customers always experience good call quality.

Proactive Monitoring Equals Proactive Quality

The temporary nature of IP problems also means that they are not easily detected or reproduced. Problems are not necessarily associated with specific cables or line cards – they can occur randomly due to the “collision” or combination of several different factors. Network managers could attempt to use packet loss and jitter metrics to estimate call quality, but these metrics alone don’t provide an accurate measurement of quality and don’t provide enough diagnostic information to actually determine the cause of the problem. Traditionally, network managers use probes and analyzers located at specific network points to help detect and diagnose VoIP performance problems; however, it is not cost effective to place probes on user desktops, in small branch offices or teleworkers’ homes.

By proactively monitoring and reporting on VoIP calls with VQM, the burden is removed from the end user and shifted to the provider. The VQM provider is now responsible for monitoring the quality and effectiveness of the services provided and ensuring that customers experience good call quality. In addition, if quality issues do occur, the end user is now removed from the troubleshooting effort. Instead, accurate and extensive telemetry metrics obtained from equipment deployed on premises provide immediate and actionable information that is used to proactively diagnose and remedy these sorts of situations.While VQM is often only used for premises-based phone solutions, Vertical Communications has partnered with Telchemy, the premier provider of unified communications management solutions, to bring true VQM to our Vertical Cloud Solution, IPECs. Telchemy’s SQmediator application makes iPECS Cloud unique in the industry, literally testing and analyzing every call made or received in real time.