Why QoS Matters to Hosted VoIP Sales Success

Channel Partners

December 29, 2009

4 Min Read
Why QoS Matters to Hosted VoIP Sales Success

A hosted VoIP solution can benefit businesses looking for lower costs, scalability, mobility and simplified administration. For channel partners who sell hosted VoIP, making the right recommendation can increase recurring revenues and expand their customer bases. So, understanding how to ensure a successful VoIP deployment is a key part of the pre-sale process.

Quality of service (QoS) is mission-critical in the implementation of hosted VoIP because it defines how much or how little control the service provider has over the hosted platform, which in turn has a direct impact on the quality of the VoIP solution.

What is QoS? QoS is a set of techniques which helps manage network parameters – specifically delay, delay variation, packet loss and bandwidth. The integrity of real-time applications such as voice and video are especially sensitive to latency (delay), delay variation (jitter) and packet loss. This means the voice conversation or the video session can be compromised if jitter and delay are not properly managed. And, data performance, while less sensitive to delay and delay variation, can be degraded if packet loss is not minimized. QoS can help manage these resources, creating a more predictable hosted VoIP platform.

Key Considerations for QoS. In order to manage QoS, it is important to assess several key factors: traffic classification, scheduling, bandwidth and the customer LAN.

  • Traffic Classification. Traffic is generally classified as “best-effort,” “important” and “critical.” These terms apply to the sensitivity to network quality, not the importance of the traffic. Voice is always designated as critical because it is real-time communication. Video frequently also is marked as critical because video images are extremely sensitive to delay. Data can have several different classifications, ranging from important to best effort. CRM traffic would be important while Internet browsing would be best effort, for example.

  • Scheduling. Scheduling is the process of matching the “class” of traffic to the appropriate type of network transmission to ensure it is handled appropriately. It’s helpful to think of scheduling in terms of mail delivery from the U.S. Postal Service: all mail is delivered, but some is marked “express” and some is standard. Voice traffic, which is more sensitive to network quality, would be considered “express mail” and, thus, receive preferential scheduling treatment on a QoS-enabled network.

  • Bandwidth. Bandwidth in QoS terms is defined as the perceived capacity of the transmission channel and the speed at which the network can transmit. In hosted VoIP, it’s also important to look at the type of network being used and the kinds of controls over the delivery method. Private networks allow the provider to deliver a predictable service level because QoS can be managed end-to-end. Some providers offer guaranteed service level agreements (SLAs) built around these critical QoS parameters. Other providers use public or third-party networks to deliver their hosted VoIP solution. Because there is little to no control over QoS in these kinds of networks, the service is generally categorized as “best-effort”.

  • The Customer LAN. Many smaller businesses (up to 25 stations) use a bandwidth-over-provisioning strategy. The assumption is that there is more than enough bandwidth to support good quality voice over the LAN without using supporting techniques. In larger deployments (50 plus handsets), it’s smart to consider Layer 2 techniques, which mark and prioritize traffic based on the Ethernet frame inside the customer LAN (although no guarantees are enforced).

A LAN assessment can help determine a more effective QoS plan for larger customers. LAN assessments identify problem spots in the network prior to deployment and make the pilot deployment easier and more effective by confirming whether or not a network can adequately support VoIP’s unique network requirements. An in-depth LAN assessment also can prevent unnecessary network upgrades. While upgrades are required in many situations, it’s important to ensure that the needed upgrades are implemented and – as importantly – unnecessary ones are not. Finally, a LAN assessment can help measure overall call quality and any potential impact on end-users.

Best QoS practices should include SLAs that not only guarantee the uptime and availability of the hosted VoIP solution, but also guarantee the performance levels of network parameters such as delay, delay variation, packet loss and bandwidth. Each provider generally has its own QoS practices, so it’s important to query the provider about its standards.

QoS is an important element in business quality VoIP service. It can be easy to overlook in the pre-sale process, but it has a direct impact on the long-term success of a customer’s VoIP implementation. Because VoIP systems deliver recurring revenues, the more successful the VoIP experience is for a customer, the greater the potential for increased revenues, increased customer satisfaction – and increased sales.

Joe Corvaia is senior director of solution engineering for Broadview Networks Inc., a provider of business communications, including premises-based and patented hosted VoIP systems.

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