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A solution to suit your needs.

As a growing number of businesses look at Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as a cost-effective alternative to a traditional telephone system, one question which often gets asked is: what type of data connection do I need?

Unfortunately, there is no all-encompassing answer because as clichéd as it might sound, every business has its own unique requirements in regards to how many concurrent calls it needs to make. For some organisations usually smaller ones – a basic ADSL connection might be suitable option, whereas the same service is unlikely to be adequate for a larger company.

However, there are a number of questions that every organisation needs to ask its service provider before switching to VoIP, which will ultimately determine what type of data connection it needs and the experience it receives.

What is a data connection?

The majority of (if not all) businesses will have a data connection that they use for activities such as surfing the internet, accessing the cloud, or uploading and downloading files. The type of connection it has ADSL broadband, fibre broadband, or Ethernet – is all dependent on the amount of bandwidth it needs and how reliant it is on the internet.

In an ideal world, when it comes to investing in a VoIP solution, businesses will be able to use the same connection to run voice data (VoIP) alongside internet data. But in many cases this isn’t possible for a number of reasons which will be discussed below.

1. Is it possible to use a single data connection for both voice traffic and internet access?

The answer is yes, but voice data must be prioritised. Let’s look at an example.

Imagine you’re waiting to receive an email. On some occasions, dependent on how busy the network is, it may take a little while for it to come through. Although this can sometimes be quite annoying, it is not detrimental as the email will eventually arrive.

When it comes to voice, however, a delay can cause audio problems that can result in missing parts of speech. Effective communication is essential to any successful business, so not only does poor audio quality appear unprofessional, but it can also result in misinterpretation which could prove costly.

It is worth visualising voice data and internet access as two children. Voice data is the needy child that requires your full attention and if you don’t prioritise him or her then they are likely to misbehave. While the other child, internet data in this case, will still behave as normal even though they aren’t being prioritised.

To summarise, if you want to use a single data connection for VoIP and data traffic, you will require a router that has the ability to prioritise voice data to ensure maximum audio quality.

2. How much bandwidth do I need?

If you purchase a data connection you should have already considered the amount of bandwidth your business needs to perform its everyday tasks. VoIP, as I’ve already mentioned, requires the transfer of large amounts of data, so it’s vital to remember that this will eat into your bandwidth limit.

Bandwidth

In order to answer the question, you really need to be looking at how many concurrent calls you will want to make.

Companies that have an ADSL solution will roughly be able to make one of two VoIP calls at any one time using a single connection, but this will mean that there will be limited internet access available. For this reason, ADSL broadband isn’t really a suitable option if you want to use the same connection for both voice and internet traffic. It is also worth remembering that broadband is a shared resource, so performance can vary depending on how many people are using it at the same time.

Fibre broadband is also a shared resource, but because it offers more bandwidth and fibre cabling speeds part of the journey up, it is more suitable for VoIP activity. However, it may only grant a business 10 to 50 concurrent calls.

The most advisable option for businesses wanting to use a single data connection for both VoIP and internet access, is Ethernet, which is a private and dedicated resource that offers guaranteed speeds to ensure the best experience. Ethernet is a must have for businesses that plan to make large amounts of VoIP calls and require optimum performance.

The key thing to take away here is that although you can use your data connection for both types of traffic, the VoIP quality you receive is going to be dependent on how much bandwidth you have.

3. What about dedicated data connections for both voice and internet?

For SMEs that use ADSL, or in some cases fibre, and cannot afford to upgrade to Ethernet, it is sensible to consider investing in a second data connection that is dedicated to voice traffic. Essentially this means that you will have two connections coming into your business. Your voice connection will plug into your VoIP phones, and your internet connection will plug into your computers.

This option will help improve the performance of VoIP as a connection is dedicated to voice traffic.

To summarise

To enable your business to get the most from your voice solution, it’s important to use the right type of data connection. The more bandwidth you have, the more concurrent calls you can make.

Using a single data connection for both internet access and voice traffic is advisable for those using fibre broadband or Ethernet, but for those using ADSL, it is more beneficial to look at installing a second data connection.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to a data connection for VoIP, so make sure you talk to a reputable service provider about your options.

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