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Assess your network

Things to check to make sure your VoIP solution will perform as advertised.


Assess your network
Tom Lancaster

It is generally agreed that the cost-case for Voice-over-IP is marvelous. You can certainly save a bundle of money by integrating your voice and data networks, even though it costs quite a lot up front to deploy. However, there is one tiny snag: your solution has to work! And that's not necessarily a safe bet, even if you have brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment installed. What happens when you spend all that money to roll out a VoIP solution and the voice quality is unacceptable? Well, looking for a new job during a recession is pretty tough, so this tip is about avoiding such a situation in the first place.

The first thing you should do is not be fooled by slick advertising. New and expensive network equipment that supports QoS standards isn't necessarily any better than older or cheaper network equipment that supports the same QoS standards. And more importantly, installing new and expensive network equipment that supports QoS, without configuring the QoS isn't any better than older or cheaper equipment that doesn't support QoS. In other words, what's important is how it's configured.

Another critical item in your project management plan is a VoIP pilot and "proof-of-concept". These will help to dramatically reduce your risk. If something isn't going to work, there's a good chance the pilot will let you know before you roll it out across your whole company. This will give you the opportunity to fix it and move on before you blow the budget.

But most importantly, even before the pilot, test your network! There are lots of reasonably priced VoIP testing packages that simulate actual voice-traffic on your production network. Using one of these can really take the guesswork out of fine-tuning your network. Tweaking a QoS setting, then making a call and listening for changes manually just can't begin to compare with being able to perform repeatable, identical tests. This concept is critical to QA and, for that matter, it's the foundation of science itself.

One such package is NetiQ's Chariot VoIP Assessor. If you have an all-Cisco solution, consider taking advantage of IOS' Service Assurance Agent technology in conjunction with CiscoWorks2000.

Thomas Alexander Lancaster IV is a consultant and author with over ten years experience in the networking industry, focused on Internet infrastructure.

Related Book

Voice over IP Fundamentals
by Jonathan Davidson and James Peters
Online Price: $45.00
Publisher Name: Cisco Press
Date published: March 2000
The main focus of Voice over IP Fundamentals is to explain the basic concepts of VoIP technology.

This was last published in December 2001

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