Even over a single, crummy Internet connection, SD-WAN survives
SD-WAN is one of the best technologies to catch fire in the last couple of years and if you are a little fuzzy on it, here’s an opportunity to learn another tidbit about this wonderful, disruptive technology.
Despite the acronym “WAN” (Wide Area Network), in its name, SD-WAN is not solely for companies with multiple sites. It is just as useful to a company with 1 site as it is to a company with 100 sites. Contrary to popular opinion, it is also nearly just as useful for a company with a single Internet connection as it is for a company with multiple Internet connections. A good, cloud-enabled SD-WAN solution, layered onto a single, shaky Internet connection, will transform a normally choppy VoIP call, into a thing of beauty. You may even find yourself wanting to take a call from a salesperson, just to hear their voice!
On-the-fly application prioritization
When you order SD-WAN, you are shipped a bare-bones, plug-n-play router and you are given a login to an online control panel with a GUI interface, where you can configure and monitor your SD-WAN service.
One of the first things you do within your control panel, is identify the different applications on your network and group them into different levels of priority (i.e. VoIP vs. email vs. Internet browsing). The high priority applications get to go first, while the others need to wait.
The best thing about SD-WAN is at any given moment, it is detecting the application flow and throttling non-priority traffic appropriately. This alone will help your VoIP call quality, since calls are no longer competing for bandwidth , for example, with training video or listening to hits on itunes.
Forward error correction
Another common feature SD-WAN solutions offer is called Forward Error Correction (i.e. channel coding), which essentially duplicates your phone call’s data packets, giving every packet of every phone call, 2 chances to succeed. That’s a very layman way of explaining it but you get the point.
Even better, the SD-WAN solution will sense if you have enough bandwidth on your circuit to perform forward error correction and if not, will throttle non-priority applications or quit running FEC, all-together. Forward error correction drastically reduces packet errors and packet loss ( things that make VoIP phone calls drop or sound terrible). Some cloud-enabled SD-WAN providers will not only perform this on-site but also within their cloud gateways.
Dynamic jitter buffering
Some SD-WAN solutions offer a feature called “jitter buffering.” It sounds complicated but all it means is that the SD-WAN service is reducing the nasty jitter on your voice calls by collecting the data packets (that comprise your phone call in this example), storing them, then sending them out in evenly spaced intervals. Add the word “dynamic” to this feature and it means the SD-WAN solution detects the need for jitter buffering on-the-fly, and applies it, as-needed.
Like Forward Error Correction, some cloud-enabled SD-WAN providers offer this on-site, as well as at the cloud-gateway-level. Or, SD-WAN will probably make your VoIP phone system work, even if you have one location, with a poor Internet connection.
How to optimize Network Infrastructure for High Quality VOIP?
How to prepare your network for high-quality VoIP?VoIP is a fast-growing area for SMBs. If you’re switching to VoIP, then it’s critical to ensure that your network infrastructure is fully optimized for it. Almost 40 percent of small businesses have said goodbye to their traditional, telephone services and hello to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) because of the significant cost and productivity benefits that VoIP delivers. VoIP uses data packets to digitally transmit voice over the internet and performs extremely well as long as the network is properly provisioned.
Given that voice travels over the same lines as data and is sensitive to the fluctuations within data transmissions, call quality can be degraded by internet slowdowns and low bandwidth. This is often related to under performing or overly constrained networking gear. Having the right connection and network infrastructure in place is critical to high-quality VoIP calls. Let’s look at ways to prepare your network.
- Evaluate the WAN connection.
It’s important to allocate the right amount of bandwidth to ensure optimal results for VoIP, which means knowing what you need. Bandwidth requirements depend on the number of VoIP clients (phones) and the number of concurrent calls you want to make. Beyond your maximum call volume, it’s good to identify which other network applications consume a portion of your available bandwidth. Now, let’s talk connection. Forget DSL. A fiber T1 line or coax cable connection is much faster. SMBs deploying VoIP should look at a business-level internet provider with a decent throughput. Check requirements of your VoIP service to determine minimum download and upload speeds based on VoIP lines. The quality and number of lines on a VoIP system will be higher with a faster internet connection.
- Assess your network infrastructure and replace outdated equipment.
Speed alone doesn’t guarantee optimal results for VoIP. The backbone of the network is important, and old network infrastructure is one of the biggest barriers to VoIP success. Know your network and make sure it’s properly prepared before cutover. For example, the speed of the switch is not the only problem – it’s about reliability. Old, outdated networking gear can have undetected problems that surface with latency-dependent applications like VoIP.
Consider upgrading specific equipment that’s key to network performance, like the routing and switching gear. If you decide to replace, don’t skimp. Low-quality, under performing equipment will cost you in the long run (remember those headaches?) and degrade your call quality. Equipment plays a major role in the success or failure of your VoIP deployment.
- Prioritize, segregate and segment VoIP traffic with a VLAN.
When there are different services running on a network, it can impact the performance of an application that needs more bandwidth, like video conferencing, or more priority, like VoIP. For the best quality of service (QoS), dedicate bandwidth for voice by segmenting the network with a virtual local area network. VLANs enable you to prioritize data traffic for applications that are sensitive to network delays, improving performance and maintaining QoS so you don’t have to worry about dropped calls, latency or jitter.
Network segmentation typically starts at the router, so invest in a business-class router with QoS features, and pair it with a managed or smart switch that offers other key features we will address later. Create a VLAN with a separate Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) range and apply it to the switch to specific ports, giving high priority to ports used for VoIP lines. For switches, look for hardware with gigabit ports that have high throughput and auto-configurations that adjust to QoS for each phone.
- Go big with PoE+.
Power over Ethernet was a technology initially built for VoIP devices. Simply put, PoE allows you to provide power to a device over the same wire that supplies the data or voice. This allows for simple, safe and efficient power provision to all PoE-enabled devices, like VoIP phone systems.
Unlike a traditional phone system, which continues to work during a power or internet outage, a PoE VoIP system relies on the electrical power from a network switch. If power to the switch goes out, VoIP will not work. This is easily fixed with UPS backup power.
In addition, by deploying PoE-enabled switches on the back end, you simplify installation for wireless access points, IP cameras, phones, and other equipment that needs data and power simultaneously. PoE allows you to control the power in the network via the switch. When you centralize power on the switch side, you streamline VoIP phone rollout and simplify connections for users – and minimize possible future problems.
How much power do you need? Check the maximum power wattage your phones need and the minimum power budget of the switch; the consumption by phones or other powered devices in the office has to be less than the switch budget. And plan for the future: Buying a bigger switch (i.e., more ports) and one with a bigger PoE budget will allow you to easily add devices in the future as you need them.
Achieving high-quality VoIP
A VoIP rollout requires a proper connection and adequate bandwidth, plus the right networking gear with a battery backup to protect the office in case of power failure. If you’re switching to VoIP and your business relies on communication, then it’s critical to ensure that your network infrastructure is fully optimized for VoIP.
How does SD-WAN support video conferencing requirements in times of delay and jitters on VOIP platform?
Video quality can suffer if the network can’t meet its high bandwidth needs. Video conferencing can take on many forms and protocols. For enterprises that have experienced problems, such as delay and jitter on voice over IP platforms, you know some platforms are better than others. The big variance in supporting video conferencing requirements is the integrity of traffic over wide-area connections.
Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology removes the need for physical connections from point A to point B by using logical connections or tunnels. But the biggest advantage is SD-WAN is link-agnostic. It doesn’t care if the line is Long Term Evolution, OCx or DSL; the software still manages the links. These lower-cost circuits can provide significant savings for small or remote offices when compared with more expensive MPLS circuits.
With increased video traffic, transmission problems can only get worse. For proper support of video conferencing requirements, you want to prioritize traffic or provide better links to improve service. Data, such as file transfer, can handle some retransmissions. But, with voice and video, dropped packets create gaps that materialize in the form of missing words and pixelated video.
If a company is not using dedicated MPLS for voice and video, it will need some way to assign a higher priority to voice and video, or provide a better circuit to mitigate dropped packets. SD-WAN is one such service for video conferencing support, as it can measure round-trip time, jitter and packet loss to map the best path based on the application’s type, such as real time.
A nice feature of SD-WAN is the ability to bond internet connections — regardless of type — to create higher-speed tunnels that function like point-to-point links with bandwidth that is faster than any single link in native form.
Another advantage is devices are placed at remote sites, but centrally managed. This allows for ready reconfiguration without having to attach to each device. But because some quality-of-service functions don’t exist in SD-WAN, it can’t actually guarantee QoS. But making the links robust and mapping best paths can help with some of the issues you would find without SD-WAN.
SD-WAN can support video conferencing requirements with various optimization techniques, such as deduplication, caching and buffering. In several ways, you can figure out some VoIP and video functions without jumping to an MPLS link, which translates to big savings. Some vendors put the savings at around 70%, but it will vary from company to company.