If your business is relying on a hosted PBX service to handle its phone and Unified Communications systems, it is imperative to have a solid support network. Since Voice Over IP (VoIP) relies on your internet connection to make calls, the quality of your calls can be markedly impacted by the quality of your network. Packet loss is one of the most common sources of poor VoIP quality.
What is Packet Loss?
Packet loss is when “packets” or pieces of data traveling across a network do not reach their destination. The result of these packets failing to reach the opposite end of the network leads to missing data.
The acceptable amount of packet loss will vary depending on the application. For VoIP calls, dropping one or two minor packets might not cause too much of an issue, but if packet loss reaches a substantial level, the audio quality will suffer including choppy voice, distorted audio, echo, and lost audio or long pauses in the conversation. VoIP calls may also be dropped.
Causes of Packet Loss
Packet loss is typically caused by a problem within the network. Locating the deficiency can be difficult as there are a number of factors that could be causing the issue:
- Network Congestion. One of the most obvious causes of packet loss is network congestion. The online activities of your employees could be reducing your Internet capabilities, requiring more bandwidth than your business actually needs to operate. If your network is being used to download large amounts of data or to stream music or movies, all while trying to make and support multiple VoIP calls at once, your business can quickly reach its bandwidth. This can have a negative impact on the ability of your network to support a high-quality VoIP solution.
- Insufficient or Faulty Hardware. Hardware such as routers, switches, and even the cables you use can cause congestion on your network if they are outdated, incompatible or damaged. For packets to travel from one point on the Internet to another, they must pass through a series of routers. Each router examines the destination address of the packet and chooses the next router to send the packet to. When more packets must pass through a point than the hardware will allow, the packets are placed into a queue, in turn causing latency. If the queue gets full, packets are dropped.
- Incorrect Software Configurations. Incorrect software configurations in your network can also lead to packet loss. This could range from simple bugs in the network, to improper software configuration of your devices. Sometimes simply rebooting your devices or updating firmware and networking drivers is all it takes to resolve software issues causing packet loss.
Diagnosing and Measuring Packet Loss
Measuring your network’s packet loss can be intimidating. Luckily, there are online tools and resources available to help automate the process. The HostMyCalls™ ISP Route Testing Tool is a trusted online diagnostic tool and its reports are provided free of charge. This tool provides a means to find the source of slow Internet speeds, packet loss and latency. It monitors an Internet connection and all the routers or hops of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) serving it. It will monitor an Internet connection from 1 hour to 7 days, making it ideal for finding intermittent problems.*
Depending upon the cause of your network’s packet loss, the fix could be as simple as resetting your network or minimizing the traffic and congestion on your network by limiting internet access and use, however it is more likely that the issue lies with your ISP. Once you have identified the issue(s), work with your Ideacom Network telecom provider to formulate a plan to fix the issues.
* HostMyCalls™ does not take responsibility or provide support for errors or mistakes their free online resource may report.