While our online connections are more robust than they have ever been in this day and age, failure may be less common but can still absolutely happen. Since VoIP service relies entirely on our internet connections to function, familiarizing yourself with common network troubleshooting tips as well as interruption or total outage causes can help resolve some of the easier connection issues a business might experience.
We’ve previously covered the most common implementation problems associated with establishing a hosted PBX solution, but as many have experienced the problems don’t necessarily stop once the system is up and running. It can take hours of configuration and fine-tuning to ensure your system maintains call quality and minimizes VoIP problems.
Power outages, internet outages, bad network connections or even overcrowding of a network can cause not only stutters, jitters, quality issues, and packet loss but also a total failure of a network. Safe to say, any interruptions will hurt your VoIP calls, and in return on your business.
With many businesses relying on their business VoIP networks as the primary source of communication to consumers, and even some inside communications, it is imperative to ensure your system never fails – but when it inevitably does, you can have it back up and running as soon as possible.
- Cables Cause VoIP Problems
- Check Router Configuration
- Minimize Packet Loss
- Call Your VoIP Provider or ISP for More Troubleshooting Help
Cables Cause VoIP Problems
Troubleshooting is all about starting with the simple, easy fixes and working your way up to the more complex solutions. Wireless is making its way into the business world very quickly, however, unfortunately, we still rely on the hardwired connections many have grown to loath.
In a basic setup, for internet access a modem will be connected to its source via a cable, and the modem will be connected to a router via a cable, and your businesses computers will most likely be connected to the same network through a series of switches or routers, but again connected with cables. The last step, connect computers to the network, which might be done wireless but there will be without a doubt a cable somewhere in the mix at some point.
Ensure All Connections Are Secure
So to start with one of the more simple causes of a poor, or nonexistent, network connection can simply be the cables used to connect your various hardware. So a logical place to start would simply be to check the connection of all your cables. While CAT 6 Ethernet cables are quicker, CAT 5 will do the job just as well – but that is if they are not damaged, or simply disconnected.
Avoid splitters to minimize jitter and lag. Adding a jitter buffer can ensure that data is buffered no matter data prioritization.
Ensuring all your cables are not crimped and bent causing an internal breakage, or again simply disconnected from the source is one of the easiest steps you can take to check your network connection.
Check For Damaged Cables
Anyone who has called their Internet Service Provider knows the first few steps they will take in troubleshooting your connection is to check your cables, and ensure all necessary connections are made and no cables are visually damaged. Ethernet cables will plugin with a plastic jack, normally with a clip to keep them nice and snug – but these can very often chip or break off entirely allowing cables to come loose, or fail to stay connected.
Depending on the size of your network, business and office this could be a lengthy or rather quick procedure, but if a cable somewhere in the network is damaged or unplugged any other troubleshooting will just be completely moot.
Check Router Configuration
Now, this is where things can get a little more complicated. With a massive number of routers available on the market, it is impossible to precisely focus on the configuration steps and necessary troubleshooting for each model and variant. It is also far too common that businesses will be utilizing that old school router they had from 10 years ago, unaware that outdated hardware alone could simply be the cause of interruptions or a failed connection. When utilizing, and relying, on VoIP for your communications, it is imperative to ensure the use of not only a compatible router but also the proper configuration and optimization of your chosen router.
While most routers available will suffice, it is important to ensure your specific router has the necessary functions and configurations in place to optimize your VoIP connection, and allow the proper flow of data through the network. Again, while the specifics of every router configuration will vary, most of them will follow a similar setup and allow for mostly the same tweaks and changes.
Reset Your Router
Again starting at the basics, along with checking cable connections one of the most common fixes for connectivity issues with your router is to perform a simple reset. Similar to turning your computer on and off again, resetting your router will clear everything out and give it a fresh start.
Again while specifics will vary based on models, resetting your router can generally be accomplished by either pressing a Reset button, usually a small circular button that would need to be pressed with a paper clip, or simply by unplugging the router of call cables, waiting for a short 30 second to a minute, and reconnecting the hardware. Upon booting back up and reestablishing a connection, you may find your internet now works without any of the previous hiccups. However, it isn’t always this simple, unfortunately.
Quality of Service Settings
A large majority of routers will have a Quality-of-Service feature, found within the router’s management interface and simply helps optimize the data traffic, and ensure enough bandwidth is available for your calls. QoS configuration can normally be found within your router’s specific management interface. Some routers aim to keep this super simple, and let users simply adjust their QoS by selecting the proper category – normally labeled similarly to Voice, Gaming, Video or Applications, or simply adjusting the priority of each category – in this case, we would want Voice, Calling, VoIP or anything similar set to the highest priority level.
This will push bandwidth issues off to the lowest priority connections, leaving internet connectivity to remain available for your VoIP phone system over email and other data.
Other, more slightly complicated methods, require users to obtain the Media Access Code, or MAC Address of their specific devices – in this case normally phones – and input these addresses into their router’s configuration, so the router knows to prioritize data going to and from these devices. Again, this will vary based on your specific router, but step-by-step tutorials can be found in either the user manual of your device, or through a quick google search of your Router name and model, as well as configuration setups.
While most routers will come with a QoS feature, your device may be lacking this specific function. In this case, you can rely on the old-fashioned port forwarding technique to open up the necessary, prioritized, channels for your devices. Again, you will need to obtain the MAC addresses of your phones (this will vary, but is generally as simple as looking on the back of the physical phone or navigating through the phones on-screen settings menu) to assign a port to the device.
The process requires users to specify what port, or port number, they will use for a device as well as the specific protocol – in our case this should be UDP for VoIP calls but might vary based on a specific device and use case. This port will then be assigned to that one specific device, and could not be reused for others – but you can simply open more ports, one for each device.
Use a Dual-Band Router
If you are in the market for a new router, and after attempting some common troubleshooting techniques you might identify this as being the weak link, VoIP needs to use a dual-band router. Dual-band routers are capable of transmitting both 2.4 and 5GHZ frequencies, so users can assign wireless clients to use the different bands for different use cases, helping to avoid network congestion. With 5GHz being the faster frequency, your data can flow with less interference, and could act as a dedicated channel for only your VoIP communications.
Minimize Packet Loss
While packet loss will not be responsible for total network failure, it is one of the more common causes for dropped, interrupted or just plain choppy voice over IP calls. Video calls will suffer severe jitter and latency. Defeating data packet loss can be out of our hands if the issue is on the service provider’s end, but understanding VoIP problems and their cause can help users to track and nail down the cause of their interruptions.
Identifying packet loss can be as simple as utilizing a third party test, which will analyze your network speeds, and how much data or how many voice packets are lost when transmitting through the network. Running a speed test is a smart way to check for potential voice quality issues. Call quality issues are hidden behind speed issues that can go undetected until VoIP traffic spikes.
The most common cause, as addressed previously, would be network congestion – if your employees are using the network to do more than just make VoIP calls, things can easily come down to a quick halt. Bad hardware and cables in your phone system can cause packet loss, call quality issues, and will interrupt the flow of voice over IP, and relying on slower WiFi alone could simply be the root of all your issues.
VoIP troubleshooting requires identifying and defeating packet loss down to milliseconds, so take a look at our in-depth guide.
Call Your VoIP Provider or ISP for More Troubleshooting Help
Sometimes, no matter how much troubleshooting you attempt, the problem is simply just out of your hands. Unfortunately, we rely on other companies to provide us with the necessary services to make VoIP a reality.
When your internet connection goes down completely, and there are no issues with your connections, modem or router, the best troubleshooting tips will lead you back to your ISP. While redundancies help ensure services stay up when one data center goes down, outages are still a fairly common occurrence and an entire network can be taken down very quickly. Recognizing when its time to call your ISP or even VoIP service provider could save you a load of headaches, and a massive amount of downtime.
Troubleshooting VoIP issues on your own can usually weed out the more common culprits of interruptions and down service – there isn’t much your ISP can do about a damaged, or simply unplugged cable. However, if after attempting to reconfigure your router, check all of your cables, reconnect your phones and establish ports for each device you are still unable to make or receive any communications, most of your headache can be solved by simply contacting your VoIP provider or ISP to take a look. If all of your connections are solid, you’ve tried resetting your router and possibly even modem, and your office still cannot receive an internet signal it is time to give your ISP a call as most network issues will be on their back end, as opposed to your office connections.