It has been fifteen years since the first time that I advised a telephone technician about the importance of learning basic network principles. Around that time, traditional phone sets had started being managed by network administrators, many of whom were also in the dark regarding the dial-tone functions that they were now supporting.
In today’s world, the same can be said about VoIP and Cloud Services. Professionals that were previously considered the “go-to guys” about all things telecom-related may now find themselves behind the curve if they haven’t grasped the core fundamentals of deploying and supporting these newer technologies. To stay relevant in this dynamic communications landscape, the need for improving and expanding technical expertise is something that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) or hold an advanced degree to handle basic network troubleshooting. The building blocks of understanding the fundamentals will greatly help technicians to identify, isolate and even correct many of the common issues associated with VoIP and cloud deployments.
Must-have fundamentals for a successful implementation
- Internet speeds (up/down): Trust, but verify by using speed testing web applications to obtain a “snapshot” of this critical data. Remember, the “service speed” the customer was sold is quite possibly un-achievable, as it is representative of the connection from the premises to the posts. However a simple speed test can tell you whether you’re really dealing with 100Mb down / 20Mb up, or if they still have only 1.5Mb down / 20Kb up. This simple test can help you avoid massive problems moving forward.
- Network/Cable providers: Be knowledgeable about the technology of the cable modem that is installed (DOCSIS 3.0) and avoid using residential modems (i.e. NetGear, OBi devices from Comcast) and request “business class” devices.
- Quality of service (QOS): If using a shared-bandwidth connection, it is imperative that QoS is set up on the LAN, regardless of pipe-size or the number of users on the network. QoS will prioritize the voice traffic as it travels across the LAN, and help avoid latency during peak traffic times.
- Firewalls, SIP ALG, & Port Forwarding: Protect the equipment and yourself. A proper firewall will keep unwanted traffic off of the network. SIP ALG (Application-level Gateway) is a non-supported security function that must be disabled. Port forwarding will allow for remote support of the system, letting you be off-premises for many service issues. Whether you’re only responsible for set-up or just for providing the responsible IT personnel system details, the difference between a successful or a disastrous deployment could depend heavily on these steps.
Know the fundamentals for success
After becoming familiar with the basic fundamentals of these topics, you’ll learn to identify them during installations, and understand how to address and optimize issues that arise. If issues still persist, further troubleshooting could require a packet, or “specific event”, capture for review. By ensuring that you already have an understanding of the basic, fundamental principles, you can be confident when circumstances require more complex and intricate trouble-shooting methods.