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What is Quality of Service (QoS)?

Each day, workers send emails, join webinars, and place important phone calls over their office networks. While some activities may be more important than others, certain behaviors also require more bandwidth than others.

A large file sent by email requires more bandwidth than a simple email, for instance, and if that email comes through the system while other activities are taking place, it could slow everything down.

Quality of Service (QoS) is technology's answer to that issue. On data networks, QoS administrators set behaviors to allow certain types of traffic to take priority over others.

Translated to voice networks, this means some types of phone or video calls can be set to take priority over others.

The type of behaviors that are given priority is unique to the organization setting the rules. A business may decide that video calls should take top priority, while others may choose to place them below simple voice calls.

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QoS and VoIP: Why it is Important

As important as QoS is for ensuring data network quality, it is even more important in today's VoIP-driven office environment. Data networks weren't originally built to handle voice traffic, due to the nature of packet transportation that takes place.

Without QoS, offices can suffer from poor call quality, which is especially noticeable during video calls.

QoS allows an organization to decide what items take highest priority. Once configured, systems can be set to hold less important packets aside to let voice calls through, resulting in a substantial increase in overall call quality.

Which Factors Affect Call Quality?

There are three major factors affecting call quality over a VoIP system.

  • Latency - This refers to the slight delay in packet delivery. Callers generally report round-trip voice delays of 250 milliseconds or more.
  • Jitter - Because of unpredictable changes in a network, there can be a variation in the delay of packet receipt, which can lead to dropout.
  • Packet Loss - Also known as Data Loss, packet loss can be caused by high congestion. The result is degradation in audio quality.

How to Improve Your QoS

There are some things your business can do to improve your call quality, starting with checking with your ISP to make sure you have the best plan possible.

A high-quality Internet connection is essential to the quality of your calls. You may find it necessary to change to a new provider if your current one doesn't offer a plan that can handle the daily transfer load.

  • Check Your Router - First, make sure you have a QoS-enabled router and, if not, consider switching to one. QoS will be configured on the router, but you may find that even when optimized, you're still experiencing call quality issues. In that case, a new router may be in order.
  • Improve Your Contention Ratio - The contention ratio refers to the number of users configured to use each unit of data capacity. You want this ratio to be as low as possible—a 5:1 ratio means only five users are sharing one unit of data capacity, while a 50:1 ratio creates a much greater strain.
  • Limit Use During Important Calls - In larger organizations, this obviously isn't a possibility, but for smaller businesses and startups, it can be a great solution. When an important audio or videoconference is scheduled, ask everyone to refrain from high-bandwidth activities like streaming video or uploading large files.

Quality of Service is an important issue to businesses that rely on their networks for voice calls.

As VoIP continues to replace traditional telephony in businesses, a top-quality, QoS-enabled system will become more important than ever.

By checking just a few things, a business can ensure its system is optimized to handle its daily traffic load.