When we started the parent company of StormQloud, Prodosec Inc, back in 2004 to provide VoIP services for business in Canada, it never occurred to us that there was anything hard about VoIP. As founders of the company, we had 15 years of telecom experience and VoIP looked like it would be simple compared to the old circuit switched world we were used to.
We rented a server somewhere on the web that came with unlimited bandwidth, loaded up Asterisk, and surfed the web for a low cost supplier of DIDs and an A-Z provider for termination. What could be easier. We found a few customers and off we went.
It worked (sometimes). In those first few months in the VoIP business, we learned the hard way. It is very easy to do VoIP badly, but very hard to do it well. After those first few months, we had to rethink how we would go about providing VoIP service that our business customers could depend on, and identified the 5 key ingredients for business class VoIP service. Each of these will be covered in subsequent Blog entries:
- Hardware: Probably the least challenging element. Most VoIP applications don’t actually require high end servers to run adequately. Building redundancy for reliability is essential and does add to the investment required.
- Software: There are several Open Source VoIP applications such as Asterisk that are essentially free. To install and maintain Asterisk in its raw form takes some knowledge of the Linux operating system, but there are a number of GUI web based interfaces that include Asterisk and a Linux distribution. We will be covering Freepbx, Trixbox, Elastix and A2billing in other posts
- Bandwidth and Server Location: Many of our customers underrate the importance of the location of their servers, and choosing high quality bandwidth. If your customers are in Montreal or Toronto, a server in LA may not be a good idea. Locating the server in your basement in Mississauga isn’t really any better.
- Termination: The quality of your termination is critical, but this is probably the easiest element to change if there is a problem. You can have multiple termination providers, and change them on the fly or based on various algorithms.
- Origination – DIDs: VoIP origination is just as important as termination in determining the voice quality and reliability of your service, but unlike VoIP termination, rectifying problems can be very difficult. Switching DID providers can only be done by porting numbers, a process that takes 2-3 weeks. Choosing your DID provider is one of the most important decisions in your VoIP implementation.