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Have you made the switch to soft phones?

December 5, 2015 / Rich Fox

I’ve seen significant adoption of softphones across enterprises of all sizes. What is critical is that the underlying platform that supports any telephony device (handset or soft phone) needs to be architected to ensure a dial tone is received every time it’s needed.

Softphones have grown in popularity due to the flexibility they provide to operate without a handset or dedicated phone line. When operating a softphone, the underlying device (PC, Mac, Tablet, etc.) becomes the actual phone and the call traverses the available data network between that device and the telephony platform.

One of the considerations when deploying a softphone that must be addressed is call quality. A softphone has different requirements than other activities performed on that device like email, browsing the web, or playing a game. Due to the sensitive nature of real-time communications like a phone, a good quality call (one that doesn’t sound garbled or choppy for instance) requires system and network resources to be available.

Voice quality demands a high quality, continuous connection which typically is ensured via the use of Quality of Service (QoS) on either a private network which prioritizes the voice traffic over data traffic or over the public Internet by leveraging multiple connections simultaneously to ensure the best voice connection possible for every packet. Some options today include network bonding, though not all services work at the packet level. You can see an overview here:

The device itself plays a role in that connection and can impact call quality depending on availability of its resources. If the device is running low on resources such as CPU or RAM, call quality can be impacted. At times, background processes perform system scans or download updates which consume resources required for call processing.

Given the critical dependency on the physical device hardware and network requirements, deploying softphone is not a 100% solution for all customers and all situations. Some customers are willing to make trade-offs where the call quality is less important than cost savings or flexibility.

I recommend that organizations “pilot” with non-production calls to determine the quality of a given device and associated network connection. Many customers find that most home-based users have no issues at all while others have chronic issues. By identifying the population of users that will have a chronic issue with a softphone, it allows our customers to seek alternative solutions.

Categories: Contact Center Unified Communications
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