VOIP Service Without Equipment - Is It Really an Option

Putting together quotes to replace a 12 year old phone system and VOIP is an option, specifically Ring Central. They claim they have no hardware to install and don't even require QoS which I find hard to believe. They use Polycom phones that come with a high rating as well a Cisco option that comes with a high rating.

Question, has anyone actually witnessed a VOIP phone work without any additional hardware and call quality is excellent? My approach is if this is an option great for all parties involved. If it's too good to be true I prefer to put the right equipment in place to avoid any frustration after installation.

If you've used Ring Central even better, if you haven't but have success with another company please share.
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WORKS2011Managed IT Services, Cyber Security, BackupAsked:
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Andrew CeohanSys & Net AdminCommented:
Yep, were using Polycom VVX 401 and VVX 601 phones in several places including end users homes with Net2Phone (hosted VOIP) without any issues.  Monitoring calls on my firewall showed on average of 400 Kbps per call from what I could see when testing.  Overall I can't say we've had any issues running this type of setup.  My only two cents would be to use QoS if you can on the network so file transfers or large bandwidth users don't cause calls to stutter.  I've even tried to cause this but call quality didn't suffer, still running QoS though.

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nociSoftware EngineerCommented:
Define EQUIPMENT....
Do you need a PBX..., no that can be a box in "the cloud"....
You would need some kind of equipment somewhere.... a Microphone + a Speaker/headset  at least to do the electrical -> sound conversion....
(that can be a laptop f.e. not great but possible. (You would need some software there that can act as a VOIP UA).
is QoS needed..  QoS is a method to prioritize traffic when there is a shortage of bandwidth.... So do you have s shortage of bandwidth...
if Yes: you need QoS, if bandwidth is abundant 100% of the time no Qos would be needed.

Using Voip- "Phones"  (basicly a small computer, with microphone, speaker, and some keyboard and sometimes a display) is preferable because they look familiar
have a known user-interface and mostly have the right combination of tools on board to do the job.
Having abundant internet bandwidht etc. without QoS does require some restrictions on the use of that connection.
If you also do heavy lifting of filetransfers with lots of destination and all over a 1Mbps connection you might get into trouble.

If you have 1Gbps connection and only use that for the VOIP traffic, then QoS is definitely overkill.... The truth will e somewhere in the middle.
I have a site where the VOIP runs unlimited and all other traffic may consume up to 8Mbps of uplink bandwidth. Leaving 2Mbs For VOIP and some spare for bursts because bandwidth management is not an exact science. This reservation makes the use of QoS a lot easier.

Now you need to think about not having a PBX on premisses.... that would require a working connection to some kind of PBX  using the internet connection. If your internet connection might fail, all VOIP would fail in such a case.
If you run an on premises PBX then you still need some VOIP provider to connect you to the Old telephone system.
(When running a PBX you could dial any other PBX that is willing to communicate to you directly without any VOIP provider. )
RobertSystem AdminCommented:
I agree with above post however would like to add that your reliability of your internet connection should factor into your decision as to using a service versus in house system.
If you use a cloud service (basically them hosting the equipment for you) and your internet connection is not reliable then you could have call drop issue as well as crackly voice, one way audio etc.
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andyalderSaggar maker's framemakerCommented:
I think I understand "they have no hardware to install..."

It means *you* provide all the hardware such as headsets and servers and switches and routers and cables and other infrastructure and self-maintain it and they provide the connection broker software. They have no hardware to install because you do that part.

"They use Polycom phones" throws me a bit though, isn't that hardware?
CompProbSolvCommented:
I had one client with Ring Central and wasn't impressed with technical support, but that could well have changed since then.

There are really two parts to VoIP: how phones work and how you access outside phone lines.  You can use VoIP for either or both.  With Ring Central, you are using VoIP for both.

As stated above, VoIP (inside and outside) doesn't require any special hardware beyond the phones (or computers used as phones) and basic networking equipment.

Ring Central (and others) should have a web page you can go to that allows you to test the connection.  It would be wise to run that during your busy network time to confirm that there are no immediate issues.

It can also be critical to make sure your ISP doesn't have any bandwidth issues beyond your connection.  You may set up QoS on your LAN, but unless you get a special connection (=expensive) from your ISP, they will ignore QoS.  You are relying on there being no bottlenecks between your ISP and the CO (Ring Central or whomever you contract with).

What bandwidth do you have (both up and down) with your ISP?  If your existing uses will take up all of the bandwidth at times, you'll want to have some way of reserving bandwidth for your VoIP phones or you'll have call quality issues.  Depending on your router, you may be able to manage it by putting your phones on a separate VLAN and giving it dedicated bandwidth to the ISP or by using QoS.

Are you running 1G Ethernet internally?  Do you ever use up all of the bandwidth on that?  You likely don't, but if you do, you'll want some way to reserve local bandwidth for the phones.

Most (all?) VoIP phones have two Ethernet jacks so you can share the wall jack with a computer.  If you expect to use that feature, confirm if the phones support 1G Ethernet or if they are just 100M.  If you have a 1G network, you don't want to bottleneck your computers by connecting them through slower phones.
WORKS2011Managed IT Services, Cyber Security, BackupAuthor Commented:
I wasn't clear on this part, when I said no hardware I meant everything but the phones. To be clear Ring Central would provide the Polycom VVX 411 vvx_411.pdf and according to them no other equipment is needed. They don't need to sell a PoE device because the phones have a power adapter option. They also confirmed the firewall in place meets all the requirements. Their answer to QoS was dependent on the quality of the network and ISP.

@CompProbSolv,
Ring Central (and others) should have a web page you can go to that allows you to test the connection.  It would be wise to run that during your busy network time to confirm that there are no immediate issues.

I ran two tests today and will run again when everyone returns from the holidays, the network didn't really have any load on it today. I think it's safe to say the network needs attention. My thoughts are either the firewall or ISP.

Test 1: To view the My Connection Server Detail Analysis MyConnection-Server-Detail-Analysis.pdf

Test 2: Application Speed Test. Areas of concern marked in red. Scroll to the bottom to see info regarding "Forced Idle"
testtest2test3test4
Forced Idle:
forced idle
CompProbSolvCommented:
8Mbps is more than enough for the phones.  The issue will be how much of that you'll use by other devices.

I have 50Mbps service from Frontier.  When I'm downloading files (from Microsoft. for example), I can use up all of that.  You'd likely want some way (as mentioned above) to reserve bandwidth for the phones.

What sort of high-bandwidth uses (file download, streaming video or audio, email attachments, etc.) do/will the other devices have?

According to the data sheet you linked, those phones have gigabit ports on them.  That's a good sign (is the rest of your network gigabit?), but remember that if you connect your computer through one of those, the computer loses connection whenever the phone is rebooted.
WORKS2011Managed IT Services, Cyber Security, BackupAuthor Commented:
@CompProbSolv, running a 400Mx20M coax from Spectrum. Pretty straight forward network as far as what it's used for. Server (PDC, DHCP, DNS, file server with 20 workstations, email (exchange server), Outlook, Adobe, Word, Excel, largest network consumption is likely video conferencing which doesn't show any lag, there aren't any issues with it.  

Everything on the LAN has G NICs. Cables tested came back good for 1G. Cabling is a combination of CAT5e and CAT6.

remember that if you connect your computer through one of those, the computer loses connection whenever the phone is rebooted.

Agree and why I use power adapters. We split the phones out from each computer via a Gig switch from the wall jack.
WORKS2011Managed IT Services, Cyber Security, BackupAuthor Commented:
@CompProbSolv,
It can also be critical to make sure your ISP doesn't have any bandwidth issues beyond your connection.
 
Agree 100% and am not confident this is not the case. I've brought up the issues with Spectrum multiple times and they only offer moving to fiber. They claim the coax network is old and interference can be expected.

You may set up QoS on your LAN, but unless you get a special connection (=expensive) from your ISP, they will ignore QoS.
See answer above, I have zero confidence with the current ISP (Spectrum). Likely moving to fiber soon however important to determine this is not a firewall or issue on the LAN prior to making the switch.

You are relying on there being no bottlenecks between your ISP and the CO (Ring Central or whomever you contract with).
We're switching from Spectrum in the near future.

What bandwidth do you have (both up and down) with your ISP?
400Mx20M

If your existing uses will take up all of the bandwidth at times, you'll want to have some way of reserving bandwidth for your VoIP phones or you'll have call quality issues.  Depending on your router, you may be able to manage it by putting your phones on a separate VLAN and giving it dedicated bandwidth to the ISP or by using QoS.
Agree, I've done similar things like this on other VOIP installations after call quality was so poor.
CompProbSolvCommented:
You have 400M down but the test with Ring Central only showed about 8M down?  Did I misread that?

What speeds do you get with speedtest.net?
nociSoftware EngineerCommented:
54Mbps seems conspicously similar to WiFi...  Was this wired or WiFi tested.
It may help to reserve some bandwidth (bandwidth management, not QoS as such) 4-8Mbps (depending  on amount of actual traffic) from the uplink speed and assign it to the VOIP equipment.

Then again, VOIP almost exclusively uses UDP  so any issues about TCP should not be of influence. (the TCP gaps would leave more room for UDP traffic to pass).
(The 20M Uplink might also be a cause of the TCP gaps if ACK cannot be delivered fast enough).

Things that may really hurt on Asymmetric links are routers with Tooo much buffer space. ("Buffer Bloat").
If you can prioritize small packets like ACK it may make your connection Fly.  (More background on this can be found in and around a script called wondershaper )
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