How to determine if a SIP provider is best for your startup or growing organization

By Steve Braverman

Every business, no matter its size, needs a trusted and reliable way to communicate both internally and with customers. For most that means having an adequate phone system and an internet connection. The two are no longer mutually exclusive. In fact, they haven’t been for a while now, but lots of companies are missing a huge opportunity to combine the two.

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is a scalable, reliable, fast, and inexpensive communication platform. In simplest terms, its voice and video calls over the internet. And it has big advantages.

Many business phone systems still rely on local area networks (LAN) to connect phones and computers to the internet (if they’re even doing that). SIP trunking—a way of connecting directly to the internet—  bypasses the need to link traditional phone lines with extra equipment, essentially eliminating phone companies, their high costs, and continuous maintenance.

But because it’s internet-based, SIP trunking relies on high-performing bandwidth to be successful. Any number of factors, from jitter, congestion, limiting network hardware, or latency can damage the user experience. How many of us have talked over someone else or dropped a call altogether? But even those minor issues shouldn’t deter you from exploring how VoIP and SIP trunking can benefit your business.

When deciding whether you should embrace SIP trunking, it’s important to understand how your SIP provider deals with each of the issues just mentioned. And because latency is the number one problem SIP trunking customers encounter, let’s take a look, specifically, at what latency means for you.

Is Latency a Big Deal?

If you have ever used an internet connection to place a call, only to find yourself interrupting the other speaker, hearing an echo, or experiencing choppy calls, you’re familiar with latency, another word for delay or drag.

Latency occurs when there’s heavy traffic on your network, resulting in delayed audio or dropped calls. If you think of your broadband connection as a highway, then your VoIP calls are the cars (called packets). Latency, then, is the traffic jam or slowdown. If your network is overloaded with video calls, conference calls, VoIP calls, or streaming, all that traffic can have a negative effect on your call quality.

Most people recognize latency at about 100-200 milliseconds (ms). True communication breakdowns (talking over one another) typically start around the 250-300 ms mark. Ideally, your SIP trunk provider can keep latency under 150 ms one way (300 ms round trip). But remember, the farther away your SIP trunk provider, the greater the possibility of latency. This is because it takes longer to transmit data across longer distances.

Now that you understand the basics of latency, it will be important to test the latency of each  SIP provider before committing your entire communications setup to them. Fortunately, there are a couple of easy ways to do this.

How to Test for Latency

Latency can’t be entirely avoided. The best any of us can hope for is an “acceptable level” of latency. As mentioned earlier, callers begin to notice delays or slowdowns around the 100-200 ms mark. To ensure your provider is holding to this standard, you’ll want to conduct a ping test.

Essentially, you’ll send a ping or signal through your SIP trunk and await a response. The time it takes to send a data packet (the way your voice travels through the line to the person on the other end) will give you an indication of how much latency to expect and let you know whether you’ll have an issue with the provider.

There are two ways to conduct a ping test—manually or online.

Manual ping tests require you follow a specific number of steps in your network settings. This can be tricky for people who don’t have much tech-savvy, but because it’s only a handful of steps, it can be figured out with some focus and determination.

The easier method is to simply use an online application or utility to auto-run a ping test. These can be found with a simple internet search and require only a few clicks to run. Either way, you should have a good idea of a provider’s latency before ever signing a contract with them.

Choosing the Right SIP Trunk Provider

Getting rid of traditional phone lines and choosing SIP trunking will be one of the smartest and best decisions you can make for your business. Because managed SIP bridges the gap between legacy infrastructure and emerging technologies, it’s a feasible and attractive option for growing businesses and startups looking to maintain voice infrastructure.

The numerous features SIP trunking provides are well worth the switch. From routing numbers anywhere in the world, to scalability as you grow, SIP trunking simplifies voice infrastructure and, most importantly, cuts costs. If you decide that SIP trunking and VoIP are right for your growing business, be sure to select a provider who can explain how they will enhance your existing communications investments.

Steve Braverman is the cofounder of Coeo Solutions, a leading cloud communications provider headquartered in Illinois. Thanks to his long-time history in telecom, Steve leads the Coeo Solutions team in providing scalable, flexible and customized solutions for every client.

SIP stock photo by Yanawut Suntornkij/Shutterstock