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SD-WAN will fix business VoIP

Oct 12, 20175 mins

Even over a single, crummy Internet connection.

slow internet
Credit: Thinkstock

“I don’t drink water, period. I live in Los Angeles and the water I get from the tap is lackluster, in terms of quality.”

If someone said this, what is the first thought that comes to mind (assuming the person isn’t wearing hemp clothing and has their hair in dreadlocks)?

“Have you tried using a water filter?” … is what you and I would probably ask, right?

After you read below, this will be the same thing you say when you hear someone say, “VoIP isn’t a good fit for our company because we only have one ISP in the area, and the connection is shaky, at best.”

Your response will be “Have you tried using SD-WAN to fix your call quality?”

SD-WAN is one of the best technologies to catch fire in the last couple of years and if you are a little fuzzy on it, here’s an opportunity to learn another tidbit about this wonderful, disruptive technology.

Despite the acronym “WAN” (Wide Area Network), in its name, SD-WAN is not solely for companies with multiple sites. It is just as useful to a company with 1 site as it is to a company with 100 sites.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is also nearly just as useful for a company with a single Internet connection as it is for a company with multiple Internet connections. Especially if your company uses VoIP.

A good, cloud-enabled SD-WAN solution, layered onto a single, shaky Internet connection, will transform a normally choppy VoIP call, into a thing of beauty. You may even find yourself wanting to take a call from a salesperson, just to hear their voice! [blood-curling shriek]

Here’s how.

On-the-fly application prioritization

When you order SD-WAN, you are shipped a bare-bones, plug-n-play router and you are given a login to an online control panel with a GUI interface, where you can configure and monitor your SD-WAN service.

One of the first things you do within your control panel, is identify the different applications on your network and group them into different levels of priority (i.e. VoIP vs. email vs. Internet browsing). The high priority applications get to go first, while the others need to wait.

The cool thing about SD-WAN is at any given moment, it is detecting the application flow and throttling non-priority traffic appropriately. Kinda like how my wife and I throttle our kids’ conversations at the dinner table…

This alone will help your VoIP call quality, since calls are no longer competing for bandwidth with Susan’s training video or Larry, listening to Twisted Sister’s greatest hits on Spotify.

Forward error correction

Another common feature SD-WAN solutions offer is called Forward Error Correction (a.k.a. channel coding), which essentially duplicates your phone call’s data packets, giving every packet of every phone call, 2 chances to succeed. That’s a very layman way of explaining it but you get the point.

Now, if I could only add forward error correction to the words coming out of my mouth sometimes. Especially when the kids are running late for school in the morning… yet again.

Even better, the SD-WAN solution will sense if you have enough bandwidth on your circuit to perform forward error correction and if not, will throttle non-priority applications or quit running FEC, all-together.

Forward error correction drastically reduces packet errors and packet loss… things that make VoIP phone calls drop or sound terrible.

Some cloud-enabled SD-WAN providers will not only perform this on-site but also within their cloud gateways.

Dynamic jitter buffering

If there were a TV show called When VoIP Calls Go Bad, “Jitter” would be a bad guy, featured in nearly every episode.

Some SD-WAN solutions offer a feature called “jitter buffering.” It sounds complicated but all it means is the SD-WAN service is reducing the nasty jitter on your voice calls by collecting the data packets (that comprise your phone call in this example), storing them, then sending them out in evenly spaced intervals.

Add the word “dynamic” to this feature and it means the SD-WAN solution detects the need for jitter buffering on-the-fly, and applies it, as-needed.

Like Forward Error Correction, some cloud-enabled SD-WAN providers offer this on-site, as well as at the cloud-gateway-level.

If you’d like to see these features, in-action, here is a cool Tech Field Day YouTube video, demonstrating SD-WAN’s impact on a bad Internet connection.

Or, you can just take my word for it and know SD-WAN will probably make your VoIP phone system work, even if you have one location, with a shoddy Internet connection.

If you’d like more information on SD-WAN and which solutions are the best fit for your company’s size, location, and requirements, don’t be shy. Shoot me an email and I’d be happy to talk shop.


Mike Smith is the founder and president of AeroCom, Inc., one of the largest and longest-standing business telecom and cloud brokerages in the U.S. As a former professional football player, Mike's success in tech has been a bit out-of-the-ordinary but he has won numerous telecommunications industry awards, since founding AeroCom in 2003. Most notably, in 2011 he was recognized as one of the top 40 business leaders, under 40 years old, in tech-heavy Orange County, California.

In his free time, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife, Carrie and their four children. He is also a lover of wine, coaching his kids' sports teams and anything to do with 1980s skateboarding.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Mike Smith and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.