Informs and engages the UNB community on IT developments and news

VoIP Part 2 Upgrading the UNB network to get ready for VoIP

Author: ITS

Posted on Feb 1, 2012

Category: Projects , General Interest

The structure of UNB's 4 core switchesLast week, tidBiTS started a four-part series about VoIP, UNB’s upcoming phone solution for Fredericton faculty and staff, by filling you in on what VoIP is and why UNB wants it. Before VoIP can be implemented however, UNB’s network must be upgraded to accommodate this new solution.

Thanks to a significant investment UNB has made in Fredericton’s network infrastructure, ITS is well on its way to building a strong, secure, and redundant network that will allow VoIP to work both efficiently and effectively.  What exactly is involved in upgrading a network? The list is long, but here are a few key components:

Restructuring our core switches

ITS’s first goal for achieving a highly redundant network at UNB is to eliminate all single points of failure so if one part of the network stops working, another can pick up the slack and keep things running smoothly without any interruptions. Part of this goal has already been achieved through strategic placement of a fourth core switch (ie: central hub that connects the various parts of the network together). By incorporating this fourth switch, ITS has been able to link all the core switches together in a logical way so if one fails, one of the others can easily take over.

Fibre optic cableUpgrading our fibre

Another way of eliminating single points of failure on the network is by making sure every main building on campus is linked to two core switches so your data always has an alternate route to travel on if its original path is broken. If you stop and think about the locations of all the buildings on UNB’s Fredericton campus, it doesn’t take long to realize that setting up fibre paths from every building would be anything but a speedy process. Not only that, with fibre being extremely fragile and small, it makes the task of splicing (ie: connecting) it very tricky work. A big thank you goes to ITS’s network technologists, Cyril Tobin and Jon MacAdam, who have been dedicated to completing these fibre upgrades, as well as to our other Networking staff who have planned the entire upgrade process.

Upgrading our wiring closets

In addition to upgrading the core switches and fibre, each building on campus also has one or more wiring closets (ie: small room that houses the networking equipment) that will need to be upgraded prior to the implementation of VoIP. Part of this process includes making sure that most closets are equipped with an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) so the network will continue to operate for a period of time in the case of a power outage. 

One of UNB's wiring closetsSetting up Power over Ethernet

Unlike regular phones that plug into a typical phone jack, VoIP telephones require Power over Ethernet (POE) in order to work. Before VoIP is rolled out, ITS will be checking to make sure every office that requires phone service is properly equipped with an ethernet power supply so when you receive your new VoIP telephone all you will have to do is plug it in and start talking.

Enabling Quality of Service (QoS)

The final key step in preparing the UNB network for VoIP is enabling Quality of Service, or QoS for short. Simply put, QoS allows us to give priority to certain types of data over others so they always pass along the network first. By giving VoIP data priority over other network activity like surfing the web or sending an email, this will ensure your phone calls always come in crisp and clear. 

As you can see, upgrading the UNB network for VoIP is anything but a small undertaking. Once complete, however, UNB Fredericton will have a strong, redundant and secure network that not only supports a VoIP solution, but also provides high quality performance and connectivity for all your network activities at UNB.

To learn more about VoIP, please visit ITS’s VoIP webpage. Don’t forget to stay tuned for next week’s tidBiTS VoIP article about interesting features and benefits!

Missed the other articles in the VoIP series? Check them out:

VoIP Part 1: What is VoIP and why UNB wants it

VoIP Part 3: Interesting Features and Benefits

VoIP Part 4: Current Project Status