Back in August the family moved into a new house, and that meant getting Comcast to run some new cable and Verizon to add two new phone lines. Long story short; Comcast did exactly what they were suppose to do - no muss, no fuss. Verizon, however, drop the ball completely. Shortly thereafter my Vonage equipment arrived.
I had Vonage installed and working in minutes. Some number of days later, though, my Internet service started degrading and then gave up the ghost entirely. I rebooted all of the networking equipment, which brought it all back to life, but a few days later the same thing happened. Then it happened again. At that time a whole bunch of things had changed in my setup. I’d received a new cable modem, I’d replaced my Linksys wifi router with Apple’s Airport Extreme, and I got the Vonage box. What was the culprit? I didn’t nail it down right away, but it was the Vonage box.
You see, the simplistic Vonage installation instructions really encourage you to install the device directly behind your cable modem/dsl line, which I did. Problem is, as I discovered after inordinate amounts of Googling, is that the router built into the Motorola VT1000 VoIP equipment is for the birds, and after a certain amount of usage the internal routing tables get all out of whack. This may be true for other devices that Vonage resells, but I have no way of knowing.
The solution is straight forward enough; arrange to have your Vonage box behind your router. You do have a router don’t you? Even if you only have one computer? Even if you’re not using wifi? If you don’t, click over to Amazon and get yourself one.
Putting your Vonage box behind your router is a simple matter of plugging it into the router as explained here. What those instructions don’t mention is that you will almost certainly have to set up port forwarding, though Vonage does explain how to do that here. And what those instructions don’t tell you is how to give your Vonage box a static IP address. You’ll need to do that too. Instructions can be found here. Of course, the address you use isn’t random, but must be part of the IP range in use on your internal network. Probably something like 192.168.1.xxx. Also note that the final, xxx, octet should not be in range of the addresses handed out by your DHCP server.
The long and the short of it is; if you are using Vonage, then do not let your VoIP equipment (at least the VT1000) also be your router/NAT/firewall/DHCP box. Instead use something better suited to the job like a Linksys, Netgear, or Airport router.
The Good Bit
However, if you are using an Airport Extreme (and maybe others), did you know that you can hook a device up to it, but put it in front of the firewall, thus skipping all the port forwarding stuff? That is, you can put a single device into a mini DMZ. To do this, you’ll have to give the Vonage box a static IP address. Then go to the Airport Admin Utility, select the main Airport tab, click “Base Station Options,” select the “WAN Ethernet Port” tab, and check the “Enable Default Host at” box. The first 3 octets of your internal network will be there, just fill in the final octet with whatever you set for your Vonage box. Now you have the Airport doing all that good NAT/router/DHCP stuff for you, and the Vonage box with a direct connection to the Internet, without port forwarding. You’ll lose any of the packet shaping (call quality) abilities of the VT1000, but we’ve been running this way for months and haven’t noticed anything.
I understand it’s possible to do this the other way round too. That is, to have the VoIP box downstream from the cable modem, and place your router in it’s DMZ. This will resurrect the call quality features of the VT1000. But my configuration seems more natural to me, and my call quality is fine.
If you’re a complete IP neophyte, then most of that didn’t make much sense. Leave a comment and I’ll help you if I can. Otherwise, find yourself a guru and have him/her do it for you.