Remote workers now having issues with phones

I have a couple issues with some of our remote workers and am trying to figure out the best solution. When all of our employees were working in our offices we have the network setup with the modem in passthru and a security appliance with all the QoS and traffic shaping rules applied. We rarely ever had any phone issues.

Once the stay at home order was put in place all of our employee took their computers home with them and some started having phone issues. Some of the issues include their soft phone not being able to answer a call that is ringing, when they try to answer it appears to create duplicate incoming calls (See screenshot). Another phone issue is that some of our agents are logged into their queues but they show as unavailable even though their soft phone show they are registered. We know this because we have an optional extension destination setup that transfers the caller into an IVR that gives the caller options for how to proceed since the agent isn’t available. Another issue that has been reported is their soft phone might only ring once or twice and then another agent receives the call and answers it so the initial agent gets a RINGNOANSWER which is used in our agent KPI’s.

My initial guess on the cause of the issues is ISP problems or I suspect their Modem/Router combo provided by their ISP is mangling the packets. I have had a couple of our agents log into their router and see if there was a SIP ALG setting they could turn off but most of these consumer routers provided by the ISP don’t have QoS or traffic shaping rules, also turning SIP ALG is not an option in most of these devices. I am curious what other people do for their remote workforce? Do you have them change out the ISP provided router with something else? Would using a VPN tunnel help? What are some of the troubleshooting steps I can do to help track down where the problem is?


A couple questions to narrow things down:
-How are the workers connecting to the PBX? For example, over a VPN? Or over the PBX’s external address with proper port forwarding?
-Are there any workers that are not experiencing issues, who are connecting over the same method as those who are?
-For the workers experiencing the issues, are things ever working and they suddenly stop during the day?
-Are any of the problems consistently reproducible? You’ll likely need to get some packet captures for further troubleshooting.

Sorry for the delay in responding.

Most of the workers are connecting through the external address but none of our workers have configured their routers with port forwarding because I didn’t think it was necessary with STUN/ICE.

Some of our workers we do have them connecting over a VPN, the OpenVPN client build into FreePBX but they experience the same issue. The reason we set them up over OpenVPN is because we figured it would encrypt the traffic and prevent their router from messing with the packets since SIP ALG can’t be turned off.

There are some workers that don’t experience any issues that will connect through a VPN or through the external address.

Some workers will be working normally and then all of a sudden they start having issues randomly but the workers don’t all experience the issues at the same time, which would potentially eliminate congestion on the PBX as an issue.

None of the issues are consistently reproducible. I am currently running a packet capture to see if I can get some more detailed information.

It’s still hard to guess what could be going on, but it is promising that there are some VPN and external users that are working successfully since that can rule out a lot of things. As for the users that are experiencing issues after working successfully, you might want to try decreasing the registration interval/expiration on the softphones. If it’s at the default value like 60min, I’d try 2min in case one of the issues is NAT tunnels not staying open.

As for some of the other VPN users, you might want to find out more about their typical usage. There was a post regarding issues with some VPN users who launch their softphone before establishing a connection over their VPN. Bria might give you an alert if the network was updated, but the softphones the other system was using didn’t seem to have that, so it wasn’t easy to figure out what was going on.

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