Why UC Applications Still Cause Network Headaches (And How to Fix Them)
June 09, 2017

Chris Bloom
Savvius

Share this

Unified Communications (UC) applications such as VoIP and Video streaming have been around in the enterprise setting now for almost two decades. It's rather remarkable, then, that for all of their business benefits and popularity, UC applications still post so many headaches for network engineers. With that in mind, are there steps that network engineers can and should be taking to make these applications more reliable, and deliver better quality of service to their users? I believe there are, so let's take a look at some tips.

Rather than being generated digitally, the origin of UC data is a fluid and continuous analog stream. For that reason, data from UC applications such as VoIP need to be managed in real time. Unfortunately, as digital files are transferred over any network, it's common for some of those packets to be dropped or to be delivered out of sync, resulting in poor sound quality, delays, static and sound gaps.

Email and document transfer applications generally cause far less obvious problems on the network thanks to TCP's built-in checks and acknowledgements, giving it the ability to resend and reorganize data into a perfect digital copy of the original. This isn't the case for UDP, which is a best-effort protocol often used by UC applications. Once a UDP packet has been sent, there is no mechanism to acknowledge or retransmit that packet if it gets delayed or corrupted due to latency, jitter or packet loss. VoIP technologies often employ tools such as DSP algorithms that compensate for up to 30 milliseconds of missing data, however anything above that threshold will be noticed by the listener.

This is where modern network analysis and diagnostic solutions come in. These tools give network engineers the ability to monitor and analyze all network traffic, including VoIP and other UC applications, for signs of network traffic issues. Armed with information about latency, throughput, and other network problems, IT teams have the power to resolve issues, maintain a QoS experience, mitigate poor performance caused by a competition for network bandwidth, and monitor compliance with established network policies and vendor SLAs.

It all starts with taking a proactive approach to UC application management. This involves being aware of the ways in which applications affect the network and other applications, but it also requires leveraging the full value of a network analysis solution to provide ongoing expert analysis of possible issues. Here are a few simple tips.

1. Understand your network's behavior

There are certain things an IT team needs to understand about the network's behavior, including its general health. The best way to assess this is to establish baselines of the existing infrastructure across the entire enterprise network. Knowing how the network behaves on a regular basis will prepare you to spot and deal with any issues that UC applications may have.

2. Beware of the three-headed beast: Jitter, Latency and Packet Loss

Jitter, latency, and packet loss are common, but they can cause havoc to UC applications on a converged network. This is where network visibility and analytics tools are invaluable as they alert the IT team to performance problems and enable proactive management of UC applications by adjusting configurations or adding extra capacity.

3. Monitor constantly

Monitoring UC applications includes a combination of metrics for general network performance and specific end-user quality of experience (QoE). Constant monitoring will validate QoS operations, reveal network traffic patterns that affect UC applications, and provide alerts whenever there's a drop in performance.

4. Zoom in on VoFi

VoFi is just another data type on your network, but using VoIP over wireless introduces the possibility of extra interference and other issues. Once the IT team has performed a scan of the 802.11 bands in use, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, etc., it's a good idea to isolate VoFi traffic for things like call quality, call volume (number of calls), and network utilization for VoFi versus all other data. If a more detailed analysis is needed, check the signaling for each call, including detail about any packet bounces.

You may also want to observe individual flows, since the packet paths between the caller and the callee can differ. Also check the quality of the voice transmission, including an analysis of latency, packet loss, jitter, and MOS and R-Factor voice quality metrics. If you're not sure how these metrics compare with “real world” quality, it helps to play back sections of a sample call to hear how it actually sounded.

5. Don't be afraid to tweak the network

Application traffic changes all the time. When you see issues crop up, don't be afraid to tweak the network to maintain levels of performance.

Although UC applications data is basically just another type of traffic on the network, ensuring that they work seamlessly can be a big challenge for IT teams. It's always best to start by testing the overall environment and the end user experience, and from there you can gradually drill down into specific problem areas to find a resolve the issues. Being proactive about network health will absolutely result in fewer problems down the line.

Chris Bloom is a Technology Evangelist at Savvius
Share this

The Latest

June 22, 2017

Executives in the US and Europe now place broad trust in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems, designed to protect organizations from more dynamic pernicious cyber threats, according to Radware's 2017 Executive Application & Network Security Survey ....

June 21, 2017

While IT service management (ITSM) has too often been viewed by the industry as an area of reactive management with fading process efficiencies and legacy concerns, a new study by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) reveals that, in many organizations, ITSM is becoming a hub of innovation ...

June 20, 2017

Cloud is quickly becoming the new normal. The challenge for organizations is that increased cloud usage means increased complexity, often leading to a kind of infrastructure "blind spot." So how do companies break the blind spot and get back on track? ...

June 19, 2017

Hybrid IT is becoming a standard enterprise model, but there’s no single playbook to get there, according to a new report by Dimension Data entitled The Success Factors for Managing Hybrid IT ...

June 16, 2017

Any mobile app developer will tell you that one of the greatest challenges in monetizing their apps through video ads isn't finding the right demand or knowing when to run the videos; it's figuring out how to present video ads without slowing down their apps ...

June 15, 2017

40 percent of UK retail websites experience downtime during seasonal peaks, according to a recent study by Cogeco Peer 1 ...

June 14, 2017

Predictive analytics is a popular ITOA technology that you can leverage to improve your business by leaps and bounds. Predictive analytics analyzes relationships among various data points to predict behavioral trends, growth opportunities and risks, which can add critical value to your business. Here are a few questions to help you decide if predictive analytics is right for your business ...

June 13, 2017

Many organizations are at a tipping point, as new technology demands are set to outstrip the skills supply, according to a new Global Digital Transformation Skills Study by Brocade ...

June 12, 2017

Network capacity is the lifeblood of an enterprise — bandwidth enables business. Getting the most out of the network is a fine balancing act, so it's understandable that enterprises are always hungry for more bandwidth. Two out of three IT and network professionals expect bandwidth usage to increase by up to 50% by the end of 2017. However, bandwidth availability issues could become a thing of the past. We are on the cusp of a great surge of capacity as gigabit speed internet becomes a reality ...

June 09, 2017

Unified Communications (UC) applications such as VoIP and Video streaming have been around in the enterprise setting now for almost two decades. It's rather remarkable, then, that for all of their business benefits and popularity, UC applications still post so many headaches for network engineers. With that in mind, are there steps that network engineers can and should be taking to make these applications more reliable, and deliver better quality of service to their users? I believe there are, so let's take a look at some tips ...