Eileen Haggerty

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Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) initiatives are often touted as a crucial component of digital transformation, and the market numbers bear that out. IDC forecasts a 7,1 percent compound annual growth rate for the global UC&C market between 2019 and 2023, much of it driven by cloud solutions, mobility, and collaborative applications.

When done right, UC&C is a highly effective tool for improving employee productivity, empowering workers to communicate in a manner that best suits the task at hand. Companies rely on instant messaging’s rapid connection to solve problems and make decisions more quickly, while remote communications let teams collaborate globally.  Meanwhile, high-quality video conferencing provides the intimacy of face-to-face meetings without physical travel. Ultimately, UC&C helps increase productivity, streamline processes, and foster better business outcomes—which is why poor quality experience is unacceptable and has made UC&C performance management so important.

Getting the best performance from UC&C

Getting the most from UC&C is something of a moving target, as UC&C technology grows ever-more sophisticated. Today, deployments are often delivered via omni-channel, encompassing channels such as voice, video, web, email, chat, social, and mobile.  Because there are so many moving parts involved with UC&C services, there’s a greater potential for performance problems to arise and impede the end-user experience.  If CIOs want to optimize UC&C, they should keep these three things in mind:  

1. The complexity effect. IT professionals responsible for UC&C services must identify problems on a shared infrastructure, making it more difficult to pinpoint the source of issues. Such infrastructure might include a private data center or cloud SaaS providers, SIP trunks, WANs, and SD-WANs, raising the complexity of the challenge.  When problems do crop up, it becomes imperative to determine what is degrading the voice quality, impacting a video conference, or preventing data delivery.

And once problems are identified, IT needs to be alerted quickly in order to take the necessary steps to restore functionality.  Because these are typically multi-vendor environments, IT must contend with an array of different vendors, making the job of assuring performance even more difficult.

2. The impact of visibility roadblocks. The real challenge of effectively managing the UC&C experience stems from an inability to create a holistic view of network performance. Without such visibility, it becomes difficult to ensure that proper quality-of-service (QoS) policies are in place, and that real-time, latency-sensitive traffic, such as voice and video, get priority over all other data.

With the deployment of sophisticated UC&C services throughout converged networks, IT professionals need visibility into the network and virtualized data centers, as well as across technology vendors, in order to ensure the entire service chain is functioning optimally.  Delivering the highest quality service is dependent on IT’s ability to see all of the interdependencies.  Simply put, you can’t fix what you can’t see.

3. The value of a common denominator. The key to building an end-to-end view across such a complex environment? Packet data, which provides evidence on how everything communicates with each other across the call path and dependencies. Using hardware, software, or virtual appliances, companies can achieve pervasive visibility into packet traffic and application workloads.  By processing and analyzing this packet data in real time, companies can analyze key performance metrics that deliver a centralized view into the performance characteristics of infrastructure and application components and dependencies. Known as smart data, these metrics can reveal important UC&C service measurements, such as mean opinion score, to evaluate voice quality.  It also reveals network failures as well as issues with other applications and dependencies that might impact the quality of voice services.  Packet data delivers the holistic visibility needed to get to the root cause of issues very quickly. By ensuring the performance of these vital systems, businesses can deliver the level of customer experience so crucial for success.

Read our UC&C troubleshooting guide.

Haggerty is associate vice president, product and solutions marketing, NETSCOUT

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