Make sure your UC platform keeps things moving

  • Latency can't be eliminated, but it can - and should - be minimized.

  • Prioritizing the delivery of the most important packets can improve user experience.

  • By honoring vendor specifications, you can avoid chronic drops in quality.

As organizations open more channels under their unified communications (UC) umbrella, a cohesive and comprehensive monitoring and class-of-service (CoS) plan is essential. Without a quality management infrastructure, your unified communications platform could be known more for delays, glitches, and interruptions than for convenience and availability.

Know the enemies: jitter and latency

Although equipment failure and network interruptions are always possible, most disruptions are caused by jitter and latency. Latency is the time gap between sending and receiving data. Since data transmission is – at best – limited to the speed of light, and encoding and decoding packets takes time, latency can never be completely eliminated. Building internal communication WANs that encourage any-to-any connections, rather than routing through several hubs, can cut down on latency.

Jitter is the disruption that happens when related data packets arrive out of order, which can result in garbled audio or video. Network buffers are designed to correct for jitter, re-organizing any data that arrives out of sequence before it is delivered to the end recipient. Overly aggressive buffering can create additional latency, so class-of-service prioritization may be an important thing to manage.

Manage network traffic  

Early, naïve network infrastructure focused simply on delivering as much data as possible as quickly as possible, with no consideration for content. UC demands a more sophisticated approach, focused on timely and orderly delivery of the packets that matter most. Generic data packets, such as database fields or web images, are not time-sensitive at the level of tenths of a second, but users often consider voice and video delays of three tenths of a second (300 milliseconds) or less unacceptable.

For small business environments, adopting and properly configuring a professional-grade router can be enough to ensure consistent service for the most sensitive UC channels – voice and video. Larger organizations with more diverse needs and a widespread base of employees can benefit from a network management software layer designed specifically for UC quality. These solutions can monitor media flow in real time and alert administrators when quality slips below a defined threshold.

Plan traffic accurately and honor vendor specifications

The vendors in your UC stack should provide detailed specifications about the maximum number of supported clients or workstations-per-server and cluster. Believe them and abide by them. This is not an area where you should skimp on cost because, inevitably, you will and end up suffering chronic drops in quality.

The peak number of calls initiated (inbound or outbound) per second matters most. Statistics that look at a wider timeframe, such as calls-per-hour, don’t capture the effects of network congestion as precisely. Because initiating and terminating calls is relatively more demanding on network resources than sustaining existing calls, it is important to measure communication patterns at a fine-grained, short interval level before building out or expanding your UC infrastructure.

Make sure your UC platform helps – not hinders – your organization’s ability to get work done.  Consider how a Virtual Private Network (VPN) configuration can help enable you to efficiently access applications like Voice over IP (VoIP) and unified communications. With a VPN, you can merge multiple networks into a highly secure network with global reach and any-to-any device connectivity backed by Service Level Agreements that ensure quality of service to make sure you keep your UC platform moving.

Learn more about how AT&T’s Unified Communications team can help.

Jason Compton is an internationally published writer and reporter with extensive experience in enterprise technologies, including marketing, sales, service, and collaboration. Based in Madison, WI, he is a regular contributor to Direct Marketing News, previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine, and has been published in over 50 outlets. All opinions are his own. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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