Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) systems have been an important business tool for some time now, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic turned remote connectivity into a crucial business lifeline. Our increased reliance on tools such as video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and calendar systems forces IT to manage an increasingly complex environment. When home Wi-Fi connections and cloud-based components are added to the equation, the challenge of managing these systems becomes even greater for IT.
Clearly, as these unified systems become ever-more mission-critical, IT professionals must solve the complexity problem in order to deliver near-flawless and secure user experiences across the board.
The question is, how? That was the topic under discussion by industry experts in a recent OnGuard webinar.
Many times, UC&C components represent something of a double-edged sword for IT. For example, as UC&C components are increasingly outsourced, IT enjoys advantages by reducing the burden of managing the infrastructure. At the same time, that loss of control can also presents challenges, explained Paul Barrett, chief technology officer for NETSCOUT's enterprise and federal business. “When an organization outsources UC&C components, IT isn’t necessarily off the hook, because when things stop working, the first thing users will do is complain to IT,” he said. “And since the infrastructure is now spread across multiple providers, when problems crop up, it becomes quite difficult to pinpoint exactly where this issue is occurring in order to convince a particular provider to accept responsibility.”
The Importance of Security
Although UC&C performance is incredibly important, security is equally vital to the success of any business. “As enterprises move to hosted UC&C, IT must focus on the security of these communications to ensure that confidential information stays confidential. Encryption is critical,” said Eric Gray, chief solutions architect for NETSCOUT. In fact, he pointed out, there’s an ongoing debate about whether enterprises should require VPNs when granting remote workers direct access to hosted UC&C platforms. “While this approach will deliver better performance, it may also expose the business to security-related issues,” he said.
One way to introduce a level of firewalling is to use a VPN to provide remote workers access into the corporate environment, utilizing connectivity from the data center back to the hosted environment. In this way, security professionals can inspect for malware and check for viruses, while ensuring employees are adhering to the proper levels of encryption.
The Growing Need for a Holistic View of Complex Systems
The final piece of the puzzle IT needs for managing the performance and security of complex UC&C systems is a holistic view into the interconnected broader environment.
“Today’s heavy reliance on UC&C is putting greater user load through internet pipes to a company’s data center or colocation,” said Ray Krug, director of product marketing for NETSCOUT. “This then puts more strain on VPN concentrators. That’s why monitoring choke points becomes so critical. With so many people still working from home, and many others returning to the office, there’s increased traffic coming into data centers. As a result, IT has to be sure they’re aware of how their infrastructure is coping with what's going on. Visibility end through end is more critical than ever to assuring a good UC&C experience.”
Barrett pointed out that the hybrid nature of today’s workforce is also altering the traffic profile of the network and concurred with Krug that IT must be prepared to understand what's happening, and what the implications of those changes are to the systems that users depend on day in and day out.
Watch the OnGuard episode.
Learn more about UC&C performance monitoring