As unified communications (UC) becomes the go-to tool for businesses looking to improve companywide collaboration and productivity, outsourcing these services to the cloud has emerged as an increasingly popular choice. According to a MarketsandMarkets report, UC as a service (UCaaS) adoption is poised to grow from US$17.35 billion in 2016 to US$28.69 billion by 2021, particularly among small to mid-size businesses.
UCaaS, which outsources a company’s communications infrastructure to a cloud service provider, offers lower cost of ownership and greater flexibility. Instead of requiring expensive in-house hardware, UCaaS is managed by a third party. And because everything is hosted in the cloud, employees are able to access video and audio communications easily through any internet-connected device. But all those benefits come at the price of decreased control for IT when it comes to monitoring and preserving user experience.
Betting on Blind Faith
Ensuring Quality of Service (QoS) in the network in UCaaS deployments is crucial to customers. Unfortunately, organizations can only trust that the UCaaS service provider has put the right quality measures in place to ensure that service delivery. Because enterprises can place instrumentation only within their own infrastructure, they can’t monitor third-party cloud environments for QoS adherence. Without such visibility, it becomes difficult to ensure that proper QoS policies are in place and that real-time, latency-sensitive traffic, such as voice and video, get priority over all other data. To effectively manage the UC experience, businesses need a holistic view into network and application performance. But the reality is, once phone traffic goes out to the cloud with UCaaS, that visibility is basically lost.
Seeing in the Dark
There are a couple of things companies can do to restore visibility:
- Smart data. Making data smart involves pulling analytics-ready insights from data sources in real time, a huge boon in today’s digital world. In this case, companies can generate smart data from wire, or packet data, which gives them holistic visibility into everything running over the network. This, in turn, provides conclusive evidence when issues crop up inside the company’s infrastructure, or of course when the problem lies outside the organization and in the outsourcers’ domain. It’s a sure-fire way to eliminate the finger-pointing and time-consuming blame games that so often occur with cloud service providers.
- Synthetic testing. While wire data can provide invaluable insights into the performance of UC environments, it cannot provide much-needed visibility into the cloud-based systems of third-party providers. In such cases, companies can use synthetic testing solutions that essentially automate a testing protocol to continuously determine whether the UC service is working properly. Although this methodology won’t pinpoint issues occurring within the cloud, it will alert an organization’s IT team when a problem is detected, allowing them to proactively contact the service provider.
Clearly, UCaaS offers businesses critically important communication, collaboration, and presence tools that can deliver vital cost savings, but ensuring high-quality UCaaS is a crucial prerequisite to deliver these benefits. Advanced monitoring tools that leverage smart data and synthetic testing solutions can be combined to give unprecedented visibility into UCaaS, helping to pinpoint and remediate network issues and enabling companies to reach ROI goals.
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Krug is a solutions architect at NETSCOUT.