As the business world attempts to strike a delicate balance between work-from-home and return-to-office practices, enterprise reliance on unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools will be of the upmost importance. Video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and calendar systems have become invaluable tools that are now embedded in the modern workflow. This growing dependence on UC&C is putting increased pressure on IT professionals to ensure a superior user experience.
However, the complexity of today’s systems, which often involve hosted, cloud-based components, makes it difficult to troubleshoot quality issues. Compounding the challenge, IT must also balance the needs of performance and security. During a recent NETSCOUT OnGuard webinar, a panel of industry experts discussed three key takeaways that help maintain that delicate balance.
- Performance and Security Rely on Adherence to Standards
As users have become increasingly reliant on the audio, video, and text capabilities of UC&C systems, the need to ensure that these communications are reliable, while at the same time remaining completely secure, is paramount to the enterprise.
“This is where standards come into play. Industry standards such as audio compression or video compression algorithms ensure UC&C systems deliver a desired level of quality, as well as interoperability,” explained Paul Barrett, chief technology officer for NETSCOUT’s Enterprise Business. “By the same token, powerful encryption standards, such as common transport protocols, are key to ensuring sensitive communications remain secure. Although these protocols protect the privacy of UC&C communications, they leave some packet data visible for advanced analytics tools to detect and isolate any latency or dropped packets that might be impacting quality.”
Having visibility into UC&C systems, whether on premises or off premises, is vital for ensuring security and performance.
- End-User Experience Directly Impacts Job Performance
The importance of ensuring the highest-quality end-user experience cannot be underestimated. For some industries, this can be a matter of life and death. “When you're looking at telemedicine, as an example, having a pristine end-user experience is critical,” said Eric Gray, chief solutions architect for NETSCOUT. “If a doctor is going to make a diagnosis of a patient based upon the symptoms they see through the camera, and based on limited diagnostic capability that could be sent across the internet, UC&C performance has to be flawless. Anything less can lead to misdiagnosis, which could be life-threatening.”
Gray went on to say that one measure of the end-user experience is the mean opinion score (MOS), which analyzes the flow of media streams to determine how users will perceive the quality of audio or video communications tools. Because the quality of these systems often directly impacts employee job performance, being able to measure the effectiveness of UC&C is crucial for the IT teams responsible for system performance.
- Holistic Monitoring Is Important
Being able to properly monitor the UC&C environment is imperative for ultimately determining the source of problems. “A drop in quality of a call might be short in duration, which is why it’s important to monitor the entire call to pinpoint the root cause,” explained Ray Krug, director of Product Marketing for NETSCOUT. “IT needs to know, was it the quality of service (QoS), network bandwidth, the VPN, or the demarcation point to the service provider? It’s crucial to constantly be monitoring these systems, so you can see what's going on. Without that knowledge, it’s very difficult to fix problems.”
Krug further explained that because UC&C is so complex, if there is a problem, IT needs to know precisely what device is responsible and who has ownership. Holistic monitoring close to the server is key to isolating issues.
If there is a problem, you need to know what device is responsible, what the area of ownership is, and whether the service provider is the root cause. “You have to first make sure you’re properly handling the traffic as it traverses your own infrastructure, at your remote locations, and [as it travels to and from] your end users,” concluded Gray. “Having the ability to generate a synthetic transaction and simulate what an end user might experience is invaluable.”
For many companies, the performance and security of UC&C systems is not only vital to the effectiveness of employees and customers, but holds the very reputation of a company’s brand in its hands.
Watch the OnGuard episode.
Learn more about UC&C performance monitoring