It comes as no surprise that many people are working from home during this global disruption. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, less than 4 percent of American employees worked from home full time. According to a Brookings study, that figure has now jumped to more than half. And the report goes on to say that among white-collar workers, the rate is closer to 70 percent.
As the workforce adapts to this new normal, reliance on video conferencing has dramatically increased. For example, Reuters reports that daily users of the Zoom video conferencing service went from 10 million to 200 million in just over three months. Everyone from families, friends, and businesses to schools, political parties, and churches now rely on unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) services for virtual face-to-face connections.
With this increased reliance comes challenges, as users face degradations in video call quality that threaten to diminish the usefulness of these powerful connectivity tools.
Why Is My Video Conference Call Grainy?!
One of the most common complaints in video conferences is grainy video quality, which can happen even if the images are being captured by quality cameras and lighting. Naturally, IT then gets the call to solve this highly distracting problem—fast.
Identifying UC&C problems on a shared infrastructure can be challenging, however. Where does the problem lie? Is the issue with the internet edge, or VPN concentrators? Or is it with the service provider, SIP trunk, WAN, or SD-WAN?
When it comes to effectively managing the UC&C experience, the real challenge stems from an inability to achieve a holistic view into network and application performance. Without such visibility, it is difficult to ensure that proper quality-of-service (QoS) policies are in place and that real-time, latency-sensitive traffic, such as video, gets priority over all other data.
Grainy video may be a result of network issues. Insufficient bandwidth at your internet edge, firewalls, or VPN concentrators that are overwhelmed by the demands of a suddenlty huge remote workforce can all cause problems. QoS issues also may affect call/video quality. Conference bridges may be at the root of the problem caused by interoperability or codec selection issues.
But without sufficient network visibility, IT teams are left in the dark as to where the problem lies and who is responsible.
The Fix Is In
Video conferencing is sensitive to network performance issues such as packet loss, jitter, and latency—all of which can lead to frozen or poor-quality video sessions. Video-compression degradation can be an early indicator of issues in the underlying network infrastructure, so understanding its source is vital.
The key to gaining a holistic view into UC&C services is packet data. This wire data provides a view into how everything communicates with everything else across all borders. NETSCOUT calls this type of end-to-end view “visibility without borders”, which means being able to see across all systems and into all dependencies. Using a variety of hardware and software appliances, companies can achieve pervasive visibility into packet traffic and the performance of application workloads throughout today’s data centers, colocations, and cloud environments.
Processing and analyzing this packet data at the point of collection makes it possible to develop real-time performance metrics—also known as smart data—that provide a view of video service performance, which can help establish the network/infrastructure component that is the root cause of the problem. Wire data delivers the holistic visibility needed to get to the heart of video quality issues very quickly.