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A Great UC Experience Requires Networking Best Practices and Strong UC Management Tools


Unified Communications (UC) can be a "game changing" experience for users accustomed to a telephony-only world. UC harnesses the power of integrating voice communications, IM/chat, presence, ad-hoc audio and video conferencing, document sharing/collaboration, directory services, unified messaging, and social media integration. Making this a high quality experience requires both networking best practices and ongoing network analysis, monitoring and management.

Networking Best Practices

As a expert and independent consultant to major enterprises both domestic and Internationally, my staff and I have developed a set of best practices for designing and maintaining a network for integrating data, voice, and video into a single network platform to provide the mobility and communications efficiency that users demand. Some of those include:

  • A Single Integrated Network With Failover - Design for a single integrated private network (typically Layer 2 Ethernet or Layer 3 multiprotocol label switching or equivalent) to include the voice, data, and video network in a single IP circuit. Note that public Internet is best-effort only and not prioritized, and cannot guarantee voice and video traffic delivery. A failover network should be included for all key sites (private or public IP, private preferred).

  • Redundant Routers - Implement redundant routers for failover purposes and introduce protocols for automatic failover. Traditional voice networks provide a five 9s (99.999%) reliability model to the desktop, while single IP networks without redundancy provide only a three 9s (99.9%) reliability model, or 8 hours of outage annually.

  • VLANs - Design and implement separate Virtual LANs, or VLANs, to segment traffic types (voice, data, video).

  • Quality of Service (QoS) Design - Design and configure the network for QoS, prioritizing voice and video in front of data. Without such prioritization, voice and video quality will suffer during peak traffic loads, or if an anomaly, broadcast storm, or virus fills network bandwidth.

  • Network Characteristics - Ensure that all network characteristics adhere to the following minimums in order to provide a best quality user experience:

  • Availability - Percentage circuit uptime on an annual basis - minimum of 99.9% - 99.99% (three 9s - four 9s)

  • Latency (Delay) - Allowable packet delay between two sites, a maximum of 80-120 milliseconds (ms)

  • Jitter - Variations of packet delay - less than 3 ms

  • Packet Loss - Packets not correctly formed - less than 1%

  • Bandwidth - Including all data, voice and video traffic, never to exceed 80% of the total available bandwidth

  • QoS Traffic (Voice, Video) - Needs to be prioritized in front of all data traffic, and the total available bandwidth is based on all data, voice and video traffic and overhead

  • Mean Opinion Score (MOS) of 3.8 or higher (a measurement of voice and video quality on a data network)

Without support for the above minimums, the end user UC experience will be problematic.

Network Management System Tools

UC is critical to enterprise users, however, a Dell survey indicates that only 35% of organizations have a tool to help resolve UC QoS/QoE issues related directly to UC, and therefore lack the vital data relative to the health of their UC environment.

Ideally Network Management System (NMS) tools for UC should include the following:

  1. Network Health Check Component - to identify and resolve potential network quality or configuration issues prior to going into "full production."

  2. Real-Time Diagnostics and Analytics - to ensure a better user experience and ensure SLAs are met by delivering essential insights into data, voice and video communications within an easy-to-understand format. A solution would need to provide real-time diagnosis and analytics into trends, usage and adoption.

  3. Chargebacks - to enable IT to recover capital and operating expenses of division and departmental voice, video, audio conferencing costs.

  4. Organizational Policy Enforcer - to increase adherence to important internal policies around communications, UC usage and adoption and sensitive information. Such insights will also help plan for future growth, improve on user adoption and user experience, increase ROI, and help meet the organization's business objectives.

Dell offers a management tool that matches to the above NMS ideal system requirements. The Dell Unified Communications Command Suite (UCCS) is a cross-platform analytics and diagnostics solution for Microsoft Exchange, Lync and the upcoming Skype for Business. The management, reporting and diagnostics capabilities in UCCS can help organizations gain valuable insight on your workforce activity, communication consumption and system performance.

Summary and Conclusions

Adhering to networking best practices and using real-time NMS tools are an absolute requirement for delivering a quality UC experience in a fully converged voice, data, and video network. Dell is one such provider of these tools for the Microsoft community, and should be on your consideration "list."

This article was sponsored by Dell.

The article was originally published on BCStrategies.


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