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November 12, 2012

Monitoring VoIP: Five Reasons for and Perspective on Proactive Network Monitoring

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

As the world moves to all IP networks, and more and more voice traffic is moved from legacy TDM solutions to VoIP capabilities, the ability to properly monitor VoIP performance in regards to this traffic is becoming critical. As pointed out in a previous posting, I was the moderator of an insightful webinar, Things that go bump on your network: Five major reasons you need to monitor your communication networks, where executives from Touchstone (News - Alert) and Datacom looked at the five major reasons for proactively monitoring your network and how trending analytics generated by the right tools could help you avoid a “you can pay me now or pay me a lot more later” scenario. 

It turns out that understanding various stakeholder perspectives is the key.

The five major reasons are as follows:

·         Content delivery

·         Network conditions

·         Service level determination

·         Insight

·         User satisfaction

The perspectives that are important are: general view, customer view and service provider view. A few observations about the challenges and requirements about each area from the respective perspectives are in order.

Content delivery

General: The need to be able to record/playback equipment impairment incidents, assess media and session signaling performance and evaluate user satisfaction.

Consumer: Is/was communication natural, was the media experience overall of high quality including being in synchronization, and (as will be seen for each perspective) were the users satisfied.

Service provider: Did the service meet metrics for network availability, jitter/class of service, and path delay?

Network Conditions

General: Jitter, delay and loss are evil; there should be no impact on any media type, and the experience should be transparent to the user.

Consumer: Was it easy to use (the more disparate, the more difficult); was device capability impaired; and were there buffering and synchronization challenges?

Service providers: Meeting expectations can be difficult because problems are hard to quantify and pinpoint given the limitations of today’s solutions; problems arise because of improper mitigation of congestion points and the ability to manage can be less than optimal because of network management fragmentation.  

Service levels

General: The challenge is that Internet SLAs don’t work for real-time apps; integration with cell phones can be problematic; and, there are challenges as to what needs to be measured, how and with what tools.

Consumer: Customers (particularly enterprise IT managers) have issues regarding how SLAs are quantified, how bills are credited when performance is not optimal and issues about what is being measured and how that relates back to contractual terms and support.

Service providers: Monetization is the big one here with SPs looking to leverage their SLA for sales, the ability to charge for SLA analytics, and concern that they are looking at the right issues that can be measured and paid for.

Insight (Analytics)

General: The challenges have to do with using the business intelligence generated to make smarter decisions, particularly in regard to CapEx and customer care.

Consumer: The IT administrators are obviously concerned with the value received, especially in regards to the long-term payback on the data generated. They are fearful of a “garbage in/garbage out” scenario that leaves them with too many questions from management who is holding them accountable.

Service providers: The struggle is to better understand how premise-based analytics adds to the ability to please the customer and in turn allows for better network planning/risk mitigation going forward.

The last item, user satisfaction, as noted above, is actually the last sub-item under each of the other categories as well as a standalone one. The fact is that at the end of the day, the user (and this means not just the end user who is the customer of the IT department, but also the IT asset manager who is the customer of the service provider) can measure the quality of the experiences that they are being provided at a high level as well as to very specific and specified levels of granularity, to assure high-quality sessions, speedy mean times to restoration, disaster, and cost avoidance.

The perspective on all of this is that improving and assuring the customer experience – particularly when it comes to VoIP and its extensibility into the mobile world as a result of BYOD – is now high-performance, and that the tools are in place to mitigate potential problems in the future. Voice may be diminishing in its use, but it will always be mission critical and as we move into an all IP world where the rules of the monitoring and management game are changing as more voice is IP, having the right tools to avoid problems is a necessity that cannot and should not be over-looked or under-valued. Indeed, watching the archived version of the webinar will give you details as to what you need to know about best practices for making sure your VoIP performance monitoring has the right stuff.




Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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