In the private sector, companies strive to use technology as a competitive advantage. In the public sector, organizations endeavor to use technology to deliver myriad services to a vast array of locations in the face of shrinking budgets to do more with less. In both instances, telephony systems are critical to efficient ongoing operations.
However, both private and public sector IT and telecom staffs are plagued by numerous issues with current TDM (define - news -alerts) telephony services, including:
Redundancy in deploying services for new users, voice mailboxes, and contact center agents in various locations;
Delays in implementing moves, adds, changes, and deletes (MACD), especially during periods of growth or consolidation;
Difficulty in delivering uniform services across multiple locations;
Requirement for specialized system management expertise to ensure implementation of best practices.
To address these limitations, as well as deliver high-quality voice service, obtain superior functionality, and gain cost advantages, many organizations have decided to transition from TDM-based systems to VoIP-based IP communications systems.
During this transition, organizations often overlook the importance of IP communications system management and prioritize other issues, including security, quality of service (QoS), reduction of latency and jitter, and role changes driven by voice and data convergence. Since IP communications offers a new network infrastructure, enterprises and public sector institutions have an opportunity to elevate IP communications management as an integral element in IP telephony deployments. Doing so allows them to positively transform internal processes for voice service delivery throughout the organization.
Proper Planning to Maximize Benefits
As part of an IP communications telephony systems architecture, in which most or all applications are centralized at a main location or in primary facilities, VoIP services can be delivered to virtually all users regardless of their physical location. This environment adds significant new capabilities to IP communications, but it also changes the management requirements.
As a result, IT and telecom managers have an opportunity to institute a VoIP system management framework that:
Provides management control to local users and administrators;
Allows deployment of configuration changes to all servers and server clusters;
Supports the expanding need for enterprise information (key metrics).
System management architectures must expand administrative and service capacity by using business rules to enable intelligent delivery of user services and by allowing common administration of distributed VoIP system components. This must be addressed in the pre-planning stages, not after the systems are installed. Companies that plan for system management are better positioned to build it right the first time, controlling configuration consistency across all offices, enabling scalablity of their system without adding complexity, and, ultimately, lowering the cost of ownership.
Essential VoIP Management Solution Elements
A key objective for a VoIP network is to deliver superior services while improving efficiency. An IP Communications system management environment that controls both user and system functions can easily accomplish this goal. Its structure should include the following components:
Multi-tenancy Virtual partitioning of a VoIP network to group users based on department, group, individual, and location.
An application resource and user manager An engine based on configurable business rules to administer and manage all IP communications functional elements, such as ACDs, call managers, IVRs, and unified collaboration systems, as well as all user-specific parameters and information.
A unified dashboard A centralized interface to integrate separate applications for multi-level administration and provide information to users regarding IP communications call metrics and quality monitoring data.
By introducing these elements, the right IP communications system management framework allows organizations to transform how they provide and manage voice services. Specifically, they save IT resources by incorporating a service provider-like environment through multi-tenancy. They also enforce best practices by providing well defined scripts and rules for configuration changes, eliminating redundancies and they provide critical metrics to drive resource management decisions.
Multi-Tenancy: Enabling Local Administration Across the Enterprise
IP Communications systems can provide a centralized system architecture in which servers and clusters of servers deliver services to multiple locations, including headquarters buildings, branches, remote sites, and home offices. This approach allows system capacity to be shared across all locations, eliminating the capacity issues of TDM systems, in which excess capacity may be available to only certain locations. By enhancing call resource availability, IP communications systems simplify capacity planning and service delivery. In a VoIP environment, users and groups of users can act as subscribers to services delivered by a centralized system. However, to enable users and groups of users with the same and similar service attributes to autonomously administer their needs, IP communications networks need multi-tenancy.
Multi-tenancy allows IT staff to partition groups of users with common requirements and manage the groups securely and independently. For system management purposes, each partitioned group can be treated as a subscriber or a group of subscribers.
Multi-tenancy gives groups and users day-to-day control, while reserving higher level control for IT staff without requiring extensive training on VoIP application configuration rules. With this functionality, senior level administrators can concentrate on enterprise level issues, allowing local administrators and users to oversee minor administrative details. As a result, partitioned users can perform moves, adds, changes, and deletes, select desired services within allowable limits, and obtain call usage reports.
Application Resource and User Management to Enforce Business Rules and Best Practices
With multi-level administration through multi-tenancy, IT managers need to ensure that local administrators and users follow uniform system practices naming conventions, dial-plan patterns, and specific rules for making moves, adds, changes, and deletes. To prevent configuration errors and to ensure rapid fault isolation in the case of network problems or failure, IT staff should design these rules based on organizational best practices.
IP communications management needs to simplify and automate implementing system changes across the network. Specifically, it should make change requests trouble free by providing rules for each level of users. In addition, it should automate change requests by maintaining a database of user data and a set of system commands that comply with relevant procedures. It also should track these changes. This is a central part of the IT Infrastructures Library (ITIL) framework for instituting best practices.
As a result, enterprises and public institutions can optimize the use of IP communications services across all users through a mechanism that helps rapidly introduce new services, maximizes VoIP system uptime, and addresses potential problems or isolates faults.
Unified Dashboard for Consolidated Administration and Metrics
IP communications management must provide consistent, multi-level reporting with appropriate partitions based on roles and permissions. It should allow users, group administrators, branch managers, and top level enterprise administrators to securely generate reports that include only the information they are authorized to view. For each level, an IP communications management solution should exclude data for higher levels, guaranteeing security by providing a closed reporting structure, where access to broader data is only granted to appropriate users.
A multi-level reporting structure provides IT staff with visibility of critical metrics across locations, users, and groups to help drive informed decisions regarding VoIP resources. Available reports should include:
Audit Trail Provides a record of every system administration action.
Configuration Shows the overall telephony plan and configuration of each VoIP system and IP phone.
Billing Details billing information for each partition, including user, group, and enterprise levels.
Contact Center Provides real-time and historical data at multi-tenancy levels for call summaries, wait times, and agent utilization.
Quality Monitoring Delivers network layer information to allow tailoring of the VoIP network based on QoS and jitter characteristics.
In addition, to eliminate issues with report consistency across users and groups, IT staff, groups, and individual users should have consistent reports that reflect like-for-like criteria and fields. Having consistent reports allows IT managers, local administrators, and users to gather valuable information by comparing data across all locations, facilities, and groups. Consistent reports help IT professionals plan and implement new programs or apply resources to other locations as needed. Users can manage their individual environment to coincide with the business requirement of their group, department, division, or location.
An IP communications management solution helps enterprises and public sector organizations simplify the planning, deployment, and administration of VoIP services. By integrating local level administration and user control, delivering critical metrics, and implementing routines that support best practices for configuration and maintenance, VoIP management promises organizations numerous advantages that drive RoI:
Greater Reliability Implementation of best practices and availability of critical metrics ensures greater reliability of the VoIP system.
Greater Efficiency A converged voice and data network enables better capacity planning through a centralized call resource architecture. Disparate system components can be configured through a single interface with multi-tiered administration access and a faster mechanism for MACD.
Lower Costs Reduces demands on IT staff resources by allowing local administrators and users to manage MACDs and day-to-day administration. A consistent set of rules and templates for performing configurations and change requests minimizes user problems and avoids calls to service desks. Reports can be electronically entered into enterprise accounting systems, avoiding manual re-entry of data, saving time in charging calls back to appropriate departments or groups and helping identify anomalous call patterns.
With the opportunity to transform the process for voice service delivery across the organization, enterprises and public sector institutions can maximize the benefits of a VoIP communications system. They can track cost savings and perform better capacity planning through consistency in reporting of critical metrics across all facilities and departments. Additionally, IT managers can find more time to handle crucial projects, knowing that IP communications management is under control. Through multi-tenancy, users and local administrators are able to efficiently configure VoIP services based on roles, without redundancy or need for specialized training. Finally, IT and telecom managers can appreciate modularity in their IP communications management functionality, allowing them to add and expand new modules as required during the systems life cycle. IT
Tom Sullivan is a senior product manager for Spanlinks CentralControl suite of IP communications system management products. For more information, please visit the company online at www.spanlink.com (news - alerts).