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Network Readiness and Preparing to Fail

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

By Alan Percy, Senior Director of Marketing, AudioCodes

Old Ben Franklin may not have known anything about real-time Gigi-bit Wide Area Networks, but he did know a thing or two about planning.  If the last ten years have taught us anything, it’s that a successful voice-enabled network is the result of careful planning and testing.

Network is DownThe problem is that networks are not static infrastructure – they grow, are expanded, have new applications added, equipment gets upgraded – sometimes by a plan and other times ad-hoc.  Often the original architect of the network has long since left the company and new network managers have to pick up where the others left off.  The dynamic nature of modern data networks and the people that support them make knowing the exact state of a network and whether it’s up to the task of supporting new voice and video applications quite difficult.

Network issues that affect voice and video performance come in a wide variety of origins:

  • Network Congestion – pure and simple bottlenecks where too much data wants access to the same route at the same time.  Like an over-stuffed subway car, somebody gets left at the platform.
  • Equipment Configuration – from out-of revision software, misconfigurations and incorrect wiring, the switches, routers and access equipment that makes up a network can cause packet loss, jitter and other issues that raise havoc on voice and video calls
  • End Point and Devices – poorly integrated or configured end-points can cause inefficient use of network resources by forcing data-hungry codecs.

After many years of experience, voice networking experts have developed a basic set of best-practices for ensuring network readiness:

  1. Start by knowing your situation – document your current network situation from top to bottom.  What network elements are in the network?  How are they configured? What revision software are they using?  This exercise often turns up some surprising discoveries of long-forgotten equipment tucked away in wiring closets with out-of-date software and misconfigured switch ports.
  2. Probe the network – by installing network probes that are capable of measuring network traffic patterns, errors, dropped packets and jitter. Like a doctor’s visit, this may get uncomfortable.
  3. Stress the network – simulate a worst-case scenario, injecting data into the network with the same size, format and data rates that could be expected during the busiest situation and over a typical business working environment.  Time to make the network break a sweat.
  4. Measure and record the results – capture the network performance when stressed for later analysis.
  5. Analyze the results – study the network performance at various times, looking at packet loss, jitter and latency that would cause voice or video performance issues.  What’s the prognosis Doc?

To facilitate and simplify network readiness analysis, we here at AudioCodes have recently launched a new professional services offering of Voice Network Readiness Assessment – using the above 5-step process to study our customer’s networks and report on their performance.  Ideally this function would occur well before activating live traffic, isolating potential issues long before they affect the business.

As a proof point to the importance of readiness assessment, Tickemaster, a global entertainment ticket and media company recently asked AudioCodes to perform a Voice Network Readiness Assessment on their network in preparation of a major expansion of their contact center operation into Europe.  As a result of the testing, a potentially significant issue was found in their ISP network that would have cause significant voice quality issues if left un-checked.

“Our AudioCodes Voice Network Readiness Assessment brought to light some network issues that we had no idea existed - had we not done the assessment before going live, we surely would have suffered down-time”  Elizabeth Gotto, Senior VP of Contact Center Technology, Ticketmaster.

Fortunately for Elizabeth, she had prepared to not fail – Ben Franklin would have been proud.

Microsoft WPC 2013 LogoTo learn about these and other advanced Lync deployment architectures, be sure to visit AudioCodes at the upcoming Microsoft World-wide Partner Conference (WPC) in booth #222 – requesting an appointment is highly recommended.

You can learn more on the web at:

Continue the conversation with your comments or suggestions – Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanDPercy or he can be reached at alan.percy@audiocodes.com

Microsoft Gold Competency Logo

AudioCodes, a Microsoft Communications Gold Competency partner, designs, develops and sells AudioCodes One Voice for Lync, a comprehensive portfolio of voice networking technology, professional services and global support, optimized for Microsoft Lync and Exchange Unified Communications solutions. Sold through a global network of highly-trained reseller partner community, AudioCodes One Voice for Lync simplifies the selection, implementation and support of Unified Communications. Whether deployed on-premise or in the cloud, AudioCodes is the One Source for Microsoft-certified products and services.  To learn more, visit: http://www.audiocodes.com/Microsoft

 

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