Last year Paul Wiggins, the ReliaTel Convergence Technology Manager at Tone Software (News - Alert), wrote about what he believes to be four key steps to selecting a voice communications management platform. Specifically, he addressed what he sees as the criteria enterprises should use to identify the platform that supports their environment today “and in the future.”
While nothing in this industry is carved in stone, Wiggins’s observations are good to keep in mind when making your own decisions.
Wiggins believes it’s smart to deploy non-proprietary management that supports a wide range of technologies because converged environments tend to be a mix of technologies, and the mix will change in the future. You probably don’t want to be locked into management tools limited to a specific vendor’s devices and metrics because when problems occur, you’ll need to spot and resolve the problem by gathering and analyzing data from multiple proprietary tools. And, as Wiggins says, if you don’t have a single, unified view across this variety of devices, it will be much harder to do. A non-proprietary, vendor-agnostic product offering true convergence management across the range of TDM, VoIP, IP network, and converged communications technologies from all major manufacturers will serve you best as your needs grow more complex.
Also, look for a voice management product that bridges the voice and data domains. Typical SNMP-based network monitoring tools, he notes, “won’t provide visibility into VoIP call quality issues – the most common and prevalent problem in converged environments.” And if all you have are tools to analyze VoIP quality metrics you’ll be handicapped when need to look into the underlying network infrastructure issues causing degradation.
Including real-time VoIP QoS analytics and management is a good idea too, since as Wiggins says, “the basic characteristics of VoIP call traffic are hugely different than typical SNMP data traffic.” If you’re assembling emails or Internet web pages you don’t care or really notice latency, delay, and packet loss, they’re not a huge deal, but if it’s voice, well, imagine listening to a speaker who’s speaking through a microphone that’s going on and off, on and off, on and off, and that rebroadcasts the parts you missed later in the talk. Losing data packets is like that.
Frankly this is one of the things keeping VoIP from mass adoption, given its clear advantages in economy and convenience, the fact that unavoidable packet loss does sometimes garble voice conversations.
One way to watch your VoIP call-quality problems is with granular VoIP call-detail analysis across your entire converged voice environment, as Wiggins says, and in such a product you want to look for deep VoIP QoS analytics and a means to relate those analytics to the other relevant network performance events, faults, and issues.
And Wiggins wisely recommends finding criteria specific to your environment and business. Not all management platforms fit all businesses, one size does not fit all. Look for network assessment capabilities that measure your network’s capacity to support your expected VoIP call volume, and report the likely call quality users will experience, Wiggins says, as well as reporting capabilities for performance, capacity, and quality statistics and trends.