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Best Practices for UCaaS Monitoring

Unified communications with VoIP is an integral part of any enterprise service portfolio. Despite its importance, maintaining a reliable VoIP service and troubleshooting voice quality remains challenging.

As an application, VoIP is notorious for falling victim to underlying network inconsistencies. Packet loss, latency, and jitter in the network can significantly influence voice quality and service degradation is immediately recognized. VoIP monitoring and troubleshooting is further complicated as enterprises embrace UCaaS. IT teams are now tasked with ensuring application performance over networks they do not own, manage, or maintain.

VoIP monitoring requires a combination of data sets, each providing varying levels of visibility to triage issues and streamline troubleshooting. Call detail records (CDRs) are critical for billing, auditing, and voice call quality analysis. Packet capture and protocol analysis are useful for voice playback and granular inspection of VoIP packets. However, these traditional techniques are reactive in nature and provide limited visibility in a UCaaS environment.

In the era of the cloud, application monitoring and network visibility should not be an afterthought. Enterprises moving to UCaaS solutions should consider the following best practices to maintaining a successful voice strategy.

Benchmark Before Deployment

Consider a proactive approach to VoIP monitoring. Active monitoring solutions simulate VoIP calls within your network by periodically replicating Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) flows. As you build a continual baseline of performance, active monitoring can provide insights into the health and availability of VoIP applications, along with voice quality metrics like mean opinion score (MOS). The key advantage, however, is that you can now benchmark and validate your UCaaS deployment before going live. Pre-deployment testing can help you proactively plan, assure, and improve service delivery.

Monitor More Than MOS

When it comes to monitoring the quality of a voice call, MOS is the best indicator. However, MOS is not representative of the initial call establishment and SIP signaling phase.

Monitoring SIP transactions along with RTP voice quality should be considered for an effective voice monitoring strategy. While degraded voice quality can lead to poor end-user experience, not being able to even make a call can be equally frustrating. Also, the network path to a SIP server is independent to that of the RTP stream, hence understanding the network topology in each of these stages will provide contextual data for troubleshooting the end-to-end service delivery.

Keep the Network in Perspective

Applications like voice have a low threshold to network inconsistencies. For example, Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) remarking can induce network delays and increase latency that can severely affect voice quality. Used within a network, DSCP values are based on the operator's own policies. Because each operator sets its own QoS policies, DSCP values often change at borders between networks. With UCaaS deployments, this effect is enhanced as voice traffic transits multiple third-party ISP networks. Do not lose sight of the underlying network while monitoring for VoIP performance.

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