Top 5 Hosted Unified Communications Best Practices

Unified CommunicationsHosted Unified Communications is a mission critical application for most businesses. Few can continue to operate effectively if all communications are down. Therefore, it is extremely important that the selected service provider follow certain best practices that ensure the availability of the service. There are many best practices that a hosted service provider should follow, but these are my Top 5:

1. Reliable Network and Software Infrastructure

A good way to deliver the availability characteristics required is have redundant servers, where the software can fail over to the live server to keep all application functionality alive. However, in the case of a major storm, redundant servers in the same data center could both be affected by flooding, fire or long electrical outages. The better implementation has geographically dispersed servers so the loss of an entire facility would not impede the ability to continue support for the subscribed customers. ANPI takes this one step further by offering a pair of geographically dispersed servers to reduce latency and share traffic volumes.

2. Automation of Operations Support Systems and Business Support Systems

The degree of automation ultimately drives how many personnel are required to accept orders, engineer, provision and activate the product. Moreover, automation minimizes the number of errors and the potential for miscommunications.

3. Test Laboratories

Test labs should reflect the actual network environment so changes accurately reflect how things will work or influence other applications. A second lab can be used to test potential new services or serve an interoperability platform.

4. LAN/WAN Assessment Tool

All too common is a sale where, after the implementation, the customer network struggles to serve both the data and voice needs of the business. A proper LAN assessment should model current network flows and capacity to serve existing data traffic and projected voice/UC needs. The tool should also be able to stress test the LAN to determine maximum capacity requirements, as well as allowing the prospect to know when additional bandwidth would be needed to service future growth. ANPI developed its own LAN/WAN Assessment Utility that is installed on a customer’s computer to operate remotely, and in the background, to provide a thorough initial system assessment, as well as ongoing monitoring functionality.

5. Integrity

It is important for the hosted service provider to exhibit integrity in every element of its business. It should be exhibited during the sales process, installation, training, support and billing. In addition to the voice service, the Hosted UC service provider transfers confidential documents and may offer other cloud services such as storage, server backup or voice recording. These additional offerings need to maintain a high level of security and customer confidentiality.

There are other best practices one should look for in a Hosted UC provider. These are the ones I wanted to share today.

Thanks to TMCNet for the article.

StableNet Telco: Transformation to a Unified OSS Management

Peter Moessbauer, Strategic Alliances Manager, Infosim, discusses cost effective network management

Service provider networks have grown into highly complex islands of infrastructure from multiple vendors, covering multiple technologies – each with its own management system. Complexity is making it harder and more costly for service providers to create, deploy, provision, monitor, control, troubleshoot and bill services effectively and quickly enough to stay ahead in today’s intensely competitive markets. The situation will worsen only as fixed-mobile convergence progresses and end-users increasingly demand tailored packages of services available anywhere, anytime and on whichever device they choose.

Telco fix and mobile network management, IT-Systems and Application-Services-Management are more and more converging into integrated Services Quality Management, as whole End user services require services assurance.

In case of services outages or performance degradations (current and upcoming) the root cause has to be instantly identified to allow for rapid service restoration – all about to limit the impact on business revenue streams and reputation.

Operations Support Systems (OSS) enable the service providers to manage their networks and the end-user services they provide. Being deployed over decades, the OSS installed performs these tasks in a more or less efficient way.

Controlling thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of network and IT components, the OSS are the critical mechanism for turning Telco infrastructure investments into revenue.

Yet nearly all OSSs are highly fragmented, built up piecemeal over the years by adding a variety of systems from vendors of all types, to meet the needs of the moment. And each provider may have 1,000’s of individual applications that must work together to support the management of network and services. Against this background, a fundamental question must be asked: Is the current process of building, maintaining and operating OSSs sustainable in the coming years?

To secure their future, service providers must address key issues as they search for improved efficiency in their operations and advanced services that will win lucrative new revenue streams. Converging services and new technologies, customers expect a set of fully integrated services tailored to their needs, regardless of their location or the devices they are using across a converging set of technologies and media.

Service providers being able to deliver converged packages at the expected services quality will have a strong competitive advantage over those selling single, isolated services.

How is Infosim addressing these Telcos challenges?

Infosim, based in Germany are providing the solution StableNet Telco to gain the real time network, IT-services, system status and the performance visibility Telcos require for their services operations and IT management teams, to be able to provide and ensure most efficient services at targeted quality.

Infosim Stablenet Telco

Key challenges addressed and solved by StableNet Telco are:

  • Gain holistic Services status e.g. from Telco networks, LAN, WAN, Load balancers, Firewalls, IT-Server, VoIP systems up to Web-Server and IT-Application-Server installations by one vendor agnostic management solution.
  • Gain this Services visibility by a real integrated management solution, running on one consistent services data model, as a key element – instead of a zoo of multi tier and multi silo management tools, bundled by marketing.
  • Automate your Services and IT Infrastructure Management with automated discovery, automated best practices monitoring, reporting and actions, which allows reliable security in developing and providing new services.

At present every operator and CSP around the world is being challenged to increase their revenues. We keep hearing about voice revenues declining and for years we have been waiting for data revenues to increase to make up the short fall but that hasn’t happened. The solution is to provide new services, but a major challenge is deliver the required service quality level, to cut down on down time and on overall costs.

How can StableNet Telco be utilized to help on this?

One key benefit of StableNet is that the proactive management of new revenue increasing services can be rolled out more safely and much quicker, as the monitoring and ensuring solution services are short term available at less cost.

For example having StableNet Telco integrated services management earlier on new services deployment, allows for handling of hotspots before bad performance affects your business.

Another point is the ability to identify the source of a problem in real time, which allows instant fast troubleshooting (as most time is spent on searching the cause of the issue).

This cuts down on ‘mean time to repair’ (MTTR). Minimizing downtime expands the Telcos service availability and it has a direct, positive impact on the revenue.

It is always good to answer yourself the question on how much a 1/2 hour downtime or degraded services will cost your organization in revenue – and on what countermeasures you have taken to reduce this in time and cost?

How is this implemented by StableNet Telco?

When deploying new Services, it is usually a challenge to get services management for the converged network and ITenvironments in place in time.

Infrastructure components like IP/WAN, MPLS, mobile networks, VPNs, LAN, VoIP, IT-Systems, up to business processes need to be brought under one hat to allow for efficient services management.

StableNet Telco is setup to perform integrated and automated services management from fix and mobile networks, IT-infrastructure and IT-systems up to Telco services.

The StableNet Telco solution is different as it integrates 3 solutions and functional areas into one product, covers the integration of heterogeneous and converged infrastructures – and key for operability, it is based on one common data model:

To handle this StableNet Telco does support key Telco and IT requirements out-of-the-box

  • Key elements as listed below are available as today:
  • Multi technology and multi vendor device and systems support
  • Automated Root Cause and impact analysis
  • Auto-discovery on the MPLS, IP- and IT-infrastructure and on inventory DBs,
  • Single point configuration, system aided services modeling support
  • SNMP v1,2,3 parallel operation,
  • non-SNMP data like CSV, SQL/JDBC data base integration, CORBA, MTOSI, Web 2.0
  • Full IPv4 and IPv6 support
  • Distributed online and off-line agents,
  • Multi-tenancy, time-zone / business hours / maintenance window support
  • Vendor independent configuration and policy management
  • Vulnerability and EOL/EOS (End of Live/End of Service) support
  • Telco grade operations support features

The 3 functional areas can be used as single product, or separately to replace legacy solutions gradually as required by your operations, this provides a matchless synergy for your next generation management solution.

StableNet Telco does identify Hot Spots, Bottlenecks, and capacity trends, outlines SLA trends to pro-actively prevent upcoming issues before they hit and provides solid documented information, allowing to do right-sized investments at the right spots.

It also does document Services Quality by automated, comprehensive reports for your target users in a proactive rather than reactive way.

In addition the possible direct integration of Telcos existing Business Process Monitoring with StableNet in a most easy and efficient way, will allow including BPM into overall Services-Views, providing holistic overviews on services and infrastructure.

How can an additional investment in StableNet Telco be justified, as many Telcos do have already a zoo of OSS installed – and had spent a fortune on this?

First, the roll out of new services within converged fix, mobile and IT-Infrastructure would, does require large efforts and investments into the expansion of existing, usually silo based OSS.

This could be even regarded more like a “patchwork”, as legacy OSS are not suited well for the required enhancements and in multiple cases it might be not even practically possible.

It is much more effective and cost saving to deploy a 3rd generation NG OSS solution like StableNet Telco, which was designed for such tasks and future roll-outs of new services. For Telcos who fear the risk of a change to new services management, StableNet Telco could be operated in co-existence with existing OSS and once regarded as safe, the legacy OSS could be stepwise phased out.

Second, maintenance cost reduction is a key area for Telcos, who usually have to spend maintenance fees for multiple management systems, parallel in place. StableNet does help to cut costs as this 3 in 1 solution does not cost for three. Just by this cost reduction, an investment in StableNet will pay off in usually 2-3 years.

Infosim Stablenet TelcoStableNet Telco is a future proof integrated services management platform that covers the Telcos requirements in a cost effective and most professional manner.

Thanks to Infosim for the article.

Don’t Deprive Your Mobile Workers Of UC

Unified Communications BYODThe bring your own device movement is evolving rapidly, and companies that neglect to optimize their enterprise mobility strategies may fail to keep pace with forward-thinking competitors. The most effective BYOD programs provide employees with the tools required to enhance productivity, improve communications and collaborate with coworkers in disparate areas. Companies can benefit tremendously by enabling a mobile workforce, but they must also adapt their strategies to accommodate BYOD participants’ needs. The adoption of a unified communications program is a good place to start.

Decision-makers are realizing the need for UC

It seems that many IT leaders are now recognizing the importance of a UC solution, albeit being rather slow to do so. A new Evolve IP study, which surveyed 974 IT and executive decision-makers, found that 84 percent of organizations that do not currently have a UC strategy are considering or planning to implement one within the next one to three years. The study also examined the link between UC and BYOD, finding that 60 percent of companies that are leveraging UC services also have a work-from-home program.

Of the various UC services available, video conferencing seems to be a particularly hot commodity. The study revealed that 72 percent of organizations are using some form of video, whether it be a large conferencing system or a one-on-one desktop solution. Additionally, audio and web conferencing was found to be most requested UC feature, with unified messaging and instant messaging and presence ranking second and third, respectively.

Meanwhile, a recent “Technology Trends 2014” study from Computer Economics identified UC as one of six “low-risk, high-reward” enterprise technologies, according to Redmond Magazine. Computer Economics’ John Longwell asserted that UC is becoming a more prominent feature in companies’ infrastructures. This should come as no surprise given the growth of BYOD and the need for firms to maintain control over enterprise mobility.

Why your BYOD program needs UC

By adopting UC solutions, organizations are able to mitigate many of the risks associated with BYOD. For instance, UC services like the VoIP system help businesses ensure that their ever-expanding mobile workforce stays connected. With VoIP features like voicemail to email, employees are able to integrate multiple communications systems into one cohesive interface. A comprehensive UC suite allows businesses to improve response times, increase agility and maximize the benefits of their BYOD programs.

Thanks to TEO Technologies for the article.

Application Visibility—Going Beyond Network Visibility

Managing networks is no longer about bits, bytes, and packets, but about application behavior and user experience. Managing applications and user experience drives the need for deeper visibility into your network, which comes from making higher-value data available to your network monitoring tools.

Most network packet brokers offer functions that include granular filtering, load balancing, and deduplication, and some even have a packet capture/decode function. But Ixia’s solution goes beyond these data visibility functions to also offer advanced application intelligence.

Scott Register, Ixia Sr. Director, Product Management presented Ixia’s newest product offering that represents a fundamental shift in network packet broker functionality. Ixia’s new Application and Threat Intelligence Processor (ATIP) works with the company’s Net Tool Optimizer (NTO) to provide the real-time application traffic and metadata that is vital to garnering a complete picture of your network via external monitoring tools.

Users can see real-time application-level traffic and metadata through a web API, NetFlow/IxFlow, or an internal dashboard. Adding valuable application information to super-charge your monitoring tools, the ATIP delivers information such as: where users are located, what apps they are using, what handset they are using, and who is having an application failure–even for custom apps.

With the ATIP, your monitoring tools will have access to not just packets, but actionable application insight.

Check out Scott’s show-floor interview.

Application Visibility—Going Beyond Network Visibility

 

Thanks to Ixia for the article.

Five Things That Keep NCCM/Network Engineers Awake At Night, How To Solve Them With Infosim®StableNet® And Enjoy Your Life

Solution Strengths

  • comprehensive solution for Configuration, Performance and Fault Management
  • unified code base eliminates need for fault prone module/product integration
  • ultra scalable architecture, nothing gets added that could impact scalability
  • End-to-End awareness delivers automated dependencies, Root-Cause and
  • delivers massive automation benefits
  • ROI in months, not years

Issue #1 “What do I have on my network?”

  • large networks are constantly changing, keeping up with that change manually is all but impossible
  • solution: the StableNet® advanced discovery ensures every manageable device is in the inventory
  • records key hardware and software information for a device including part numbers and serial numbers

Infosim's StableNet

Issue #2 “Do I even know when a change has been made to a device?”

Infosim's StableNet

  • solution: StableNet® can detect changes even when made directly to a device via a console cable or remote console session such as Telnet
  • engineers do not have to change the way they work –StableNet®NCCM will still detect and record their changes
  • identifies the changes that were made and, if the information is available, the user who made them

Issue #3 “Do I have accurate backups of all my critical device configurations?”

Infosim's StableNet

  • solution: StableNet® can perform full device backup including all configuration files
  • backup engine can handle multiple concurrent operations

#3 Continued -Snapshot Troubleshooting Information

Infosim's StableNet

  • snapshot information for troubleshooting can be captured at the same time as a backup for use in other processes

Issue #4 “Do all of my devices meet my corporate compliance policies?”

Infosim's StableNet

  • governments and industry regulators require organizations to conform to standard best practices
  • in order to become compliant with these regulations such as PCI, ISO27001, FCAPS, ITIL, SOX, HIPPA, and others, device configuration should conform to these standards
  • solution: StableNet® assists greatly with this regulatory requirement by automatically checking for compliance to the rules defined. Reports on policy compliance and violations are available out-of-the-box
  • configuration rules can be built on simple text or advanced snippets
  • all rules can be positive match or negative match
  • snippets can be ‘section’ oriented which, for example, allows rule application to every interface on a device

Issue #5 “ What am I doing about device lifecycle management?”

Infosim's StableNet

  • solution: reduce exposure to risk by identifying devices that are no longer sold, covered by manufacturer service agreements or at the end of their operating life
  • enables planning for future hardware replacement in line with corporate standards
  • simple interface to manage End-of-Life/-Service and sales notifications
  • checks devices, modules and software images for current status

Thanks to Infosim for the article.

Tracking User Experience

Network Instruments ObserverAnyone who has tracked the network and application performance monitoring space over the past few years knows that User Experience is a hot topic. But what does it really mean?

Understanding, click-for-click, what the users are doing, how long they have to wait, whether they are experiencing error messages, web pages that fail to load properly, or other connectivity issues are some of the elements that can positively and negatively impact User Experience.

With mission-critical corporate applications, there are three main obstacles. The first obstacle to visibility and transparency is the popularity of home-grown applications, which are present in nearly all enterprise companies. In many instances, they represent the company’s “secret sauce” – something that allows the company to execute faster, stronger, and better than their competitors. In other instances, home grown applications are out-of-the-box applications that have been modified to fit the company’s business, operational or product models. Microsoft SQL is a great example of that.

Performance tools are designed for out-of-the-box application analytics and not for home-grown. But there are useful statistics (for example, response time by application) that tools like Network Instruments Observer can provide that can help pinpoint the needle in the haystack.

The second obstacle is multi-tier applications. Tracking user experience from one tier to another is extremely difficult because the platforms that make up the multi-tier applications do not do a good job of communicating and corresponding connections.

Performance tools can monitor individual platforms (web front end, middleware and database back end) and provide tiered metrics. The ability to reconstruct can also provide a piece of the User Experience puzzle. The visibility and performance challenge of watching thousands of individual connections in a typical multi-tier application remains the priority for next generation performance tools.

The third and final obstacle is understanding your tools and to avoid finger pointing. Tools provide a wealth of information but they still largely depend on their users to interpret the results. Why is the application sending out multiple ACKs and re-ACKs to a single request? Is it supposed to do that? Is the application written efficiently? Is it the network or the application’s fault? Understanding the norm is a big part of defining user experience.

Documenting historical performance is also a highly recommended best practice. You can spot user trends that will assist with capacity planning and ensuring that there is plenty of bandwidth to go around. The network gets blamed first. We know that. So why not be proactive and eliminate it as a possible detriment to user experience?

Thanks to Network Instruments for the article.

Telus Abandons Bid For Mobilicity (Again)

Canada’s Telus has dropped its latest bid to acquire financially-stricken smaller cellular rival Mobilicity, the Globe & Mail reports. The newspaper writes that Telus informed Mobilicity this week that it was withdrawing its latest takeover offer because ‘conditions of the deal had not been met’. One condition was that the federal government approve the transfer of spectrum between Mobilicity and Telus – a move which Ottawa opposed in two previous attempts by Telus to buy the smaller company. Last month Telus agreed terms to purchase Mobilicity for CAD350 million (USD317.6 million) in a transaction to be implemented under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). The telecoms ministry Industry Canada had blocked both previous takeover attempts by Telus under a spectrum transfer policy aiming to restrict acquisition of new entrants’ 3G/4G frequencies by national incumbents. The latest development reportedly leaves Mobilicity, which is operating under bankruptcy protection, without a known bidder to take over the company.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.