Tracking the Evolution of UC Technology

Tracking the Evolution of UC TechnologyDefining unified communications is more complicated than it seems, but a thorough understanding of UC technology is required before informed buying decisions can be made. Not only is the UC value proposition difficult to articulate, but it involves multiple decisions that impact both the IT group and end users.

In brief, UC is a platform that seamlessly integrates communications applications across multiple modes — such as voice, data and video — and delivers a consistent end-user experience across various networks and endpoints. While this describes UC’s technical capabilities, its business value is enabling collaboration, improving personal productivity and streamlining business processes.

At face value, this is a compelling value proposition, but UC offerings are not standardized and are constantly evolving. All vendors have similar core features involving telephony and conferencing, but their overall UC offerings vary widely with new capabilities added regularly.

No true precedent exists to mirror UC technology, which is still a fledgling service. The phone system, however, may be the closest comparison — a point reinforced by the fact that the leading UC vendors are telecom vendors.

But while telephony is a static technology, UC is fluid and may never become a finished product like an IP PBX. As such, to properly understand UC, businesses must abandon telecom-centric thinking and view UC as a new model for supporting all modes of communication.

UC technology blends telephony, collaboration, cloud

UC emerged from the features and limitations of legacy technology. Prior to VoIP, phone systems operated independently, running over a dedicated voice network. Using packet-switched technology, VoIP allowed voice to run on the LAN, sharing a common connection with other communications applications.

For the first time, telephony could be integrated with other modes, and this gave rise to unified messaging. This evolution was viewed as a major step forward by creating a common inbox where employees could monitor all modes of communications.

UC took this development further by allowing employees to work with all available modes of communication in real time. Rather than just retrieve messages in one place, employees can use UC technology to conference with others on the fly, share information and manage workflows — all from one screen. Regardless of how many applications a UC service supports, a key value driver is employees can work across different modes from various locations with many types of devices.

Today’s UC offerings cover a wide spectrum, so businesses need a clear set of objectives. In most cases, VoIP is already being used, and UC presents an opportunity to get more value from voice technology.

To derive that value, the spectrum of UC needs to be understood in two ways. First, think of UC as a communications service rather than a telephony service. VoIP will have more value as part of UC by embedding voice into other business applications and processes and not just serving as a telephony system. In this context, UC’s value is enabling new opportunities for richer communication rather than just being another platform for telephony.

Secondly, the UC spectrum enables both communication and collaboration. Most forms of everyday communication are one on one, and UC makes this easier by providing a common interface so users don’t have to switch applications to use multiple modes of communication. Collaboration takes this communication to another level when teams are involved.

A major inhibitor of group productivity has long been the difficulty of organizing and managing a meeting. UC removes these barriers and makes the collaboration process easier and more effective.

Finally, the spectrum of UC is defined by the deployment model. Initially, UC technology was premises-based because it was largely an extension of an enterprise’s on-location phone system. But as the cloud has gained prominence, UC vendors have developed hosted UC services — and this is quickly becoming their model of choice.

Most businesses, however, aren’t ready for a full-scale cloud deployment and are favoring a hybrid model where some elements remain on-premises while others are hosted. As such, UC vendors are trying to support the market with a range of deployment models — premises-based, hosted and hybrid.

How vendors sell UC technology

Since UC is not standardized, vendors sell it in different ways. Depending on the need, UC can be sold as a complete service that includes telephony. In other cases, the phone system is already in place, and UC is deployed as the overriding service with telephony attached. Most UC vendors are also providers of phone systems, so for them, integrating these elements is part of the value proposition.

These vendors, however, are not the only option for businesses. As cloud-based UC platforms mature, the telephony pedigree of a vendor becomes less critical.

Increasingly, service providers are offering hosted UC services under their own brand. Most providers cannot develop their own UC platforms, so they partner with others. Some providers partner with telecom vendors to use their UC platforms, but there is also a well-established cadre of third-party vendors with UC platforms developed specifically for carriers.

Regardless of who provides the platform, deploying UC is complex and usually beyond the capabilities of IT.

Most UC services are sold through channels rather than directly to the business. In this case, value-added resellers, systems integrators and telecom consultants play a key role, as they have expertise on both sides of the sale. They know the UC landscape, and this knowledge helps determine which vendor or service is right for the business and its IT environment. UC providers tend to have more success when selling through these channels.

Why businesses deploy UC services

On a basic level, businesses deploy UC because their phone systems aren’t delivering the value they used to. Telephony can be inefficient, as many calls end up in voicemail, and users waste a lot of time managing messages. For this reason, text-based modes such as chat and messaging are gaining favor, as is the general shift from fixed line to mobile options for voice.

Today, telephony is just one of many communication modes, and businesses are starting to see the value of UC technology as a way to integrate these modes into a singular environment.

The main modes of communication now are Web-based and mobile, and UC provides a platform to incorporate these with the more conventional modes of telephony. Intuitively, this is a better approach than leaving everyone to fend for themselves to make use of these tools. But the UC value proposition is still difficult to express.

UC is a productivity enabler — and that’s the strongest way to build a business case. However, productivity is difficult to measure, and this is a major challenge facing UC vendors. When deployed effectively, UC technology makes for shorter meetings, more efficient decisions, fewer errors and lower communication costs, among other benefits.

All businesses want these outcomes, but very few have metrics in place to gauge UC’s return on investment. Throughout the rest of this series, we will examine the most common use cases for UC adoption and explore the major criteria to consider when purchasing a UC product.

Thanks to Unified Communications for the article. 

 

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Can Your Analyzer Handle a VoIP Upgrade?

Is your old VoIP or PBX system rapidly approaching the end of its life? Your network has changed substantially since its deployment many moons ago, making this an ideal time to investigate new VoIP systems and ensure your existing monitoring solution can keep pace with the upgrade.

Here are 4 critical areas for consideration to determine whether your monitoring tools can keep pace with the new demands of a VoIP upgrade.

1. SUPPORTING MORE THAN ONE IT TEAM:

If you’re shifting from a traditional PBX system to a VoIP solution, chances are the system will be managed by more than one team. While you might live and breathe packet-level details, the voice team is accustomed to metrics like jitter, R-Factor, and MOS.

CAN YOUR MONITORING SOLUTION PROVIDE VOIP-SPECIFIC QUALITY ASSESSMENTS PLUS PACKET AND TRANSACTION DETAILS FOR PROBLEM RESOLUTION?

Can Your Analyzer Handle a VoIP Upgrade?

2. ADDRESSING CONFIGURATION CHALLENGES:

In rolling out large VoIP deployment systems, device and system misconfigurations can get the best of even the most experienced network team. Have you hired VoIP consultants or is this a DIY project? If the ball’s in your court to bring VoIP to the desktop, be sure to run through a pre-deployment and monitoring capabilities checklist to ensure for successful implementation.

3. ISOLATING THE ROOT CAUSE:

Have you ever seen users or departments experiencing bad MOS scores only to ask yourself, “Now what?” How do you quickly navigate to the source of the problem?

It’s more than exonerating the network.

Your solution should let you isolate the source of quality problems. Does your solution allow you to determine whether the call manager or a bad handset might be at the root of your VoIP frustrations?

4. SUPPORTING MULTI-VENDOR INSTALLATIONS:

Many larger IT environments are now implementing VoIP solutions from multiple vendors. For example, you’ve already rolled out Cisco® to the desktop, and have been tasked to deploy Avaya® to the call center. Does your analyzer provide detailed tracking for multiple vendors? Has your monitoring solution been configured to understand the differences in how each VoIP system handles calls? Without this support, you may be forced to toggle between multiple screens to troubleshoot or reconcile various quality metrics to assess VoIP performance.

Can Your Analyzer Handle a VoIP Upgrade?

CONCLUSION

Understanding the changes in the environment, ensuring rapid problem isolation, tackling potential configuration challenges, and assessing your solution’s support for multiple vendors are the keys to ensuring a successful rollout.

Thanks to Network Instruments for the article.

Security Breaches Keep Network Teams Busy

Network Instruments study shows that network engineers are spending more of their day responding to breaches and deploying security controls.

This should come as no big surprise to most network teams. As security breaches and threats proliferate, they’re spending a lot of time dealing with security issues, according to a study released Monday.

Network Instruments’ eighth annual state of the network report shows that network engineers are increasingly consumed with security chores, including investigating security breaches and implementing security controls. Of the 322 network engineers, IT directors and CIOs surveyed worldwide, 85% said their organization’s network team was involved in security. Twenty percent of those polled said they spend 10 to 20 hours per week on security issues.

Security Breaches Keep Network Teams Busy

Almost 70% said the time they spend on security has increased over the past 12 months; nearly a quarter of respondents said the time spend increased by more than 25%.

The top two security activities keeping networking engineers busy are implementing preventative measures and investigating attacks, according to the report. Flagging anomalies and cleaning up after viruses or worms also are other top time sinks for network teams.

“Network engineers are being pulled into every aspect of security,” Brad Reinboldt, senior product manager for Network Instruments, the performance management unit of JDSU, said in a prepared statement

Security Breaches Keep Network Teams Busy

Network teams are drawn into security investigations and preparedness as high-profile security breaches continue to make headlines. Last year, news of the Target breach was followed by breach reports from a slew of big-name companies, including Neiman Marcus, Home Depot, and Michaels.

A report issued last September by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by Experian showed that data breaches are becoming more frequent. Of the 567 US executives surveyed, 43 percent said they had experienced a data breach, up from 33% in a similar survey in 2013. Sixty percent said their company had suffered more than one data breach in the past two years, up from 52% in 2013.

According to Network Instruments’ study, syslogs were as the top method for detecting security issues, with 67% of survey respondents reporting using them. Fifty-seven percent use SNMP while 54% said they use anomalies for uncovering security problems.

In terms of security challenges, half of the survey respondents ranked correlating security and network performance as their biggest problem.

The study also found that more than half of those polled expect bandwidth to grow by more than 51% next year, up from the 37% from last year’s study who expected that kind of growth. Several factors are driving the demand, including users with multiple devices, larger data files, and unified communications applications, according to the report.

The survey also queried network teams about their adoption of emerging technologies. It found that year-over-year implementation rates for 40 Gigabit Ethernet, 100GbE, and software-defined networking have almost doubled. One technology that isn’t gaining traction among those polled is 25 GbE, with more than 62% saying they have no plans for it.

Thanks to Network Computing for the article. 

End User Experience Testing Made Easier with NMSaaS

End user experience & QoS are consistently ranked at the top of priorities for Network Management teams today. According to research over 60% of companies today say that VoIP is present in a significant amount of their networks, this is the same case with streaming media within the organization.

End User Experience Testing Made Easier with NMSaaS

As you can see having effective end user experience testing is vital to any business. If you have a service model, whether you’re an actual service provider like a 3rd party or you’re a corporation where your IT acts as a service provider you have a certain goal. This goal is to provide assured applications/services to your customers at the highest standard possible.

The success of your business is based upon your ability to deliver effective end user experience. How many times have you been working with a business and have been told to wait because the businesses computers systems were “slow”. It is something which we all have become frustrared with in the past.

End User Experience Testing Made Easier with NMSaaS

To ensure that your organization can provide effective and successful end user experience you need to be able to proactively test your live environment and be alerted to issues in real time.

This is comprised of 5 key elements:

1) Must be able to test from end-to-end

2) Point to Point or Meshed testing

3) Real traffic and “live” test, not just “ping” and trace route

4) Must be able to simulate the live environments

  • Class of service
  • Number of simultaneous tests
  • Codecs
  • Synthetic login/query

5) Must be cost effective and easy to deploy.

NMSaaS is able to provide all of these service at a cost effective price.

If this is something you might be interested in, or if you would like to find more about our services and solutions – why not start a free 30 day trial today?

End User Experience Testing Made Easier with NMSaaS

Thanks to NMSaaS for the article.

State of Networks: Faster, but Under Attack

State_of_the_Network_blog_image

Two recent studies that look at the state of mobile and fixed networks show that while networks are getting ever faster, security is a paramount concern that is taking up more time and resources.

Akamai recently released its fourth quarter 2014 State of the Internet report. Among the findings:

  • In terms of network security, high tech and public sector targets saw increased numbers of attacks from 2013 to 2014, while enterprise targets had fewer attacks over the course of the year – except Q4, where the commerce and enterprise segment were the most frequently targeted.

“Attacks against public sector targets reported throughout 2014 appear to be primarily motivated by political unrest, while the targeting of the high tech industry does not appear to be driven by any single event or motivation,” Akamai added.

  • Akamai customers saw DDoS attacks up 20% from the third quarter, although the overall number of such attacks held steady from 2013 to 2014 at about 1,150.
  • Average mobile speeds differ widely on a global basis, from 16 megabits per second in the U.K., to 1 Mbps in New Caledonia. Average peak mobile connection speeds continue to increase, from a whopping 157.3 Mbps in Singapore, to 7.5 Mbps in Argentina. And Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Venezuela had 97% of unique IP addresses from mobile providers connect to Akamai’s network at speeds faster than the 4 Mbps threshold that is considered the minimum for “broadband.”

Meanwhile, Network Instruments, part of JDSU, recently completed its eighth annual survey of network professionals. It found that security is an increasing area of focus for network teams and that they are spending an increasing amount of time focused on security incidents and prevention.

NI reported that its survey found that the most commonly reported network security challenge is correlating security issues with network performance (reported by 50% of respondents) – meanwhile, the most common method for identifying security issues are “syslogs” (used by 67% of respondents). Other methods included simple network management protocol and tracking performance anomalies, while long-term packet capture and analysis was used by slightly less than half of the survey participants – 48%. Network Instruments said that relatively low utilization of long-term packet capture makes it “an under-utilized resource in security investigations” and that “replaying the events would provide greater context” for investigators.

NI also found that “application overload” is driving a huge increase in bandwidth use expectations, due to users accessing network resources and large files with multiple devices; real-time unified communications applications that require more bandwidth; as well as private cloud and virtualization adoption. See Network Instrument’s full infographic below:

Network Instruments' State of the Network infographic

Thanks to RCR Wireless News for the article.

IT Brief- Network Guide to Videoconferencing Rollout

The Biggest Videoconferencing Challenge? Real-Time Performance Management

Did you know that according to Enterprise Management Associates EMA™ analysts, 95 percent of organizations have VoIP on their network – and more than half have deployed videoconferencing? IP videoconferencing has strong appeal to businesses through its promise of significant cost and time savings.

But how simple is the transition to video? For end users, video communications are expected to be smooth, seamless, and simple. For the network team, although there’s an expectation that video will be similar to VoIP, they need to be prepared for several challenges unique to video. This article explores key video requirements and monitoring strategies to ensure the technology meets end-user expectations.

Read more……

JDSU Network Instruments- Network Guide for Videoconferencing Rollout

Thanks to Network Instruments for the article.

 

 

Managing End­‐to­‐End VoIP Networks

VoIP Management Overview

There are any number of VoIP management solutions available in today’s market place. However, when you start to drill-­down into the capabilities of these tools they tend to focus on the performance elements of your network infrastructure and associated VoIP metrics (e.g. RTT, RTD\Latency, Packet Loss, Jitter, Moss, R-­‐Factor etc.) , assumptions are made on infrastructure and fault management being in place, so it is vitally important to assess the complete picture of your solution requirement before selecting the choice of tool to be deployed. VoIP monitoring lies central to this, as VoIP downtime and poor VoIP performance directly impacts such things as business performance, profitability and revenue. Achieving a consistent level of quality on VoIP calls requires multiple dependent components working properly, thus the importance of a monitoring system that correlates the infrastructure, performance, and fault management into an integrated End-­to­‐End view is vital.

In order to manage a VoIP solution End­‐to­‐End you need to monitor the hosting environment, (e.g. CUCMs, V.Rec, V.Mail, V.Gateways, SIP Trunks, etc.) the WAN (e.g. CE Access Routers, Core WAN if you’re an ISP\MSP), and the end user locations. It is then vital that you on‐board the identified components to best practice processes in order that you start to build up the End-to-End visibility of your VoIP managed service solution. Once the physical device component infrastructure has been on-boarded and tested (e.g. SNMP trap, syslog collection, Netflow, etc.), for accuracy around the fault and event management, you can then build your performance measurements & reporting requirements based on Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Key Point Indicators (KPIs), and threshold alarm management criteria for proactive management purposes.

Having End-to-End visibility of your VoIP solution is vital when troubleshooting issues and potential problem areas, as assuring a great customer experience can no longer be assessed simply by having green LEDs on a dashboard. StableNet® is a unified End-to-End Service Quality Management platform and therefore, takes a customer-centric approach to the service assurance monitoring infrastructure, performance, and fault management in a single solution. A unified management approach significantly cuts the time it takes to analyze complex issues in the managed environment. Best practice on-boarding reduces time to operate and assures rapid fault identification with root-cause-analysis (RCA), unique to the StableNet® architecture.

Infosim StableNet® is the only all-in-one unified End-to-End Service Quality Management tool capable of delivering and visualizing a complete End-to-End VoIP service solution monitoring system in a single product that has proven ROI (Return-­‐On-­‐Investment) in reducing capital (CAPEX) and operating (OPEX) expenditure, with conceivable savings in customer service credits thru reduced MTTR (Mean-Time-To-Repair), and increased service availability.

Holistic VoIP End-to-End Management using StableNet®

Holistic VoIP End-to-End Management using StableNet

Read more…………

Infosim Managing End-to-End VoIP Networks