Is my network prepared for a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) deployment?

March 19, 2019

| UCaaS

Deployment-day communication challenges, even if they are relatively easy to solve, create high visibility frustration that cuts through every layer of the org chart. TTx has witnessed first-hand how implementation support can alleviate the unnecessary stresses and challenges of a UCaaS deployment.  After decades of adding value to UC providers’ products by ensuring that the environment is tested and optimized in advance of deployment, we have taken note of the key contributors to a successful deployment plan. Often times, the testing and corresponding analysis become a valuable resource in overcoming the uncertainty that exists in every UCaaS buyer’s journey.

There are three major networks that impact the end-user experience of a UCaaS platform:

  1. The unified communication (UC) provider’s public cloud that is hosting the phone system
  2. The customer’s local area network where the endpoints (phones, laptops, mobile devices, etc…) and the software that drives the UCaaS experience are being used
  3. The private, managed, or a high-speed internet connection between the public cloud and the customer’s network

When you do end-to-end testing, it is looking at “what would my specific voice experience be on top of my LAN, going through my pipe, going to that cloud.” Isolation testing isn’t an effective way of measuring network preparedness.

When we do an end-to-end assessment, it gives us full transparency to each network. It is very rare that there is an issue that resides in the provider’s cloud today. Most providers have invested heavily in optimizing the portion of the network that they can control. What we often find is that generally speaking, jitter, latency, or loss occurs in a situation where voice, video, and real-time traffic are being placed into an environment that hasn’t been prepared for it.

Key considerations as you prepare:

Latency is the overall delay that is perceived as an echo in the call. Latency and jitter are related but are caused by different reasons. Latency could be the result of handling or queuing delays in the network.

Jitter is latency (packet delay) variability that is perceived as garbled audio or frozen jumpy video in real-time applications. It probably exists to some degree in every network today. But, when you lay real-time voice and video on that network, jitter becomes the #1 frustration for the end-user and is usually serious enough of a problem to compromise the perception of a successful UCaaS deployment. Dynamic packet routing, network congestion in the local LAN, packet loss, and the traffic regulators that are built into the network. More often than not, It’s the local network that is the cause of the jitter that frustrates the end-user and compromises a successful deployment.

Firewalls, blocked ports, blocked protocols are all simple things to resolve, but not something that can be resolved in real-time on the day of install. So, if you have blocked ports getting in the way, blocked protocols detected, or SIP ALG interrupting voice packets, they can all be managed and tested fairly easily.

The router. If you have a cheap router that isn’t equipped with the capability of managing voice, video, and real-time UC communications, it may pose real issues. As the internet-of-things movement continues to ramp up, sophisticated routers will continue to evolve forward as well. Even if you have a great router, there are some specific configurations that need to be understood and managed in order to best optimize performance.

Pre-test the network prior to deployment with a utility application

MOS, or mean opinion score, is a measurement of the quality of human speech at the destination end of a voice, video, or other real-time communications circuit. MOS is a calculation based on the performance of the IP network over which it is carried, expressed as a single number in the range of 1 (lowest perceived quality) to 5 (highest perceived quality). In this calculation, MOS is a function of CODEC, Latency, Jitter, and Packet Loss. Pre-tests will score your network and give you the confidence to move from evaluation to execution.

The network pre-tests include:

  • DNS test: Running a series of SRV and A-type queries to verify DNS functionality
  • Ping test: Sending out a ping to each of the data centers to provide baseline information about connectivity to the data center
  • HTTP/HTTPS test: Checking for HTTP and HTTPS connectivity (ports)
  • NTP: Checking the ability to sync with NTP servers
  • Outbound connectivity: Checking for a range of ports that are required
  • NAT: Understanding the type of NAT implemented at your location
  • System info: Viewing detailed information on the machine that is running the test
  • ALG: Checking for the ALG settings on your edge firewall
  • Media test: Simulating VoIP calls and providing call metrics
  • Fragmentation test: Checking if the route supports fragmentation
  • Traceroute test: Tracing the route to the Geo-Routed data center
  • Bandwidth test: Approximating your bandwidth availability
  • Bufferbloat test: Testing for a condition known as bufferbloat, which occurs in some access points and routers when network equipment buffers too much data
  • There are two phases or parts to the overall test we use. First, you must run a baseline test to provide information about ports, ALG, and connectivity. Next, you run a monitoring test (which runs a media test multiple times) to simulate a VoIP call and allow our network engineers to know what voice quality to expect once an actual telephone is deployed.

It is important to partner with your UCaaS provider to run ongoing tests to capture performance over several days to determine your level of preparedness for deployment. A utility application will need to be installed and plugged into your network on-site. If there is a local partner (value-added reseller) in your area with an in-house engineering team, they will be able to provide this as a service, or as a part of the design and discovery process.

Test and prepare so that deployment day is a day that your sales team celebrates the IT department’s contribution to enhancing the organization! Looking to learn more, have questions for our consultants, or want us to run a pre-test on your network? Schedule a free consultation 

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