We’ve come so far with our phones in just a few years. At home, landlines are becoming obsolete, and at work, the old hardwired phones have been replaced by sleeker new VoIP models. The benefits to users of using VoIP are mostly apparent when employees want to make calls from anywhere, to anywhere, even halfway around the world. The benefits to IT are huge: They can now cut out a whole area of hardware management, and run voice apps and VoIP over existing networks.
The next step beyond VoIP phones for communicating is now new, cloud-native collaboration tools like Skype, Slack and unified communications solutions. These are all dependent on good network connectivity, and have become critical applications, particularly when teams are distributed across locations.
Troubleshooting phones in the old days was pretty straightforward. But finding the root cause of a voice or video streaming problem now is a lot more complicated. You’ll hear about dropped calls, choppy audio or a video conference that keeps stopping and starting. To find the problem, you may start by trying to figure out whether it’s the app or the network, then quickly end up down the rabbit hole of which network, which hop, which provider, and so on.
Getting Rid of VoIP and Video Issues Requires Better Monitoring Data
So, here at AppNeta, this need to monitor voice and VoIP applications has become pretty clear to us. We use tailored synthetic voice traffic for monitoring in addition to our advanced packet train dispersion technology to get a clear picture of what the end user is experiencing.
These are the components of AppNeta’s voice monitoring:
- Voice assessment. These can be run continuously or as a traditional assessment prior to a VoIP deployment. Doing a voice assessment is helpful when you’re setting up a new voice app, so you can see how prepared your network. If you’ve already deployed VoIP, the assessment can check it over without a lot of bandwidth needed. You might do a quick assessment over an internal LAN, for example, to see how that link is working for VoIP calls.
- Voice test. This involves a bit more network capacity. Performing a voice test simulates the SIP and RTP protocols and codecs present in actual voice traffic. A test like this is very useful for finding problems between offices or between remote users and headquarters, since it will encounter the actual MPLS or internet connection between sites. You can also decide to use either a basic (short, path-level data) or advanced voice test (longer, diagnostic-level data).
- Focus on the right metrics. Some of the classic network metrics are still useful for these new cloud- and SaaS-based applications. AppNeta continuously measures bandwidth utilization, loss, latency, jitter and MOS (among others). These are the network characteristics that affect call quality.
What You Get When You Monitor Voice Apps the Right Way
One customer in particular has cleared up several big underlying application issues using AppNeta. They discovered that a call quality issue was caused by just two users listening to streaming music.
Truly monitoring your company’s voice applications means seeing the hop-by-hop application delivery path, and seeing it continuously without overloading the network. AppNeta’s performance monitoring technology looks at metrics returned from sending synthetic voice and video traffic over the wire using packet train dispersion technology, which allows us to monitor continuously with minimal overhead.
AppNeta also allows you to set threshold-based alerts to proactively see problems, then quickly find the root cause of an issue. You can run manual load tests between AppNeta monitoring points to get more information. For example, AppNeta lets you generate the right call load using your desired codec for testing to send across the network.
This type of monitoring is particularly useful when you consider your remote office teams who are using VoIP or collaboration apps to stay in touch with colleagues. In these situations, there are more network providers involved in delivering those voice or video apps. AppNeta sees into ISP networks, so if they’re causing the problem, you can call the provider, armed with data as to which hops are impacting performance. One customer’s performance issue was caused by the circuit provider’s recurring problem, for example. Getting back some control over applications and seeing where problems are occurring on the network can help IT’s daily life get a lot easier.