Top 9 Best Practices for Unified Communications Monitoring
Gartner just released its latest “Market Guide for UCaaS (unified communication as a service) Monitoring,” and Unify Square is thrilled to once again be named as one of the key third-party VoIP monitoring tool vendors in the guide. As great as the ongoing Gartner recognition is though, the key news transmitted in the market guide is the data point that “enterprise adoption of tools specifically designed for monitoring UCaaS will rise from less than 10% adoption in 2020 to 40% in 2023.” It wasn’t too long ago that Cisco Call Manager and Microsoft Skype for Business ruled the on-premises UC platform world. Many IT teams felt that they could rely on granular inspection of VoIP packets to manage end-user happiness with the Unified Communications monitoring system. The native administration consoles in the various cloud UC platforms are simply not good enough for enterprises looking to take control of their UC systems. However, in the new world of UCaaS, such approaches provide limited visibility and helpfulness, as they are only reactive visualizations. Application and voice monitoring of the UCaaS platform itself must be the priority to ensure end-user satisfaction with the system.
With that in mind, here’s a quick overview of the top nine best practices for how to think about monitoring your enterprise UCaaS system:
UCaaS Monitoring Basics
Look Beyond the Native Tools: All the top UCaaS providers offer monitoring functionality in addition to their core platform application services. However, offerings vary widely. Additionally, some of the UCaaS newcomers may have less experience in providing the analytics required by the enterprise. Others may only support components of their own platform (e.g., approved headsets, not BYO headsets). Some toolsets may not include support for room systems. Others may not allow for geo or department level filtering. Some may limit the level of real-time data availability. In many cases, the 3rd party/ tools will go quite a bit beyond the native toolset.
Monitoring Breadth: Related to the above point, it’s important to understand how broad you’re looking to extend the definition of your UC platform. For some, the UCaas monitoring focus is only the platform itself. Isolating even further to VoIP monitoring, for some old school telephony die-hards, the focus is only MOS data. However, the market now understands that MOS is not representative of the initial call establishment and SIP signaling phase. Monitoring SIP transactions along with voice quality must 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. From a best practice perspective looking at all the core pieces that plug into the UC platform is key – this means headsets, room systems, SBCs, among others.
Network Focus…or Not: Too many IT departments make the mistake of trying to use the same tool to monitor the network which they also use to monitor the UC system. In the old days, such an approach may have worked. In today’s UCaaS world, however, the UC and collaboration platforms have grown to be highly complex ecosystems that require their own bespoke monitoring tools. This is not to say that the network and its consistent operation are unimportant to optimal Unified Communications monitoring and UCaaS performance. However, most IT teams already have a solid network monitoring tool, and the network is likely an area they manage well. Make sure it continues to be a priority.
Cross-Platform: Before targeting any specific tool, inventory and prioritize your various UC and collaboration application platforms. In today’s digital workplace, we know that the average enterprise works with nearly 3 different UC/Collab apps as part of their core infrastructure. Ideally, IT will want a tool that allows for simultaneous roll-up and monitoring of all applications.
Advancing VoIP Monitoring
While the above best practices may be familiar, the following issues require more consideration as you plan your UC monitoring approach. UCaaS represents the new paradigm for corporate collaboration, and IT must similarly update their support strategy.
Actionability Focus: Many tools (including the native UCaaS admin solutions) are good at producing reams of data and fancy reports. However, how many tools can point IT toward quick remediation and really prove their worth? Leading–edge UC monitoring tools don’t just highlight the problem, but also call out the solution. The very best tools will go even one step further and prioritize the problems, highlighting which issues should be fixed first to achieve the best ROI for the organization.
End–User Orientation: Given our affection towards technology, we often forget that although we’re monitoring the UCaaS platform, the end game is really the end–user. IT shouldn’t care about the server if the user has a beautiful calling experience. With that in mind, look at your voice monitoring tool (or candidates) and find the one that provides views of individual users or rooms. Can you isolate the end-user or meeting room experience at any given point in time? Can you easily troubleshoot how and why an individual user is struggling?
Benchmarking: Attempting to achieve certain quality levels (e.g. voice quality, service availability, etc.) with your UCaaS platform without understanding how your business ranks may drastically sub-optimize your UC performance. Your monitoring analytics could be meaningless if you’re not sure how they compare to industry averages. Even more interesting would be to see how the voice quality of your Frankfurt subsidiary compares to that of your Chicago one. The leading tools should all allow for some level of benchmarking.
Functionality Breadth: Many of today’s UCaaS platforms are not just about UC. Vendors like Microsoft, Cisco and Zoom are aggressively blending UC with collaboration into a single platform. As such, it’s very important to consider if your business can benefit from a broader set of capabilities beyond monitoring. Some of the emerging critical functions which you may want to search for in a fully functioning tool include policy management, provisioning, collaboration security & governance, workflow automation, platform administration, phone number management, root cause analysis, and user experience assessment.
Managed Services: To help reduce costs to the overall IT budget, many enterprises increasingly consider cloud managed services for various IT workloads. The entire UC and collaboration space lends itself well to managed services, both because of its complexity as well as the dynamism of the market. A UCaaS monitoring software vendor who also offers a managed services upgrade option provides great future-proofing for downstream alternatives.
Looking Towards the Future of Unified Communications Monitoring
UCaaS platforms are a complex set of solutions (chat, meetings, calls) that require monitoring, management, and troubleshooting across various IP network connections. Packet loss, jitter, and VoIP latency conditions influence voice call quality. The often-transient nature of these issues makes VoIP quality testing and troubleshooting using traditional VoIP monitoring and voice monitoring software and tools tricky. As enterprises migrate towards cloud-based voice solutions, voice monitoring gets even more complex. IT teams are now tasked with ensuring application performance over networks they do not own, manage, or maintain. Perhaps its time your IT team considers an industry-leading third party tool like PowerSuite to supply all the UCaaS monitoring you require and even more.