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The New Normal & Unified Communications

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As I wrote in a previous blog post, the world has undergone massive changes that have created chaos for CIOs as they struggle to ensure operational continuity, including when in scenarios where things change in an unprecedented fashion overnight.

What does operational continuity look like as the world moves forward in the paradigm of the new normal? In the previous blog post, I highlighted some significant paradigm shifts the new normal will include, with an intensified focus on these key areas:

  • Unified communications – Recent months have enlightened many business leaders regarding what can be accomplished remotely, and IT leaders will require tools to optimize audio and video cost and productivity for a workforce that can change dramatically overnight.
  • Cloud fluidity – Cloud computing has obviously already had a huge impact on IT architectures, but going forward, IT leaders will require tools to help seamlessly move workloads to and from the cloud and to help them understand when to do so.
  • Automation – IT leaders have long sought a “lights-out data center” where everything is automated, but there is a new level of rigor to build these solutions to increase efficiency, deal with dynamic workforces and architectures, and remove the element of human error.

In this blog post, I’ll take a closer look at the new focus on unified communications (UC).

Staying Connected

I hear many arguments for and against remote working. But regardless of which camp you’re in, there are common objectives — primarily, to keep employees productive, collaborative and focused.

There are a number of communication tools such as Zoom, WebEx and Teams that partially solve these challenges by enabling staff to remain connected wherever they are in the world through voice and video. This isn’t new. However, nobody could have anticipated the world shifting to remote working overnight and the reliance on such tools for business continuity. Some organizations are reporting a 50x increase in video conferencing usage during the COVID-19 crisis.

The pressure now being applied to IT organizations has increased significantly and expectations are higher than ever. In addition to their usual barrage of tickets, IT Ops must now also support users remotely — many of whom have never used collaboration tools. How do you ensure a consistent end-user experience that is free of dropped calls and other issues that distract from keeping employees productive, collaborative and focused?

Sharpening the Tools

IT departments must sharpen their tools and switch from being reactive to proactive. Effective monitoring of communications focuses on quality of service, which extends far beyond simply knowing if a device is up or down or the number of calls attempted/active/completed. Just because a call was completed does not mean the user experience was high quality. If a conversation is negatively affected by packet loss, incorrect codecs, flawed deployment configurations, or network latency across multiple network hops, the number of calls completed becomes irrelevant when weighed against the reality that information was not able to be successfully and efficiently exchanged.

Pinpointing such issues is complex and time-consuming. A single call/video can travel through multiple servers, routers and gateways, across firewalls, and through multiple networks. These multiple hops can dynamically affect signal quality depending on the resources available at any given time. This makes accurately diagnosing call reliability and audio/video quality issues complex and often costly without the proper solution.

By utilizing proactive UC monitoring, problem isolation can be greatly simplified, and the time it takes to fix system issues can be significantly shortened. Rather than relying on inefficient packet sniffers and simple alerting, network engineers are able to utilize actionable information for real-time troubleshooting and system optimization.

By utilizing QoS, MoS, jitter and call-path monitoring alongside networkwide correlation, modern UC monitoring tools empower companies to:

  • Capture critical events instantly via customizable policies
  • Pinpoint quality issues and expose bottlenecks via multihop call-path analysis
  • Visualize application and infrastructure health in real time

This means that IT Ops has the ability to take real-time action to ensure end-user experiences and daily remote working can be sustained in this new way of working. It means that regardless of what changes are coming, companies can keep employees productive, collaborative and focused.

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