There are a lot of pressures on the modern network, especially when you think of current datacenter initiatives around cloud computing, virtualization, and big-data. However, should unified communications (UC) be an an equally major concern?
The answer is yes. According to new research by the Aberdeen Group, UC, voice over IP (VOIP), and video are some of the biggest burdens on the corporate network, especially as companies move toward real-time communications among employees and their customers. Even while IT managers and CIOs pulled back on spending at the end of 2012, many companies still planned to expand their UC offerings to meet the demands on employees who wanted more ways to communicate. (See: Unified Communications Shows End-of-Year Spark.)
In the Aberdeen report, "Crossing the VoIP: Real-time Interactions Demand Optimized Networks," researchers found that 53 percent of organizations reported that UC and its associated technologies put the most pressure on the network. This is extremely important, since modern VOIP systems, unlike old-fashioned telephone systems, are wholly dependent on the network. Any bottleneck can cause delays or an outright failure.
It doesn't say much about your UC plans if employees cannot make phone calls and if customers cannot reach the people inside your company.
However, the Aberdeen research does find that companies dealing with real-time communications are also more likely to invest in performance management and optimization technologies.
Why does this matter? Simply, companies that are thinking ahead and that understand and plan for the network issues associated with UC have a better handle on the datacenter and can ensure overall high levels of application and network performance. In a blog post about the research, Aberdeen analyst Jim Rapoza writes:
We discovered a strong correlation between dealing with the network performance issues of real-time communications and having an overall high investment in performance management and optimization. And we found that organizations which manage the performance of Unified Communications and VoIP outpaced other firms when it came to implementing the critical capabilities and procedures needed to ensure overall high levels of application and network performance.
For example, companies that have insight into their networks are better at controlling recreational traffic, such as YouTube, which can have a serious impact on VOIP systems if there's not enough bandwidth to handle both.
The first step to ensuring that a company's real-time communications systems work is to create a robust network infrastructure. For this, the Aberdeen report offers three best-practices to follow:
- Upfront testing and analysis, to ensure that networks, WAN connections, and Internet connectivity can handle the increased traffic load associated with UC.
- Monitoring and analytic tools, to help IT gain insight into how the UC tools are working and what impact they are having on the rest of the applications and the overall network.
- Traffic management, to control the bandwidth impact of different applications and fix any issues that do occur.
For our Enterprise Conversation readers, is there anything to add to the best-practices list? What has been your experience with implementing UC and the impact it has had on the network?