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As more and more companies roll out voice over IP (VoIP) solutions and more and more companies enter the VoIP market in different ways, the options for saving money by migrating from traditional PBX-based phone systems to modern, flexible VoIP solutions grows on an almost daily basis. From the early days of Asterisk, Avaya, and Cisco to the current Microsoft Skype for Business and Google Voice options, individuals and businesses have never had more choices when it comes to communicating.
Of course having a world-class VoIP system running on your internal network is only half the battle. The ability to take that technology and monitor it, troubleshoot and diagnose problems when they inevitably arise is also critical. If calls can’t be made or the quality of those calls prevents effective communications it doesn’t matter how expensive or fancy the deployed system, is it is the same as useless.
In the days of PBXs you needed specially trained technicians and specialty tools to install and troubleshoot a phone system. If there was a problem with a user’s phone, a technician would have to be sent to that location with all their equipment to evaluate the problem. With VoIP, the installation process is much simpler—connect to an existing physical network port or over a wireless connection, enter a few pieces of information into your physical or soft phone and you are up and running.
If only troubleshooting a VoIP phone was quite that simple. While the installation process may be greatly simplified, the troubleshooting process still requires specialized equipment. Instead of punch down tools and RJ-21 jacks, you need network monitoring and analysis tools. And unlike many of the tools for PBX installation, the vendors you choose for monitoring and troubleshooting your VoIP installation can make all the difference in the world.
Lots of software claims to be able to monitor VoIP traffic and most of them probably can do something. How well they do that, how well they integrate with other solutions, and how useful they really are is a different discussion. Having a tool that can take data from a wide variety of places is extremely important. While having a portion of the picture is better than having no visibility having a complete view is becoming even more important as more and more companies switch to VoIP and softphones.
If a user experiences poor call performance and the VoIP solution is hosted in the cloud the problem could be almost anywhere, in the cloud, on the Internet (or perhaps MPLS link), the local network, or on the local laptop or desktop system. The problem could be latency, incorrect QoS tagging, wrong software version, or an unapproved headset.
As Microsoft rolls Skype for Business into their Office 365 offerings uptake will only increase. The ability to make calls entirely via your network, Microsoft’s network and the Internet (i.e. calling between offices, branches, and companies without having to traverse the plain old telephone system) can save money and headaches (less physical infrastructure to support). Being able to see what is happening in the world of Skype for Business from basic call quality all the way down to the headset, operating system and patch versions, and network connections is going to become essential.
When choosing a tool to monitor your VoIP solution you want to make sure you choose something that can understand multiple VoIP technologies, accept data from a variety of sources, and present information that gives a broad set of details showing everything from the quality of the calls on a call-by-call and region-by-region basis to performance hotspots to accurate path and path-based performance information (traceroute is great but does not always accurately reflect the actual path taken by the call itself).
SteelCentral UCExpert provides the robust monitoring you need whether you are on a traditional Cisco or Avaya VoIP solution or rolling out a new Microsoft Skype for Business solution. The ability to process call records from Microsoft and present information ranging from individual call qualities to the hardware in use on either end of a single call via an easy-to-use web user interface makes the new UC software ideal for monitoring multiple VoIP solutions.