Why traditional IT tools can’t keep pace with the demands of modern communications environments
Unified communications (UC) sprang up in the 90s, introducing new forms of software-based communication, planting voice and messaging systems in the IT network. But as UC footprints grew, businesses struggled to find new tools and processes necessary to keep up with the complexity that accompanies next-generation communications environments.
Identifying the problems
Lack of standards was a big problem. Whereas the ITIL framework helped rein in the chaos of fast spreading of IT, the arrival of UC was largely free of processes and tools to smooth adoption and management.
So, businesses made do with what they had – IT tools – which was a bit like trying to run an airport with flags and clipboards rather than air traffic control. Suddenly the promises of a newly-connected world and collaboration tools looked a little shaky.
IT tools monitored basic functions, but failed to address capacity management and impacts of individual components in the comms network. Auditing was almost impossible, and IT managers had to maintain spreadsheets and diagrams to understand the makeup of their UC networks, how everything worked together, and the likely impact of changes. It took way too long, it was expensive, and often inaccurate.
Traditional IT tools couldn’t deal with the growing complexity, so when calls got jittery, managers scrambled to find the root of the problem. Only they couldn’t find it – at least not quickly. Network teams argued and fingers were pointed.
Technicians were working blind, and without a real-time view of latency, jitter, or MOS 24×7, they couldn’t respond to warning signals. When things broke, technicians relied on instincts rather than alerts to pinpoint problems. Customer hang-ups skyrocketed, and attention put to fixing things came at the expense of improving customer experience.
Establishing the solution
But as specialist UC management tools gain a foothold in the broader portfolio of systems used to manage everything on the IT network, UC applications are running much smoother. Complexity that once bamboozled IT managers and escaped the attention of traditional monitoring tools are fading as specialist tools automate the heavy lifting – taking care of tracking and modelling servers, gateways, handsets and software versions, together with settings and platform configuration.
These tools help managers understand the impact of even the smallest change in complex systems comprising hundreds, even thousands, of components and a matrix of interrelationships.
Whilst alarms sniff out potential trouble and tell administrators how they should respond, highlighting hotspots and ‘danger’ levels, and propose remedial action – before things break. And smart reporting ensures managers are able to switch off unused resources – things like software licenses and telecoms trunks – with the potential to save large companies tens-of-thousands of dollars.
UC service management in action
Here are some of the areas where UC service management tools do their best work:
Capacity management: Syncing software and hardware resources with UC network activity peaks and troughs is a bit like walking a tightrope. Cut resources too fine and important functions like call queue announcements get dropped. Conversely, paying for unused capacity such as voice trunks is wasted money. UC service management tools do more than merely monitoring server resource usage, they keep customers atop the tightrope of UC resource utilization, likely shortfall and oversupply, and exactly when they should act.
Configuration management: Tracking down UC assets and their connections is painstaking work. Never mind that once the job’s been done it’s out of date. UC service management tools automate the development of a Configuration Management Database, providing a detailed picture of UC assets and their inter-relationships on the network.
Voice quality management: You know the drill – calls go jittery, customers complain, and everyone scrambles to find the root of the problem. Up-down indicators that work for email and ERP don’t do the job for UC applications. Specialist tools provide a real-time view of latency, jitter, packet loss and MOS 24×7, keeping UC environments running smoothly.
Availability management: UC applications run in real time and are highly sensitive to the slightest hiccup in a UC network. Merely relying on SNMP alerts from servers and routers isn’t enough. UC service management tools go deeper in to the communications stack, monitoring event logs, CTI links and data feeds, alerting engineers and allowing them to pinpoint the problem in a flash.
Release Management: Like any complex IT platform, keeping track of software and firmware releases and their associated dependencies is a complex and time-consuming job. Out of date software increases the risk of a poor user experience, and when you call in vendors to help they’ll turn you away asking you to bring everything up to the latest release.
UC service management platforms make light work of release management, highlighting those components that need a software update.
Security Management: UC systems are a target for malicious attacks leading to loss of service and billions of dollars in fraud every year. And while session border controllers provide a first line of defense, their complex configuration in a dynamically changing environment leaves them open to exploitation.
In the same way house alarms and CCTV intruder detection systems activate alarms to instantly alert homeowners, UC service management tools watch and flag suspicious activity in real time, keeping UC managers in the picture and one step ahead of the bad guys. When managers can see the hackers and how their SCB is standing up to attacks, they’re in a much stronger position to pinpoint network vulnerabilities and make critical changes to avoid the unthinkable.
Get a first hand view of UC service management
Contact us to book a demo and see how our cloud based UC service management platform, VSM, can manage your communications systems.