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How enterprises can get the best out of voice and video

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(Image credit: Image Credit: Photographee.eu / Shutterstock)

Many enterprise chief information officers (CIOs) are currently on a digital transformation journey at their organisation. This involves migrating more business applications and infrastructure to the cloud, including business-critical applications and services, such as real-time voice calling, video conferencing and collaboration tools. Increasingly, enterprises are adopting Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) services that streamline voice, video and web conferencing via cloud-based software. Indeed, Gartner has predicted that by 2021, 90 per cent of IT leaders will not purchase new premises-hosted Unified Communications (UC) infrastructure because future cloud-hosted UCaaS offerings will be far ahead in terms of features, functions, analytics and dashboards.

One of the biggest challenges is that UCaaS services are particularly sensitive to packet loss, latency and jitter, which stop businesses getting the most out of them. For example, dropped calls, weak signals and degraded video connections with pixelated screens are relatively common occurrences with UCaaS services. However, most of these issues can be attributed to impairments in the underlying transport network, which is often the public internet. Voice and video quality problems can be exacerbated when traffic must traverse multiple peering internet service providers (ISPs), resulting in an unpredictable user experience, especially when accessing real-time services in distributed regions.

Overcoming voice and video challenges

To solve these common pain points and for enterprises to truly embrace voice and video, businesses are increasingly implementing software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology, a network overlay technology that uses any available underlying transport – such as MPLS, 4G LTE, or even low-cost broadband internet – to seamlessly connect users to applications. This technology will ensure the highest quality of experience for both employees and IT. Indeed, end users can enjoy always-consistent, always-available application performance, including the highest quality of voice, video, and UCaaS services, without breaking the bank or investing in private line connectivity.

What’s more, SD-WAN enables IT departments to keep users productive and happy, as well as allows them to have their nights and weekends back, not least because high availability and resiliency keeps the network operational – even when underlying transports experience disruptions or outages. With orchestration – the ability for IT to control and deploy changes, view the business network in real-time and manage the business ecosystem from a centralised point – network configuration is easier than ever, while minimising human errors and enabling faster troubleshooting so that IT is more responsive to the business.

A match made in communication heaven

With SD-WANs, businesses can augment UCaaS for improved performance in many ways, targeting the key issues of reliability, connectivity and control. However, many enterprises often do not know where to even start with SD-WAN. The most important SD-WAN platform capabilities to look for to turbocharge UCaaS services or offerings, include:

  • Cloud hosted offering: A cloud-based SD-WAN can ensure protected last-mile technology. This means that organisations can ensures consistent UCaaS performance and minimum degradation across the telecommunications path
  • Cloud hosted offering: A cloud-based SD-WAN can ensure protected last-mile technology. This means that organisations can ensures consistent UCaaS performance and minimum degradation across the telecommunications path
  • Business-driven application-specific routing: This can automatically prioritise network resources to unified communications, steering traffic directly to the UCaaS service. This thereby improves the quality of service and user experience
  • Dynamic path control: This can support multiple connections to a site and provide automatic and seamless failover from a failed branch circuit for all voice calls, video calls and real-time collaboration. Using dynamic path control, SD-WANs can ensure a steady connection in the event of failure
  • Dynamic path control: This can support multiple connections to a site and provide automatic and seamless failover from a failed branch circuit for all voice calls, video calls and real-time collaboration. Using dynamic path control, SD-WANs can ensure a steady connection in the event of failure

Companies should think of a business-driven SD-WAN edge platform like a turbocharged engine in a car – it can accelerate performance and optimise the UCaaS user experience. The advanced performance, application visibility and optimisation capabilities of SD-WAN platforms can identify, classify and granularly steer UCaaS traffic. By partnering with a public cloud provider, the SD-WAN fabric can be extended across all sites and into the public cloud, protecting traffic against impairments and failures in the first mile, as well as leveraging the cloud providers peering relationship with UCaaS providers to provide the enterprises with the highest quality of experience.

A combined UCaaS-SD-WAN solution can incorporate tunnel bonding to compensate for any degradation in the last mile and avoid data loss or interruption. Tunnel bonding is when SD-WAN forms a virtual network layer to combine two or more WAN transport services on the network into a single logical connection, depending on policy an SD-WAN can load share traffic across both physical links or map data traffic on the network. Moreover, should one underlying link fail, the other would continue to carry all the traffic to keep the connection and the voice of video application live. Advanced path conditioning can overcome the effects of packet loss, latency and jitter to deliver private line-like voice performance – even over the public internet.

Win-win for service providers and enterprises

For service providers, offering a bundled managed UCaaS with SD-WAN to enterprises also improves the customer “stickiness”. Indeed, it creates opportunities to sell more “as-a-service” offerings that provide a better end-user experience and increase the opportunity for innovation. On the other side of the coin, enterprises get top quality business critical UCaaS services managed by service providers with huge savings of both cost and time to the enterprise and IT department.

Today, it is hard to run an organisation without real-time voice and video applications and services, which provide vital connectivity to customers, partners and colleagues. For such a critical business service, organisations no longer want to put up with poor connection and service problems. Ultimately, by utilising the latest technologies, such as packet identification, traffic steering and orchestration, SD-WAN technologies can offer advanced UCaaS performance. As such, SD-WAN will provide a better end user UCaaS experience, as well as enable service providers to offer the best combination of a managed SD-WAN and UCaaS to enterprise customers.

Nav Chander, senior director of service and cloud providers, Silver Peak