4 Reasons Your UC Strategy Needs a Network Assessment
As any IT team can attest, maintaining a network is hard work. It requires deep technical knowledge and a good feel for the business to understand and prioritize which applications and services need to be running at an optimal performance level. It would be nice if you could simply take an 80's infomercial approach and just "set it and forget it" when it comes to policies, but anyone who has worked with networks and applications would admit that even with the best tools in place, it's only temporarily possible.
The network has become a living ecosystem - new applications constantly entering the environment, consistent shifts in user behavior patterns and the continuous squeeze of network resources. This can leave IT Admins in the dark and force them to spend precious hours trying to understand what's happening and what's changed. And even with the best laid out policies in place, IT teams still need to tinker, reassess, and reconfigure.
Even when applications appear to be running smoothly a hiccup could be just around the corner. Getting ahead of those will not only save headaches, but also time and money - this requires a complete understanding of everything that is happening across the network. This is where a network assessment comes in handy. Here are four good reasons why you should consider getting one:
1. You're Planning the Installation of a New UC App
Maybe most of the apps running across your network today are working just fine. That's all well and good, but what happens when there is a new company edict saying, "We're moving all communication services to Skype for Business," or "We are moving to a full Office 365 shop."
Suddenly that finely tuned network that was running its bandwidth with a minimal margin for error will be in a state of upheaval with a new critical app coming in and sucking up valuable resources. This can go one of two ways, the apps you had in place prior to this new interloper (or hopefully more of a welcomed addition) might start underperforming with this new app coming in and sapping all their bandwidth. Or that new app won't receive its proper allocation leading to a suboptimal experience and making this new investment look like a boondoggle. As fun as that word is to say, it's not often followed by resounding praise at review meetings.
2. Your UC Performance has Slowed
You've installed a critical application such as Office 365 or Skype for Business and for a while things were great. But now application performance has slowed. The unfortunate truth with networks is that you can't just set the drinking bird to hit the Y key and expect everything will be fine (bonus points to anyone who gets the reference - hint: it's The Simpsons).
Now this slowdown could be an issue with the application configuration, but the deterioration in performance suggests that the issue could lie somewhere in your network - perhaps a new or unseen application sucking up valuable bandwidth. If things have started to go awry it may be time for a deeper look and using something like a network assessment can eliminate a lot of the mystery.
3. Users Are Complaining
So you've installed some critical apps, handed them over with what you think they are supposed to need in terms of bandwidth, but your phone is still ringing off the hook for the CEO to the sales guy saying their conference call over Skype for Business is sputtering, freezing and dropping. This doesn't result in just an earful for the IT admin, but incessant finger-pointing back and forth across IT. One side says it's the network while the other says it's the app. All the while the end users are trudging through a lacklustre experience and getting more and more frustrated. In the near term this is an IT headache, but long term it can cost real dollars as users abandon designated services in the hopes of finding a better performer. This not only reduces the ROI for that application, but further compounds your resource problem with more and more shadow IT creeping into the network.
How would you describe the state of your network today? A finely tuned well-oiled machine designed and implemented from its very inception with a strategic approach to account for all unforeseen circumstances and evolutions like BYOD? Or more of a motley patchwork of "make this work here" and "make this work there" tied together nicely and functioning for now, but the slightest change could upset the delicate balance you have spent countless hours crafting. As much fun as the whack-a-mole game is at a certain point it just makes sense, and quite frankly is easier to take a step back and reassess, taking on the task of revamping the network.
If you're at or nearing that point it just makes good sense to use something like a network assessment tool to pull out the parts that are working today to bring them forward and identify the problem areas to be left behind.
Branko Miskov is the VP of Product Management at Exinda.