Ray Krug

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As the entire business world learns to navigate the new normal of remote work, unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools such as video conferencing and instant messaging are proving a vital lifeline in our ability to conduct day-to-day operations. Indeed, Voice over IP (VoIP) calls have become indispensable. But when those services become impaired, degraded, or unavailable, business can quickly grind to a halt, impacting customers, call centers, clients, prospects, partners, vendors, and employees.

Because UC&C services and business applications often use a converged infrastructure with countless interdependencies, any number of touchpoints potentially can cause problems. Here’s a brief look at some of the most common call quality issues, what might be their root cause, and how IT can address them.

The Pain of Poor Quality Calls

Nothing is worse than a call with colleagues or clients in which the connection is so poor it is difficult to understand each other, or where no one on the call can hear anyone else. Such call quality issues can be the result of insufficient bandwidth in the network, quality-of-service (QoS) misconfiguration, or a rogue application or device consuming too much bandwidth. Network firewalls, routers, or VPN concentrators may be overwhelmed, causing packets to drop and leading to degradation in voice quality. Other causes for quality problems can include call server issues such as a misconfigured or incorrect codec selected on call setup, or a gateway issue where echo cancelers aren’t working effectively. Endpoint devices also may be at fault, with soft-client performance causing problems or lacking resources as the PCs are busy or low on memory due to running other workloads at the same time as the call. SIP trunks or session border controllers may also be the cause, either due to misconfiguration or underperformance.

The key to solving these problems is gaining complete and pervasive visibility into the VoIP environment. Effective network and application monitoring will allow IT professionals to quickly and accurately dig into call details with a seamless drill down. This lets them analyze specific traffic and session analysis and identify the root cause of issues and the domain of the problem, so the right people can get involved to quickly troubleshoot and correct the problem.

The Dreaded Dropped Call

One of the most vexing UC&C problems is when calls are dropped… repeatedly. This could be the result of a firewall or router periodically being blocked or not routing signaling and voice traffic correctly. It might also be WAN issues at a remote site that are causing a slow response to call servers. Or it could be the result network prioritization that is improperly set up for signaling protocols. It could even be firmware issues on the session border controls, or the call managers.

Once again, the key to eliminating dropped calls is gaining insights into call flow architecture in order to successfully troubleshoot problems. By consolidating multiple monitoring tools with a single solution for voice signaling, call quality, and business applications, IT can gain a complete picture, pinpoint the problems, and keep the services available and working at the highest performance and quality levels.

Find more tips in our UC&C Troubleshooting Guide.

Krug is a solution architect at NETSCOUT.

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