Best Practices for Monitoring Telephony Performance

Voice is enjoying a resurgence these days. Traditional phone calls are vital for real-time conversations and collaborations in an office or a work-from-home setting, providing a deeper social and emotional connection than most digital channels.

“For most businesses, voice is still the essential tool,” said Dave Murphy, global UC alliance director, IR, at an Avaya ENGAGE 2020 session, “Telephony Performance Monitoring (TPM) – Trends, Best Practices and Unleashing Its Full Potential.” In his presentation, Murphy emphasized the importance of delivering a high quality of service (QoS) to end users throughout the organization.  “Work is not a place to go – it is what we do,” he added.

Murphy cited a 2019 survey showing more than 90 percent of workers believe that phone calls are important, and 71 percent of knowledge workers make frequent calls.  When given a choice, about two-thirds of workers prefer taking business calls on a desk phone rather than their mobile device.

In moving communication channels to the cloud, Murphy said it’s vital to be sure the voice channel is up and running effectively.  “You want to be able to see all the UC channels on one dashboard and be able to identify issues that start flashing yellow or red and go right to the root cause,” he added. “Without the right telephony monitoring tools, it typically takes 80 percent of the repair time to identify the problem, and just 20 percent of the time to resolve the issue.”

During the session, Adam Geffner, principal architect, Asurion and president of IAUG’s Nashville chapter, looked at the seven layers of a voice call process, beginning with the four lower levels:

1. Physical. If there is static or noise on the call, it could be an indicator of a hardware issue, such as a phone, or server.

2. Data link. Jitter and latency issues could be due to error control and synchronization or media flow issues.

3. Network. VoIP traffic, including call setup and teardown.

4. Transport. End-to-end communications.

“Network monitoring is good for the lower layers of the stack, as you want to be sure the servers and gateways are performing as they should,” Geffner said. “But the magic in telephony occurs in the upper layers of the stack.”  Those three layers are:

5. Session. SIP traffic flow and ladder.

6. Presentation. Codecs, encoding and decoding calls

7. Application. Sound into packets, file transfers, DNS.

“Layers five through seven are what separate the unique functionality of a true telephony monitoring tool, and a good-enough networking performance solution,” said Geffner.  “You don’t have to cover everything, but you need to monitor your environment in a smart way. For instance you might have one monitoring tool to cover your core and certain peripherals, and another to cover the higher layers. You don’t want to deploy four or five tools because that will clutter up your environment.”

Even if your communications infrastructure is up in the cloud, you should still deploy a telephony monitoring tool, Geffner said. “Those calls still have to get to your users, either directly or through your on-prem equipment. So you need a solution that can look at your environment, including cloud components, and is vendor agnostic.”

Another issue for trouble-shooting problems is setting an appropriate level of alerts. “If you start getting dozens of them every hour, they become background noise,” he said. “Instead, you want to be able to see something critical right away so you can take corrective action quickly. Being able to fix something in real-time is vital for maintaining a consistently high level of service to your users.”

Summing up the benefits of a TPM solution, Murphy said it gives IT professionals more control over which incidents result in tickets being opened, while reducing ticket overload. “It removed the need to manually enter ticket information and open those tickets. Then, when the issue has been resolved, a TPM solution sends an off-alert to have the ticket auto close.”

Adam Geffner and Dave Murphy take a photo following their session at Avaya ENGAGE 2020

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