Depending on the choices you make, a unified communications implementation could stretch your existing network infrastructure with the additional load from real-time voice and video traffic. It could even disrupt existing critical applications and traffic.
We recommend putting a solid network foundation in place before you move to UC.
Here are five practical steps to help you prepare for unified communications:
1. Audit network capacity and latency
Most enterprise networks are designed for client-server traffic. Data flows to and from a datacentre. Traffic follows different patterns when you implement unified communications. Real-time flows between key points are more important. So is latency. You’ll need to profile the business application workload on your network over the course of a typical month to find their true bandwidth requirements. Use this information to consider the impact of UC on this traffic.
2. Project UC traffic flows
Start by, for example, considering how many active video conference sessions you may wish to support between your two main offices. Then think about the number of simultaneous voice calls each office can make to outside parties before services degrade. Microsoft recommends you allocate 65 Kbps per audio stream and 500 Kbps per video stream, with bidirectional audio or video sessions consisting of two streams. Cisco has a more complex formula. Use either or both of these recommendations to estimate traffic flows. Also, think about how you’ll connect with telecommunications voice networks.
3. Adjust network design and traffic handling for business grade services
Ideally this means enabling traffic prioritisation capabilities across the entire network. You may need additional WAN and LAN links to minimise risks in the event of a device or communications link failure. Consider how real time voice and video traffic will flow internally and externally. You may want to integrate customers and partners into your corporate collaboration and video conferencing systems. This will also impact your network decisions.
4. Re-evaluate DMZ and security architecture
Moving to company-wide UC will probably mean you need to upgrade your interconnect points with public networks and changes to your security systems to handle the extra capacity. You’ll also need to check security at all levels including network, servers, databases and applications. If you plan to include mobile or teleworkers, additional security measures may be called for.
5. Prepare the help desk
You’ll need to train employees across the business to get the most out of UC solutions. At the same time your help desk staff will need to have their skills upgraded so they can troubleshoot users who run into problems. UC systems rely heavily on the reliable interaction of multiple systems, including network infrastructure, telecommunications services, security gateways and desktop systems. Being able to monitor each of these will be critical to resolving problems and decreasing their impact. Help desk staff will also need to carry out detailed congestion monitoring to pinpoint bottlenecks.
For more details on preparing your network infrastructure for UC collaboration and video deployment, download our technology whitepaper here.