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What WAN configuration best supports UCaaS platform deployments?

Preparing for a UCaaS deployment means having the right WAN circuit configuration, with enough bandwidth to support all of your data and prioritize voice and video traffic with real-time delivery needs.

How a WAN circuit is configured is more important than the type of circuit deployed when connecting a unified-communications-as-a-service, or UCaaS, platform. Take hotel Wi-Fi, for example. Some hotels have sketchy Wi-Fi at best. While that doesn't mean calls over Wi-Fi won't work there, some calls may not be the best quality.

The advantages of IP-based communications are the technology is mature, and compression techniques and algorithms can provide acceptable quality for even the worst connections. Your vendor may also have recommendations for improving quality of service (QoS).

The WAN circuit connecting the server of the UCaaS platform to the outside world needs to be robust. Equations can help determine how much bandwidth you need, which includes factoring in the estimated number of simultaneous calls taking place.

Once you've determined the circuit type and capacity, you need to configure how you want your UCaaS platform to prioritize different types of traffic. The WAN circuit you choose should be able to use QoS to prioritize traffic. If none of the traffic on the network is prioritized, all of the packets will be handled equally.

Best-effort data packets like file sharing don't have real-time delivery requirements, so they can handle dropped or retransmitted packets without noticeably affecting quality. Voice and video packets have real-time transmission requirements, however, so retransmitting dropped packets can affect audio and video quality. It makes sense to use QoS to prioritize audio and video packets to transmit first.  

You can do a few things to prioritize voice and video packets on your UCaaS platform. Bandwidth manager software or third-party services from vendors like Solarwinds will help. You can also segment the voice network on a virtual LAN, so other traffic won't interfere with your voice and video traffic. If you have particularly slow circuits, you may want to completely segment the voice network onto its own WAN circuit.  

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) can provide additional capabilities through configuration and bandwidth management on the fly without having to involve providers in network decisions for routing.  The use of SD-WAN can cut down deployment and reconfiguration time and decrease the complexity of managing the WAN.

Don't forget to use your vendors as a resource and consider their best recommendations. Networking vendors will have recommended minimum requirements for their hardware, while UCaaS vendors will have minimum requirements for the circuits to which the platform will connect.

Most importantly, however, don't use their minimum required configurations. While packets may still transmit at the minimum capacity, you will rarely be satisfied with the outcome. As you go through your request-for-proposal process, ask vendors for their ideal configuration. The answer will usually be different than the minimum requirements.

Do you have a question for Carrie Higbie Goetz or any other experts? Ask your enterprise-specific questions today! All questions are treated anonymously.

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