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A successful deployment of unified communications as a service should optimize employee workflows through better tools, UX and accessibility. Without the right network architecture and support, organizations risk missing out on all of the benefits a UCaaS architecture offers.
To ensure the success of UCaaS, organizations should look for network tools and services, such as software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), to support network traffic management and prevent quality of service (QoS) problems. Many organizations are turning to SD-WAN to ensure peak performance of their UCaaS deployments. SD-WAN helps organizations prepare their networks for UCaaS by provisioning network traffic.
"Usually, customers move to UCaaS with SD-WAN to help change the internal customer experience through analytics, tools and mobility," said Benjamin Niernberg, senior vice president of networking service provider MNJ Technologies.
A lack of network provisioning creates UCaaS headaches
The majority of UCaaS architectures operate over the public internet. Without network provisioning, communications traffic across the public internet is treated equally, so a voice over IP call placed by the CEO is treated the same as traffic from an agent sending an IM according to Niernberg. During times of heavy traffic, users can experience service disruption and call quality degradation. As speed slows and lines jam, public internet UCaaS creates some of the same issues experienced with on-premises point-to-point communications.
Bandwidth is generally the main culprit of QoS issues. Broadband internet connections increase UCaaS architecture performance by moving from single point-to-point pathways to multiple lines that don't require physical endpoints. However, broadband alone won't fix all the traffic issues that UCaaS can face. Without a way to determine which lines provide the fastest route and what traffic needs to be prioritized, users can still experience dropped calls, jitter and latency.
SD-WAN enables users to create provisions to better prioritize traffic. "UCaaS and SD-WAN are the perfect fit for customers moving their UC to the cloud," Niernberg said. "SD-WAN lets users set levels of priority and creates a better end-user experience when paired with UCaaS."
Have no fear, SD-WAN is here
Setting rules around traffic prioritization prevents high-priority traffic, such as voice and video, from facing congestion and QoS issues. These provisions are only as limited as an organization makes them, according to Niernberg. Rules can be set to prioritize contact center calls or CEO calls. Priority provisioning ensures that, even if calls are made during times of high traffic, high-priority calls will take the fastest and most direct pathway.
"From an administrator standpoint, UCaaS allows you to be much quicker when it comes to diagnosing service problems," Niernberg said. When problems such as latency are diagnosed, SD-WAN supports UCaaS architecture through circuit switching, as well as real-time monitoring of traffic and service issues.
Diagnosing and correcting these service issues in real time enables circuit switching to be nearly imperceptible, so users don't experience a decline in UCaaS performance when problems arise.
"WAN applications and visibility across networks can be complex, and complexity adds risk," said Carrie Goetz, global technology director at Paige DataCom. "SD-WAN provides clear visibility across all WAN segments in a rapidly organizable manner with far lower complexity and risk."
Prepare your network for UCaaS with SD-WAN
"Switching from on-premises systems to broadband internet-deployed UCaaS improves communications through better QoS," Nierenberg said. "SD-WAN can be layered on top to further enhance UCaaS and make for a better user experience." Some UCaaS providers are partnering with SD-WAN providers to improve the UX of their services.
Before layering SD-WAN onto a network, organizations should analyze their existing network setup to assess what UCaaS capabilities need the most support. SD-WAN is capable of evaluating nearly all factors when provisioning traffic for peak performance, so deciding how to prioritize is the most important step.
Even security measures can be provisioned using SD-WAN. Security is less of an issue for voice, as packets are generally encrypted and basic security is often handled by the provider. But organizations can use SD-WAN to recognize certain traffic and divert it through security measures, such as session border controllers on the edge of the network.