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Ensuring high-quality VoIP delivery for campus-style deployments involves managing a wide variety of diverse user requirements, endpoints, PBXs, devices and applications. And with often limited resources, in many ways this is not that different to any other distributed VoIP environment.

Sue Bradshaw, one of IR's technology writers shares with us some details of a conversation she had with an administrator on campus where voice communications were breaking down.

Recently I spoke to one of the administrators of a highly distributed campus environment. The campus network provides vital links across geographies and time zones while helping control long-distance costs.

Users were experiencing poor voice quality, and calls were disconnecting during conversations. The administrator explained “There was so much inconsistency because it wasn’t only happening with internal calls: it was happening with external calls too and it didn’t matter if they were long distance or local, it was really hit and miss. The problem was intermittent; we just couldn’t figure it out.”

What made troubleshooting the problem more complex was the multi-vendor environment that underpins the campus network’s VoIP and UC services. One vendor supplies the VoIP equipment, while another provides the switches and a third, the session border controllers.

“We’d gone months like that” the administrator continued. “Many hours were spent investigating the problems including engineers looking at all the switches right after the install of VoIP. We went through all our switches, one by one, looking at QoS on each of them and everything appeared to be configured the same.

“We really needed to determine which ports the problem calls were on because quite frankly, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack at our end. We didn’t have the resources, training or knowledge to investigate it through the media gateway. We were looking at it from the voice perspective, asking someone to let us know if they had a poor quality or dropped call, or experienced static on the line.

“We tried network trace and it would show that it went out on a specific trunk so we were looking at SIP trunks, but we were going down the wrong path. We spent months investigating it with our VoIP service provider and got nowhere.“

At that point the administrator decided to try VoIP-specific performance management because the issue was manifesting itself in the voice domain. She added “We were trying to pinpoint any issues with VoIP services that resided on the voice side of the house. It seemed logical to us. So we were surprised to find the issue that we had was on the data side of the house. It was a data port.”

A single port was configured incorrectly and creating a knock-on effect. And because of that mis-configuration packet loss was occurring which was causing problems in the media gateway that was connected to it.

Normally within the campus network there is plenty of capacity, but routers and switches can easily become bottlenecks. These often go undetected until VoIP is deployed, and then problems become apparent very quickly. Communications and lost productivity can result, but since the network is otherwise working, the cause is not readily apparent. From the data network manager’s perspective nothing is broken.

That’s why it’s important to manage voice quality holistically, and obtain information about every device in the voice stream as well as within the VoIP application, enabling you to correlate call quality and network performance from a single perspective.  This minimizes the occurrence of VoIP issues bouncing back and forth between people looking at the issues from different operational perspectives, like in our story.

Streamlined troubleshooting processes result in reduced mean-time-to-repair, and efficiency gains. Tangible benefits like these help you deliver better ROI on the investments you make in deploying and managing high quality campus-style VoIP delivery.