Digging deep into your net with VoIP analysis tools

If you can't see into the VoIP traffic on your network, then you don't know whether it's good or bad. To know whether voice quality or call connect issues are related to your VoIP IP/PBX system or are tied to underlying network issues, you'll need to turn to the evolving class of network monitoring products called voice-over-IP analysis tools.

If you can't see into the VoIP traffic on your network, then you don't know whether it's good or bad. To know whether voice-quality or call-connect issues are related to your VoIP IP/PBX system or are tied to underlying network issues, you'll need to turn to the evolving class of network monitoring products called voice-over-IP analysis tools.

Since our last test of these tools, VATs have picked up more monitoring power and offer a deeper level of detail in their displays regarding the VoIP activity of your network. Degradation of your VoIP traffic can be monitored, investigated and resolved before users are aware of it.

In this year's Clear Choice VAT test, six vendors accepted our invitation, submitting seven tools. The vendors included Apparent Networks, ClearSight Networks, Empirix, Fluke Networks, Touchstone Technologies and WildPackets.

All products were tested in Miercom's lab using a detailed methodology to assess the tools in six categories (see How we tested VoIP analysis tools). The categories are configuration and deployment options, display and interface usability, traffic capture and real-time monitoring options (see story discussing the benefits of these data-gathering methods), diagnostics and trouble-shooting measures, and reporting capabilities and advanced features.

There is a general trend in this class of product to increase protocol coverage, redesign interfaces for improved visual highlighting and navigability, and include advanced features to quickly pinpoint and detail problem areas of VoIP activity and call quality.

Consider with this improvement that there is no one right or wrong way to implement a VAT. Most of the tools tested here could measure up in your network depending on the level of expertise required, the immediacy of problem resolution needed, the desire for proactive call-quality management, and the level of detailed capture data necessary.

To see how each product fared, please view the product summaries.

Mosco is a test engineer, Smithers is CEO and Tarpley is senior engineer at Miercom, an independent network testing and consulting firm in central New Jersey. They can be reached at amosco@miercom,rsmithers@miercom.com and rtarpley@miercom.com.


Next: The right tool for the right network >

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