VoIP monitoring: The quest for call quality ubiquity

NetQoS - Monitor Network and VoIP Performance
Many companies today either have VoIP currently on the network or have it on the 5 year plan. In fact, unbeknownst to some network administrators, employees are already using free software packages such as skype.com to make free voice & video calls over the internet. Unlike data connections, voice calls suffer quickly from poor connections. The quest for a parsimonious VoIP monitoring solution is inevitable as network admins will eventually have to take steps to optimize performance specifically in the area of latency. Today it’s about user experience. Dropping calls is easier to troubleshoot and less annoying than addressing choppy calls or hearing echo. Why? Because network delay can turn phone calls into frustrating conversations very quickly. What do you monitor?

1. Use Cisco’s IP SLA technology to monitor key statistics between routers / switches: A: Jitter B: Packet loss C: MOS: Mean Opinion Score D: Latency using something such as ICMP
2. If your hardware supports it, activating NetFlow technology can help determine who is hogging the bandwidth. Although NetFlow was developed by Cisco, several other vendors support it as well.
3. Bonus: Use a Call Detail Records (CDR) reporting package to stay on top of call volume.

At a minimum, the VoIP monitoring systems should at least cover the first 2 above.

Steve Fulton
At the high-end, tools from vendors such as NetQoS tout optimal VoIP monitoring. "We can show on one page the volume of voice traffic, the impact of voice to your applications and the performance of, say, Cisco CallManager," said Steve Fulton - Senior Director of Strategic Alliances for NetQoS. NetQoS VoIP Monitor alerts on call setup or call quality problems.

It also shows you key network metrics, like packet loss, that are associated with those problems:

NetQoS VoIP Monitor alerts on call setup or call quality problems

Kenny Van Zant
On the lower end, there are vendors such as Solarwinds. "By using the Orion VoIP Monitor with Orion, network engineers have at their fingertips the essential data required to monitor the VoIP environment and correct any problems before they impact users, while also ensuring that all the other applications across the WAN are meeting expected service levels," said Kenny Van Zant - SolarWinds Chief Product Strategist. "The Orion VoIP Monitor module offers these valuable features while being low cost, easy to deploy, and easy to use."

Below is a screen capture from the Solarwinds VoIP Solution. Notice that it monitors MOS, Jitter, Latency and Packet Loss:

Solarwinds VoIP Solution Screenshot

Michael Patterson
While some vendors such as Solarwinds try to build does it all network monitoring frameworks similar to CA Unicenter, other vendors such as Plixer International urge companies to choose best of breed products and make them work together. "VoIP Monitoring is a big part of our new release as well as integrating with great products such as Solarwinds and WhatsUp Gold," said Michael Patterson – CEO @ Plixer International.

Below is a screen capture of the new Scrutinizer NetFlow & sFlow Analyzer v6.0 release:

Scrutinizer VoIP v6 Screenshot
Whether your enterprise is looking for a high-end, low-end or best of breed solution, Cisco’s NetFlow and IP SLA technologies can be part of a great VoIP monitoring strategy.

Are YOU monitoring your VoIP network with these techniques?

Contact Brad Reese

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