Regular Checkups for Healthy Communications

by Andrew Prokop | Arrow Systems Integration

Source: No Jitter

"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today."
-Abraham Lincoln

I am the first to admit it. I don't like going to either the doctor or the dentist. It makes me uncomfortable when someone stares into my ears, up my nose, or into my mouth. I don't like being poked, prodded, and told to "turn your head and cough."

However, I do recognize the value of catching problems early in their lifecycle. I know far too many people who waited to see a healthcare professional only to find out that their nagging pain in the stomach was a very serious matter. So, despite my discomfort with blood pressure cuffs and tongue depressors, I understand and appreciate preventive medicine. It's much better to suffer minor discomfort now than deal with a life altering issue after it's too late.

While the health of your communications system may not be as important as the health of your body, it too needs regular checkups and potentially, adjustments. Like your little aches and pains, temporary lapses in service or poor voice quality can be signs of something much bigger. Ignoring a problem, hoping it will go away on its own isn't a good strategy ... whether we're talking about humans, software, or machines.

The Neck Bone's Connected to the Thigh Bone

Like the human body, your communications system has a lot of moving parts. At the core is some form of call processing engine. This is the server that manages users, features, access elements, and peripherals. Surrounding the core are adjunct servers that provide everything from voice mail to contact center functionality. Access elements, such as trunks, connect your system to the outside world. Soft, hard, and mobile endpoints provide unified communications to your users. Finally, management tools allow administrators to configure all these discreet components into a cohesive whole.

With the advent of IP communications, it would be foolish to ignore the underlying network that connects all these pieces together. This includes routers, switches, wireless controllers, and even the cabling that runs through floors, ceilings, and walls.

Every one of these pieces plays an important role in delivering communications in and out of an enterprise, and the tiniest failure can sometimes create major headaches. One bad or improperly configured port on a data switch can be all it takes to bring your voice traffic to a grinding halt.

Regular Checkups

My experience has been that a communications system runs at its peak performance around six months after installation. All the initial integration glitches have been worked out, and the configuration is as pure as it will ever be.

As time goes by, however, the flaws start to appear. New servers are added, and new services are fired up. Your once pure configuration has been muddied up by different administrators, each with his or her own unique ideas on maintaining and enhancing the system. Software and firmware become out-of-date, and components are upgraded independently of each other. New trunks and endpoints are added. Contact center managers add additional call routing options. Network components are swapped in and out without consulting the telecom department.

That previously well-oiled machine now spurts and sputters. Voice quality suffers from noise, echo, and worst of all, one-way audio. Calls drop unexpectedly or won't connect in the first place.

A Collection of Parts Make Up a Whole

I sat down and thought about all the places that can start out right, but over time, work their way to wrong. This includes hardware, software, configuration, and practices.

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