Keeping it Real Time - Optimize Your Network for Video
by Nate Lee, Director, Technical Operations
More workplaces are discovering the benefits of collaboration without regard for physical location as IP-based voice and video conferencing fast become the choice for communication both across the building and across the world. Fuze is opening the door for teams to collaborate in entirely new ways by democratizing the ability for knowledge workers to share documents simultaneously while communicating using voice and video.
A side effect of the rapid uptake of voice and video is the need to manage the increased traffic they generate in order to provide a top-tier experience. To that end, we’ve put together seven tips to optimize your network for real-time communications to ensure your team’s experience using Fuze is the best it can be.
Make sure your network is voice and video aware
Voice and video are real-time services, which means even small delivery delays can impact quality. You can minimize these issues by ensuring your network hardware supports some level of understanding about what traffic is on the network and then being able to act appropriately to prioritize it. Commonly known as Quality of Service (QoS), this feature is found on all modern business-grade networking equipment. Without it, the network has no way of determining the difference between the CEO’s board meeting call and John from accounting downloading adorable cat videos.
Don’t over complicate things
Once you have the correct hardware, don’t be tempted to classify every different thing on your network. The added complexity of micromanaging flows will be something you have to maintain across all your devices and leaves more room for configuration errors that could degrade quality. QoS can dramatically improve voice and video services, but generally won’t make much of an impact elsewhere. If you find QoS necessary for your other services, you should really consider provisioning more bandwidth instead (See below).
QoS is not a replacement for bandwidth
When it comes to your internal network, look into upgrading bandwidth if you have problems with link saturation. QoS will help ensure video and voice stay high quality when there is congestion, but this will come at the expense of bandwidth for other services on the network. With the cost of switches sporting 10 Gig uplinks coming down every month, valid excuses for saturated LAN links are fading quickly. On the other hand, if you find that your WAN links are saturated, upgrading bandwidth will save you a lot of headaches and be cheaper than spending engineering time on a complex QoS policy.
Remember … when it comes to the Internet, you can prioritize your traffic as it goes out to your ISP to ensure real-time services take priority at your edge, however, the return traffic from the internet has no such functionality. If you find yourself oversubscribed, your ISP will drop packets at their edge before they ever make it to your border routers or firewalls, resulting in poor call quality.
Don’t forget branch offices and remote users
Although it can be easy to forget that you have a customer care department in Saskatoon, even the remotest of sites need to be included in the planning when it comes to ensuring voice and video quality. Making sure you have a high-quality carrier (or better yet, multiple carriers) is key. Voice and video are unforgiving when it comes to poor network connections and no amount of QoS will save you if your ISP provides flaky service. This is especially true the further you go from major metro areas, where fiber is not an option and the copper that Internet tends to be delivered on can be quite old. In many cases branch office and VPN internet access is backhauled to a central office before going out to the internet. This can cause additional latency and create an issue with location aware services because the customer’s egress IP address is used to determine which of our data centers the request should be served out of.
Count on failure
Even the best ISPs encounter problems sometimes however that fact should not impair your remote collaboration capabilities. Keeping multiple ISPs at each site ensures continuity in the event of a disruption. The better routers and firewalls can do more than simply check that the ISP cable is connected, they can actually measure the quality of the route to a given destination and act appropriately based on this information. If you go the multiple ISP route, be sure to keep enough bandwidth available from each provider to handle the increased load in the event of a failover.
Get a wireless site survey
If your users are like most and tend to favor laptops, tablets and phones, be sure to have a proper wireless site survey done so your access points can be placed appropriately and in adequate quantity. Interference or oversubscription that may be benign when web browsing can be disastrous to a voice call.
Let the traffic flow
Fuze works best when UDP ports are allowed outbound from your location. By utilizing UDP instead of TCP as the protocol of choice for sending real time media, we are able to provide extremely low latency, bidirectional audio and video. Although we always try UDP first, if Fuze detects that UDP traffic is blocked, we’ll fall back to TCP to ensure your meeting goes off without a hitch.
Real-time voice and video on today’s networks require more intelligence than could be provided by the “first-come, first-served” model of the past. Ensuring your network can prioritize the proper traffic is critical if you want to guarantee your collaboration strategy is successfully executed. Here at Fuze, we’ve prepared a guide with suggested firewall settings and have engineers available to help you formulate a QoS plan that works with your network.
We are here to help. If you have questions or want to discuss optimizing your network for video, reach out to us at Success@fuze.com.