VoIP QOS Network Monitoring and Pathview Cloud!

Trouble Shooting VoIP issues in a multi-site deployment is a challenge to even the most talented network engineer. It is often difficult to determine what is a voice equipment issue and what is an issue aggravated by a network conditions. As network engineer troubleshooting an issue, having access to network monitoring tools is essential. Sometimes we have to use the basic ICMP tool sets and ping our way through a trace route, but network connectivity is only one element of QOS related areas in a VoIP deployment. (Actually, it would be great if clients invested in putting network monitoring tools in place, but they only seem to appreciate their networks when something goes wrong)!

What is that we need to monitor anyway? We split the monitoring world into two basic camps: Flow based accounting and Health checking software. Flow based monitoring enables us to check the source/destination IP address; source/destination port; IP protocol; TOS and Ingress interface. This is helpful when you are trying to figure out what applications are running on your network and who is streaming real time media. Clearly important stuff, but at the end of the day, when it comes to logging into someone’s network remotely and trying to figure out why some remote user has garbled phone calls, there is nothing like an in place Health check!

When we talk about the “health” of the network we are interested in knowing about Bandwidth capacity, Loss, Jitter, Mean Opinion Score (MOS), latency and tagging.These are the words that make a VoIP engineer smile!Would it not be wonderful to log into your clients network and have this kind of history available between key end points of a multi-site deployment?Rarely, do I ever publically endorse a product but the folks Apparent Networks have gone out of their way to make their product available, useable and free!You need to stop what you are doing and download Path View Cloud, a host based network monitoring solution from Apparent Networks.

Not only is this software as useful as a button hole, but you can download a fully functional 5 node solution for absolutely no money! In previous posts, I have discussed the fact that, despite best practice, clients continue to attempt VoIP phone deployment over DSL through VPN tunnels! Path View Cloud enables you to collect real-time network health information about key endpoints in your network. Typically, it is the remote user or the WAN points that you are going to want to study. Path View Cloud enables you to create monitoring solutions that regularly report on health checks and trigger alerts when “violations” have been detected. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and you can see packets!

Path Preview status

Clearly Apparent Networks believes that offering 5 free nodes will get you to order more!The offer is, however, compelling and I can tell all you cheap, penny-pinching, tight wads that will not invest in network monitoring software, that you will sleep better at night with this Path View Cloud solution in place.Network and VoIP engineers and technicians, you need this arrow in your quiver to make troubleshooting more visual!

A VoIP Deployment will only be as good as your Network!

Remember those old SUN Microsystems commercials? “This is my dog, network. He can get you anything you need”. Well, regardless of the vendor, if you have a network that can barely keep up with user demand for internet access, you are definitely not going to have a successful VoIP deployment. This is why a network assessment is absolutely essential to the future success of your VoIP deployment. Let’s start at the lowest level of the OSI model and work up; cable or level 1. It is the 21st century but your company still has CAT3 cable in the office? This is not going to fly if you want to run VoIP do the desktop! How about those Ethernet switches you bought off eBay three years ago? Are they able to provide Power over Ethernet (POE)? Can you enable VLAN’s? How about interVLAN routing (switch many time, route once)? Ethernet switches and the functionality you need at L2 are mission critical in VoIP deployments. How about L3? If you are using your firewall for a router, you will need to know that “deep packet inspection” necessary to the functionality of a firewall, is a major source of latency in VoIP deployments, so find another default gateway! When you set up a WAN between your far flung, geographically dispersed business locations, will you have access to them? Or will you need to call your carrier every time you want to check your egress queue for QOS? At the end of the day it really will not matter if you went with Mitel, ShoreTel, CISCO, Avaya or Trixbox. If you do not have a properly engineered and managed LAN/WAN in place your VoIP deployment will suck and you will irritate your boss and alienate your users. Get both a network assessment and an ongoing monitoring and network plan in place, including an “acceptable use” policy before you deploy a VoIP solution.