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Terry Slattery

Six Tips to Deploy a Quality Unified Communications System

In order to troubleshoot a unified communications system, IT leaders should have a written list of common problems and a description of how to resolve those issues.

A quality unified communications system depends on getting the implementation details right. Here are six tips to make a successful deployment happen.

Tip 1: Match the organization’s operations. The functionality of the unified communications system must match the organization’s operations. Frequently performed activities should be easy to use. Integrating collaboration functions such as voice and video conference calling means a single user interface can be used for both. The capability for chat rooms with document storage and long-term history may be needed by some parts of the organization. Look at how well these systems integrate with the voice and video systems that allow users to participate with a minimal amount of effort.

Tip 2: A unified dial plan. The dial plan should support ease of moves, adds and changes, as people move and change within the organization. Inside calling, outside calling and calling to mobile devices all add complications to the dial plan. A well-planned and implemented dial plan can facilitate smooth operations, which reduces the amount of time the staff must spend on implementing changes.

Tip 3: E911 tracking. Use tools to facilitate the tracking of E911 database details. Tracking wired locations is relatively easy, but it does require an initial investment to record the required data. First-responder organizations prefer the database to be as detailed as possible. In the old days, a street address was acceptable, but the preference today is for floor and office identification.Additional complexity comes from the prolific use of wireless and virtual private network connections that support mobile devices and soft clients. Verify that the E911 database management tools can support these types of connections. A high-density Wi-Fi deployment may be needed to achieve full coverage with the desired resolution.

Tip 4: Understand the UC system. When some part of the unified communications system is having problems, you need to understand the design, operation and troubleshooting of the system in order to identify and correct problems efficiently. For instance, what testing and diagnosis needs to be performed, and where should you do it?Problems with call setup are quite different than problems with garbled or one-way conversations. A cloud-based unified communications system will have quite different troubleshooting processes than an on-site system. Ideally, you should have a written list of common problems, the diagnostic steps to take and a description of how to resolve the problem.

Part of basic understanding is a baseline of operations when the system is functioning correctly. An active analysis system that monitors real calls or creates synthetic calls can provide an early indication that a problem is occurring, often before end users are aware of it. Even better, these systems can monitor non-UC traffic paths.

Tip 5: Manage user licensing. Keep a lid on costs by reallocating unused licenses. You may need tools to help identify important endpoints that need licensing, but have infrequent use. Tie the UC system maintenance process into the HR onboarding and offboarding process to allocate and reclaim UC licenses as staffing changes occur. Conduct periodic usage checks to identify endpoints and licenses that have no usage over the period, and check these licenses against your database of important endpoints. You don’t want to remove a license from an emergency-use phone in a remote part of the organization.

Tip 6: Verify network design and stability. The unified communications system depends on the underlying network infrastructure for its communications, so a highly available network is needed. Does the design include redundancy for critical components and paths? Have you conducted outage tests to verify system failover processes work as designed? Yes, conducting an outage test is risky and takes a lot of planning. But having the system fail due to a simple oversight of some minor component is not likely to be acceptable to organization executives.

Look for sources of stability problems. Networks that have large Layer 2 — bridging — domains can cause UC outages for significant parts of the organization due to spanning tree loops. Validated network designs are readily available to avoid these types of failures.

Finally, the network should facilitate predictable delivery of voice and interactive video traffic. Big data transfers should not adversely affect real-time unified communications.

Prioritize UC Deployment Repairs

Perform a unified communications system health check to identify deficiencies in the above areas. If you have trustworthy expertise in-house, it can be done by the existing team. Start by correcting the easier deficiencies to show early wins, while you work out how to tackle the more challenging items. Of course, if a particular problem has been causing issues, it may be given higher priority. In some cases, consultants may be needed to perform corrective action in a short time frame.

To read the original blog post, view TechTarget’s post here.

Terry Slattery

Terry Slattery

Principal Architect

Terry Slattery is a Principal Architect at NetCraftsmen, an advanced network consulting firm that specializes in high-profile and challenging network consulting jobs. Terry is currently working on network management, SDN, business strategy consulting, and interesting legal cases. He is the founder of Netcordia, inventor of NetMRI, has been a successful technology innovator in networking during the past 20 years, and is co-inventor on two patents. He has a long history of network consulting and design work, including some of the first Cisco consulting and training. As a consultant to Cisco, he led the development of the current Cisco IOS command line interface. Prior to Netcordia, Terry founded Chesapeake Computer Consultants, which became a Cisco premier training and consulting partner. At Chesapeake, he co-invented and patented the v-LAB system to provide hands-on access to real hardware for the hands-on component of internetwork training classes. Terry co-authored the successful McGraw-Hill text "Advanced IP Routing in Cisco Networks," is the second CCIE (1026) awarded, and is a regular speaker at Enterprise Connect and Interop. He currently blogs at TechTarget, No Jitter and our very own NetCraftsmen.

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