Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UcaaS) tools have never been more in demand, as they’ve been the saving grace for major enterprises forced to upend their office-centric workflows in the face of a global pandemic.
But the real answer to “why the growth?” lays in the rapid advances to the quality and efficacy of UCaaS in general. Leading UCaaS providers have expanded their capabilities significantly in the recent past and stand to continue benefiting as the hunger for flexible and scalable unified communications (UC) in the enterprise grows.
Many teams may be reevaluating their go-to UC in the near-term, for instance, if their legacy provider let them down in the rushed work-from-home (WFH) transformation that hit enterprises in the spring. With UCaaS, teams can roll out new tools as needed, and plan more cost-effectively given the realities of their budgets in the “new normal” as WFH increasingly transforms into work-from-anywhere.
Ensuring the deployment of new solutions—or even just managing the performance quality of legacy tools—calls for comprehensive performance visibility to ensure that solutions meet users’ expectations for digital performance, which can be tricky to predict in a and work-from-anywhere world.
Unlike commercial connectivity, which is often backed up by ISP SLAs, most residential Internet access is delivered as “best-effort” where capacity is prone to fluctuate wildly for any number of reasons, and network availability isn’t always even a given. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been signing onto work from home over the past year; or really anyone who lives in a modern household riddled with connected devices.
But because these last-mile connections are so prone to disruption, UCaaS tools—which already require consistent capacity to deliver voice and video traffic—are among the most susceptible to poor performance in a WFH setting.
And while this “last mile” between the enterprise network edge and a user’s residential workstation is where the bulk of performance issues arise in the WFH era, there are a bevy of other stakeholders involved in delivering these apps out to remote users that could be the point of fault where UCaaS performance dips.
4 WFH Problem Domains
- Application Hosting Infrastructure: Whether this is the Microsoft Team’s PoP in the Azure Cloud, or the enterprise’s own cloud-based infrastructure, enterprise IT teams need outside-in visibility into the common environment hosting the UCaaS solution to begin understanding true performance from the end-user perspective.
- Transit backbone: Visibility into the mid-path network (ie. all the hops and hand-offs between the hosting infrastructure and the end-user’s local environment) is key so that enterprise IT can correlate performance over different paths to understand if issues only occur when specific autonomous system networks are in use.
- Last-mile ISP: To our earlier point, many residential users may not be getting what they pay for from their ISP and may simply have a poor link at their home connection. IT teams need a way to visualize if these connections are getting the upload and download speeds to support remote work success.
- Home environment (aka the last 50 feet): When issues occur, network ops teams need to be able to quickly understand the end-user experience–if users are wireless or wired, if there’s a crowded mess of devices fighting for network capacity, or even if a backup kicks off, bringing the host to a screeching halt. This final layer of visibility can often shine the greatest light on what’s hindering network performance.
Many teams are going to be logging in via residential connections for the foreseeable future, calling for IT to deploy comprehensive solutions that can pinpoint when and where issues take place in near real-time to ensure faster resolution. This will continue to be essential no matter what the future of work holds, as a focus on performance from the end-user perspective is essential in any enterprise setting.
While UCaaS providers have worked hard to beef up the efficacy and efficiency of their solutions to meet the needs of today’s enterprise workers, a strong network foundation is essential to ensuring these tools can perform to the best of their ability. This all hinges on the ability of enterprise to be able to visualize performance from the end-user perspective, wherever they are accessing workflows, at any time.