Hindsight May be 20/20, But Let’s Keep the Horses in the Barn – Part Two

The Significance of Proactive Monitoring to Minimize Negative User Impact and Optimize User Satisfaction

Matt Christopher

July 29, 2015

In our last blog post, we detailed the nightmare of trying to reduce user frustration with quick resolution of issues within your UC deployment. We walked through the 11 steps from system failure to user satisfaction. We let the realities of human latency and human error sink in. We painted a dire landscape with little hope.

Today, we bring the hope.

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Tools to Reduce Time to Resolution

In the previous model, the user held IT responsible from the time of user impact through user satisfaction and user trust, with each step extending the process and introducing human latency.   The process model assumed the IT Pro had, at best, the ability to look back through records to try and identify the moment in time of the failure and manually try and correlate system/network events to that timestamp. There are two levers the IT Pro can impact to reduce Time to Resolution: the number of steps and human latency. When considering IT Pro monitoring and diagnostics tools, it can be helpful to view them on a time spectrum from reactive to proactive.

Reactive

The least effective tools available are reactive. Reactive tools wait for user impact and the subsequent user report. Reactive tools put the IT Pro at a disadvantage from the beginning and have them scrambling to catch-up. Reactive responses are further hamstrung by the risk of inaccurate and dated information from the client. Finally, depending on the impact of the failure on the user (was it just an internal status check or did it potentially jeopardize a huge order with a strategic client), the bar for user satisfaction could be set higher and the scrutiny more intense.

There are some very effective reactive tools that capture every interaction and every modality in a UC deployment. IT Pros can be encouraged by the amount of information available to help identify the user-impacting event and the underlying outage. IT Pros can also be overwhelmed by the amount of data they have to sift through to try and uncover that event and the correlated causes. Reactive response should truly be a last resort.

Real Time

There are growing improvements in IT Pro tools that are alerting the IT staff as an issue is occurring and as users are impacted. Real Time alerts and responses bypass the user impact and user report steps and give IT a better starting point for a timely resolution in the eyes of the user. If IT can proactively notify impacted users that they are aware of the issue and working to resolve it, they can actually build a reserve of user trust that will make easier to re-establish user satisfaction after remediation. Furthermore, if the system is providing the real time alert, IT has a lot more detail on the incident, which makes the investigation into root cause analysis much more efficient.

With the SDN API, Microsoft has given IT Pro Tools partners access to more and more real time information about the health of a Lync/Skype to Business call. Companies like Nectar that leverage the SDN API can get in-call updates and alerts if call quality should fall below a certain threshold. Knowing the exact time of the incident and the parties involved, gives IT Pro tools partners a lot of very relevant information that they can pass on to the IT staff for proactive troubleshooting and resolution. Nectar’s UC Diagnostics (UCD) module correlates the real time SDN API data with real time data network routing information to point the IT Pro to the most likely source of the failure, whether that be within the Lync/Skype4B server infrastructure or the underlying data network.

Proactive

Although real-time alerts reduce the time from user impact to issue resolution, there is still a user impact. With any user impact, there is still need to rebuild trust and satisfaction, even if the path back is relatively short. Proactive alerts let IT Pros know that something is wrong with the environment without requiring a user impact. In fact, if the proactive monitoring is effective enough, the issue can be identified and resolved without any user impact at all. Proactive monitoring is continually evaluating the environment for potential issues or the underlying symptoms of potential issues. If a problem is discovered, the IT Pro is proactively notified through alerts/alarms. In addition to an early indication of an issue, proactive monitoring can lead to quicker root cause analysis because the alert indicates exactly where the perceived anomaly exists.

Nectar empowers IT Pros with 3 different tools that help proactively and constantly evaluate the UC deployment. Nectar’s Perspective module uses synthetic transactions to monitor the overall integrity of the underlying data network. With a simulated “call” that perpetually resets itself every 15 minutes, Perspective ensures that media and signaling can get between all monitored sites in an enterprise environment. Evaluating DSCP tags helps ensure that voice, video, and app sharing are getting their proper priority throughout the data network.   Nectar’s UC Foundation (UCF) proactively monitors server and service health. By constantly checking the Key Health Indicators (KHI’s) of Lync/Skype for Business servers and gateways, UCF can proactively alert if an underlying component (i.e. disk space or CPU utilization) is nearing a jeopardy state.   Finally, UCD is proactively evaluating the underlying network infrastructure.   If certain network thresholds are exceeded, UCD can proactively alert IT Pros who can work with the network administrators to ensure the network is properly routing voice, video, and app sharing traffic.

To take proactive monitoring one step further, Nectar is working with companies like Cisco and Sonus to leverage the SDN to identify network issues and proactively “inform” the network so that the network can automatically repair the configuration and/or reroute the impacted traffic.

Keeping the Horses In

Whether the enterprise prefers to maintain their own UC environment or trust a Managed Service Provider (MSP) with their health and availability, the proper IT Pro Tools are critical. Proactive and real time tools help reduce overall time to resolution and minimize the potential user dissatisfaction.

For More Information:

For more information, on Nectar and Cisco working together to fulfill the vision of using SDN for automatic remediation, see the Nectar Press release:

Nectar and Cisco Bring Self-Healing, Software Defined Networking to Unified Communications

For additional insights into the value of Proactive Monitoring and IT Pro Tools, check out the latest UCS white paper