Is Your Network Ready for Video?

A Traffic Assessment Can Help Prepare for the Future of Unified Communications

Tim Allen

Over the past decade, many organizations have scaled their networks to meet the demands of emerging, data-intensive technologies. Whether it’s tracking geolocation data, analyzing customer feedback, or supporting increasing video traffic, many of these new technologies converge on a singular goal: to better serve customers and vendors with real time communication and information.

They often have the same demand, as well: a thoroughly reliable network that can handle an increasingly heavy workload. One huge bandwidth hog on any network is video. Video streaming is particularly important, as the network’s role has evolved from simply providing content (which isn’t always work-related, yet still consumes network resources) to being an essential platform for employees to communicate with colleagues, customers, and business partners. This is one of the driving forces behind the trend toward unified communications.

Network World‘s 2014 State of the Network survey shows that 23% of organizations had introduced desktop video conferencing by 2014, while 33% were considering or researching it. Though it’s increasingly a mobile world, only 11% of survey respondents had implemented mobile video conferencing as of 2014. However, nearly one-third (32%) are actively considering it.

To fully leverage the benefits of video for education, training, surveillance, and communication, organizations must ensure that their networks can handle video’s bandwidth-intensive demands. Otherwise, buffering delays and dropouts can seriously diminish the effectiveness of video and make real-time videoconferencing virtually impossible. Even the best unified communications tools can’t work if they aren’t properly supported by a competent network infrastructure.

One way to determine the enterprise’s ability to handle video is to just give videoconferencing a shot on the existing network. However, if a large organization with offices in multiple locations wants to use videoconferencing strategically, trial and error really isn’t advisable.

Better to use a comprehensive video traffic assessment tool that can send simulated video traffic from one switch or router to another switch or router elsewhere on the network. Deploying a video traffic assessment tool allows global organizations to test their networks’ support of video applications in a fraction of the time it would take to test actual video traffic to multiple locations.

By automating the process, video traffic assessment tools allow IT to gauge network performance under numerous conditions. Further, a good traffic assessment management console lets IT quickly assess the quality of the user experience through data analyzed during the simulations. This valuable reality check can save serious time and money, in addition to ensuring that your staff and customers have a full understanding of the competency of your network.