Operation: Fix the Collaboration Network Issues or You Get BUZZED!

When it comes to collaboration, there is no more personal, more immediate or more powerful modality than video. When it’s done right, video can create amazing experiences that connect people on a level that simply can’t be accomplished through voice alone. From conference rooms, huddle spaces and desktops to courtrooms, classrooms and hospital rooms, video has become pervasive in our work and personal lives.

Since the many benefits of video-based collaboration are apparent, it’s easy to understand why so many organizations invest significantly in technology platforms and services to enable it. And there’s no shortage of great tech gear focused on great video experiences. The market is full of fancy cameras, speakers, displays and other devices to enhance your user’s video experiences. In my experience, however, successful organizations look beyond the fancy gear and do the hard work to make sure the entire environment is healthy enough to deliver great video experiences.

For the many virtues of video, it does present some challenges to the professionals responsible for designing, deploying and supporting the environment. Often, IT teams approach a video project much like any other desktop or end-user technology. The research is done with a focus on vendor platforms and endpoint software & hardware. And while most people recognize that video has some high bandwidth requirements, the health and readiness of the network is easy to dismiss.

Some of the most dangerous notions I frequently encounter when people deploy new video solutions go something like this…. “oh, I’m not worried about the network, we have tons of bandwidth” or “our network was over-engineered, so bandwidth won’t be an issue.” Sure, it might be true, and your network might be running at a fraction of its capacity. But the funny thing about video is this displeasing knack it has for revealing every little pain point in an environment. It turns out that bandwidth is not the full story.

Quite literally, video is in your face. Any performance issues are acutely felt by end-users and, unlike voice, there’s decidedly less tolerance for subpar performance. We’ve all gotten used to having some level of garble or broken audio when we’re on a phone call. Despite the decades of great research and technology that came out of Bell Labs and early days of carrier networks to improve audio quality, the dawn of mobile communications erased much of that progress. The industry created an environment where the convenience of taking our phones anywhere trumped the end-user’s personal expectation for clear audio. However, take that same user and put them in front of a big screen in a video conference and suddenly, they expect the picture to stream as smoothly as a Netflix HD movie.  Any garble, frozen images or pixelated video ruin the experience. Again, much like a Netflix movie.

Just like building a new home or a putting on an addition, a successful video deployment is built correctly form the ground up. The health of a video session is based on the health of the underlying environment. At Nectar, we find it helpful to segment that environment into what we refer to as the 3 UC Health Domains: Platform, Network and Endpoint. If there is a problem in any of those three areas, video will certainly surface it.

The challenge for IT teams, however, is that organizational and functional boundaries often separate the health domains.  When a problem does arise, blame is quickly pointed at the video platform itself. From a user’s perspective, the experience is determined by the gear in front of them. Realistically, the issue could be caused by a problem in any one of the three health domains. To get ahead of issues and be able to address them quickly when they do arise, you need tools that can both help you figure out where the real issue is, and you also need proof that will help drive action towards a resolution, especially if that action is the responsibility of a different team.  To learn more about Nectar’s approach visit https://www.nectarcorp.com/nectar-10/.