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When Your Collaboration Infrastructure Starts Making Odd Noises

December 9, 2013
at 12:53 pm PST

If your car is overdue for a tune-up, it may let you know in unexpected (and unsettling) ways — rough handling, sluggish acceleration, and even an odd (“that can’t be good”) noise from under the hood. If you’re like me, you don’t want to find yourself waiting on the side of the road for a tow truck. You schedule your car for regular tune-ups to make sure your tires aren’t worn, the wheels are aligned, no fluids are leaking, and the engine is performing to the right specifications.

Just like your car, a collaboration infrastructure needs regular tune-ups. In fact, just like your car, a collaboration infrastructure will let you know that it’s not running optimally. But by the time you actually notice the performance problems with collaboration applications, the odds are that those problems have already started causing issues with your end-users.

Traditionally, optimization has been looked at (even by Cisco in the early days) as the final step in the deployment cycle. But IT projects queue up so fast that optimization for the last project may not happen because the next project is already underway. Today, however, we look at optimization in an entirely different light.

  • Optimization is not a single “once and done” task: it is actually a collection of activities that are useful at many stages due to ongoing changes in the network, applications, and usage patterns
  • Optimization is not an “end of the line” activity: like a periodic tune-up, optimization is designed to keep the network from needing repairs; so think about it when you first deploy, and make it part of an ongoing operational routine

Many things can affect the performance of your collaboration infrastructure. Deploying a new application or acquiring a company are likely culprits, of course.  But some changes can cause problems slowly, over time, such as a steady growth in mobile users and devices. The effect of these changes can also range from subtle to severe. Applications may be more sluggish — an insidious irritant that is likely to grow into a vocal complaint. Poor audio or video quality can cause a spike in urgent help desk calls, depending on the business transactions affected.

Sometimes the challenge of optimization is about people, process, and culture, rather than the technology itself. Your platform may be running at peak efficiency, but you can still have a user adoption issue that translates to an under-utilized infrastructure.

A routine practice of optimization, based on a best practice process, can predict or catch these types of problems early on. Assessments are an important part of such a routine optimization strategy. Generally speaking, you want to assess on a periodic basis, not just when the signs of problems are already noticeable and disruptive to business.

Download Cisco’s Collaboration Services white paper “Tune-Up for Peak Performance” and determine if your environment is vulnerable to trouble spots brewing in your collaboration infrastructure. It should provide you with some interesting insights on whether you’re on the right road to optimization, or whether breakdowns may be in your future.

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