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In collaboration with Dean Sanders, Brian Hollenbeck, and Balint Szmolka

Part 1 of a 2-part series. Part 2: Zeroing in on network performance issues, with ThousandEyes

 

When the Cisco global workforce went home to work in March 2020, we on the IT team suddenly had less visibility into the user experience. We couldn’t see anything from the laptop in the employee’s home to the Cisco network. So, if someone reported that Webex video kept freezing, for instance, it was hard to tell whether the problem came from the user’s wireless environment, internet service provider, VPN, the Webex service itself, or the laptop. The upshot: Cases took longer to solve.

 

Monitoring the actual user experience

We’re on the Customer Zero team. Our team uses new Cisco technologies (and tries new ways of using existing technologies) in production so we can share our experiences with customers. To gain visibility into the user experience for teleworkers, we decided to install the ThousandEyes Endpoint Agent on employee laptops and desktops.

The ThousandEyes Endpoint Agent gives us insights into teleworkers’ experience no matter where they’re working—at home or their favorite latte shop. It constantly collects user-experience information like page load times, service availability, wireless statistics, laptop CPU utilization, and more. And if a user opens a case but the issue disappears in the meantime, we can look back to when it happened to find the cause.

 

Even better—letting users check performance themselves

We wanted to start using Endpoint Agent ASAP, so we asked team members to install it themselves. To make it simple, we built a bot using the Webex API. Users just start a conversation with the bot in Webex, and then the bot walks them through the simple, one-minute installation process. Building the first version of the bot took just a week or two.

To give users an incentive to install the ThousandEyes agent, we enhanced the bot so that people who had installed the agent could check their network performance. Say that a teleworker notices that SharePoint files are opening slowly. By starting a conversation with the bot in Webex, they can display current local network statistics—including their own local wireless environment. They can also run a test to a service and immediately see the results, in far less time than it takes to open a case. Faster resolution for the user, one less case for us.

Teleworker Connectivity Status

 

Next steps: more eyes

We’ve started installing ThousandEyes on branch office workers’ devices in Australia, where people have already returned to the office. We’ll do the same in other offices as they open. We expect many workers to continue teleworking from home at least part time after pandemic restrictions ease. With ThousandEyes, if they notice any slowdown in their work applications, they can confirm their impression in seconds. Faster problem identification means faster resolution. And seeing what’s going on is empowering.

 

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Cisco ThousandEyes Activation Guide

ThousandEyes webpage

Five ways we’re improving telework with SD-WAN and telemetry