Collaboration apps: Companies need better tactics to combat slowness

When it comes to collaboration apps, slowness is a big issue in the U.S. It's key to look into some previously unexplored tactics to combat this issue.

Application slowness and nonresponsiveness is enough to cause even the calmest of individuals to freak out with frustration.

One would expect that today's technological advancements would improve this issue over time. What with all the bandwidth increases in the United States, it would be natural to assume that app performance and quality would improve along with the growth. Unfortunately, this is an inaccurate assumption.

According to KillerApps 2013, an Ipanema-sponsored survey conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne, U.S. organizations, in particular, are still having high instances of network application problems.

From a performance perspective, more bandwidth is not going to fix these problems.

Bojan Simic,
analyst, TRAC Research

The 650 U.S. and European CIO and IT decision-maker respondents report that business-critical and collaboration applications are top performance offenders. But 69% of U.S. organizations report increased frequency of application slowness, more than the global average of 54%. So why is the U.S. reporting such heavy instances of app slowness?

Bojan Simic of TRAC Research was able to shed some light on the situation: "U.S. companies have a higher number of applications that they consider business-critical applications," he said. "The burden on the network is also higher, and the bandwidth numbers are higher in the U.S."

Additionally, it appears that 92% of U.S. respondents claimed that their companies' bandwidth requirements were growing by at least 10% per annum. Is this a tactic to combat slow app performance? According to Simic, if this is the case, it's not enough to positively impact these issues.

"From a performance perspective, more bandwidth is not going to fix these problems," Simic said. "Network traffic is very difficult to manage if you only add more bandwidth and if you can't prioritize types of traffic."

Having extensive management capabilities along with an understanding of network traffic, and then applying those skills, make a big difference, according to Simic.

"Having this level of expertise versus just increasing bandwidth is huge. Just increasing bandwidth can't be the answer for [app slowness]," he said.

When searching for solutions to these issues beyond bandwidth, the cloud might be an enticing option. The cloud is not a cure-all, however, due to the existence and continued usage of apps that are not cloud-compatible.

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"Only apps that were initially designed for [the] cloud typically perform well in the cloud," Simic explained.

Application slowness and nonresponsiveness has proven incredibly problematic and costly. So what can be done to fix these issues?

First of all, the way organizations measure application performance needs to become more universal and up to date. According to Ipanema's survey, measuring jitter, delay and packet loss are outdated forms of application performance measurement. User satisfaction of an application (or quality of experience), on the other hand, is always very telling. It's also important to keep in mind that different applications must be approached in a unique way.

"Monitoring user experience for VoIP and collaborative apps is a good way to measure application performance," Simic said. "If you look at business applications, a few seconds of delay is not going to make a big difference, but in terms of video conferencing or voice traffic, it is going to have a big impact."

Companies also need to start exploring modern tactics to combat application slowness, including using technologies and services that offer an increased amount of control over their networks. Heightened network control is what is going to guarantee application performance to the standards that users expect -- anywhere, anytime. Traffic prioritization is also an important piece to this puzzle.

"When it comes to being able to prioritize this traffic, you are dealing with different protocols and [sizes] of packets that are being used on the network -- many traditional QoS [Quality of Service] optimization capabilities are not going to be effective," Simic said.

What will be effective, Simic said, is a combination of network visibility, control and acceleration -- not just more bandwidth.

This was first published in June 2013

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