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VoIP user experience tested

Most VoIP monitoring is focused on quality of service, but one new company is taking a different tack and looking at the quality of experience.

When it comes to VoIP, video and other multimedia, the focus is on Quality of Service (QoS) to gauge a system's performance.

QoS is typically confined to letting network managers test how packets traverse the network and how the IP network is performing. Yesterday, however, Psytechnics announced a different approach to measuring the quality of voice, video and other forms of unified Communicationss. The company's Unified Communications Experience Manager picks up where QoS leaves off, measuring the quality of experience (QoE).

According to Benjamin Ellis, Psytechnics' marketing vice president, enterprises and managed service providers can overcome some of the challenges of voice, video and other IP applications by managing QoE. The Unified Communications Experience Manager identifies critical issues affecting voice quality, such as noise, echo and distortion. It also evaluates QoS to help bridge the gap between legacy solutions and IP networks.

"VoIP is typically guilty until proven innocent," Ellis said.

Changes in call or voice quality can be detected before they become a problem, he said. The Unified Communications Experience Manager can make a call or send video across the network to gauge quality, or it can look at the streams and analyze them based on VoIP quality standards, speech patterns and voice quality. Both sides of a conversation can be looked at for noise and distortion.

Network managers can set quality thresholds and receive an alert when call or voice quality slips to a given level. All metrics can be viewed in a Web-based GUI. The Unified Communications Experience Manager can also integrate with most major management platforms to remedy problems.

Yankee Group associate analyst Vanessa Alvarez said, however, that although understanding and managing the quality of user experience is an interesting way to look at voice quality issues, it may struggle to find a home in the enterprise, especially since many management solutions, such as InfoVista, have similar ways to measure quality.

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"While I like what this product does, I don't find it scalable in the enterprise," Alvarez said.

Where the Unified Communications Experience Manager falls short, she said, is that it identifies problems with voice experience but doesn't offer ways to fix the problems it points out.

"The more testing and monitoring becomes essential for the enterprise, the more they will look for a solution that can identify and fix the problem," she said. "I think that it may have some interest in the enterprise, but my problem with Psytechnics is that while they notify that there are problems, it doesn't go any further than that."

Alvarez said a system like the Unified Communications Experience Manager has to be embedded in another network management solution to be useful, but most network management tools can already identify VoIP quality issues. She added that some companies may look to Psytechnics for a sort of second opinion on voice quality.

Ellis said that identifying the problems as users are experiencing them, not just as they are found on the network, is a new way to enhance VoIP and video services.

"It is essential to have the tools that can identify and isolate quality problems to protect investments and speed deployment," he said. "Our decision to provide an all-in-one QoE management platform, [which] includes both voice and video capabilities, enables customers to make a single QoE investment to maximize their ROI."

The Experience Manager supports integration into several management solutions to support service-level agreement monitoring, augment fault management, and enable click-to-view diagnostics.

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