The videoconferencing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years due to the increase in hybrid work, with data demands higher than ever to support more online meetings.
Before the global pandemic, most meetings took place internally and were handled by robust on-premises networks. The rise of cloud-based meeting and collaboration technologies, like Zoom, are moving those demands onto the organization network — specifically, the public side of companies' internet usage. This puts bandwidth strain on network infrastructure, causing IT teams to reconsider how to build a network that can handle the new requirements.
Live videoconferencing is conducted through the transfer of data packets sent constantly in real time, which creates a tremendous workload. Every packet must be sent and received quickly and in the proper order to deliver a quality audio and visual experience. The real-time aspect of videoconferencing makes it a more intensive activity for the network because, unlike streaming audio and video, there's no buffer to safeguard against packet loss and the resulting drop in quality via jitter, lost audio, and other disruptions.
The good news is almost any organization network operating successfully prior to the pandemic can handle current audio and video demands with little, if any, modifications. The basic framework to keep in mind is that a typical video call between two points will use about 2 Mbps up and 2 Mbps down for both sides' internet bandwidth. That guideline gives enough breadth of data transfer to make sure the call runs smoothly and minimizes the likelihood of quality loss or other problems IT departments would need to solve.
Beyond that basic two-point call scenario, when thinking about a network that can meet today's needs, most industry experts suggest planning for 5% concurrent utilization — or 5% of the employee base needing to be on a videoconferencing call at any one time. That framework — along with an additional 10% cushion to ensure proper call signaling and packetization — can help an organization determine its hybrid work requirements without going overboard and paying for expensive bandwidth capabilities that go unused.
To handle the modern needs of a stable network, organizations need to prevent disruptions, stay informed on quality issues that impact user experience, and monitor overall usage to make sure bandwidth needs are met.
Most cloud-based unified communications tools, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, have data and analytics toolkits to track down information on poor calls. But outside solutions can also look at parts of a multivendor environment simultaneously.
With information on latency, packet loss and jitter in hand, IT teams can turn to a variety of remedies, such as using TCP acceleration or common internet file system acceleration, to address latency issues. A common solution for packet loss problems is using dynamic path controls to help packets move through the most efficient path possible so they arrive when and where they're needed.
Those in charge of the data network can also establish bandwidth allocation protocols that create a hierarchy of importance for different streams of data traffic. They can use the organization's local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN) to place the highest priority on traffic serving the videoconferencing platforms most often in use. Then, other traffic won't be able to use up the bandwidth needed to ensure high-quality voice and video calls.
Designing quality of service (QoS) policies is also an important step in creating a modern network. Starting at LAN access points, it's possible to tag an application's packets so other devices on the network place the right priority on those packets as they move in and out of the network.
Network slicing is another method for ensuring a good user experience while videoconferencing. This method separates distinct traffic streams to ensure they never intermix or use bandwidth needed for other uses. Slicing allows IT teams to allocate the appropriate amount of network capacity to each use stream, without needing costly reserves of bandwidth available at all times.
For instance, when significant disruptions occur, one immediate step to prevent video calls from dropping altogether is performing an override to lower video quality levels down to 720p or 360p. Individual users can possibly remedy the situation by unplugging unneeded devices and quitting unused open applications that put excess strain on their computers.
By following these tips, an organization can ensure a smooth network experience for its users, avoid disruptions and keep uptime at an all-time high. And with the right videoconferencing equipment, organizations can help employees collaborate from anywhere as if they were sitting together in the same room.