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Importance of Real-Time Communications Monitoring

By callstats on May 25, 2021
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It’s been 5 years since we discussed the benefits of using callstats for webrtc monitoring and Why end-to-end monitoring for WebRTC is critical. We thought it would be nice to refresh how things have changed since the pandemic started. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic going to an office, attending classes or going to a concert in person became impossible for everyone, all of a sudden everything was virtual. Everyone was relying on Real-Time Communication (RTC) solutions like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or 8x8 Jitsi as a Service to keep running their everyday lives.

It was an important time for the Video Conference industry but also came with major challenges for the ones developing and supporting such solutions. Communications technology was no longer enterprise-oriented, where networks are usually under control and the vigilance of dedicated support teams. Now, this had to be used by everyone at home, like kids having virtual classes, parents having work meetings while someone was streaming a Netflix movie, playing Fortnite, or streaming on Twitch.tv or Discord. The amount of stress on the networks and the products unveiled a lack of planning and scalability, unmasked tech debt, and raised security concerns. For further insights on the impact, you should read our WebRTC Metrics Report titled: Impact on Media Quality During Shelter in Place.

Why is monitoring important

One of the most important revelations during Covid-19 for the IT industry was the lack of product usage visibility, i.e., the way end-users use their solution. Consequently, Product Managers building real-time solutions also struggled to understand who was using their technology and how the usage and network conditions affected the delivery of the service. Essentially, if a client would complain about not being able to run a video conference call, it would become a blame game while in reality, no one would have a single clue. 

When a problem is reported, it can be anywhere: the video conference infrastructure; a bug; not enough network capacity (bandwidth); incorrect devices setup; a streaming service hogging all the bandwidth; or badly configured corporate firewalls and poorly provisioned VPNs enforced by the employer or remote workers. Not to speak about the most uncontrollable element of all: the human.

Without network visibility, any troubleshooting attempt is pointless.

Personas

Great customer experience (CX) is the key to success for any business and this is where a good RTC monitoring solution can help. If your organisation agrees with that statement, it also needs to make sure the right people are using it the right way, or it might quickly overwhelm any user that doesn’t know what data needs to be looked at. To help RTC product organisations understand their needs better, we are describing the personas that could use an RTC monitoring system:

The Developer: the one who builds new features to the RTC product and needs to see on the fly how their improvements impact usability or service delivery. The Developer needs to know if any change will break things or improve the situation. This is usually the element of the organisation in need of more data granularity.

The Product Manager: has a broader vision of the product and the system around it. It also handles the infrastructure where the product is hosted, hence responsible for product scalability. The Product Manager will be looking to understand if the user experience is related to the geographic distribution of the system and benchmark the conditions wherever the product is running. Benchmarking allows the PM to launch in new locations and figure out quickly if it needs to invest more engineering and ops resources in a particular location or not. They monitor the network user experience, like the service provider, network type, the device that is being used, etc. In a nutshell, the Product Manager needs to mitigate the impact that the user environment can have on the service.

The Support Team: is on the front line, triaging tickets and handling customer feedback. Without the right tools, any troubleshooting attempt becomes a guessing game. The Support and Operations team will be looking to get real-time information about ongoing calls and comprehensive dashboards that can present meaningful data to help them act proactively instead of being reactive.

In Part 2: we will be discussing what data is important and should be collected.

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This blog post was contributed by Filipe Leitão, callstats' resident troubleshooting expert. Based in Germany.