The Definitive Guide on Monitoring Critical VoIP Infrastructure

VoIP and unified communications platforms have become the lifeline of how modern businesses operate, collaborate and serve customers. With the stakes higher than ever, gaps in visibility or performance of these mission critical systems can severely impact productivity and profitability.

According to an Nemertes Research study, 60% of organizations have experienced UC&C downtime in the past year. The average cost of just a single hour of downtime exceeds $100,000 taking into account revenue loss, wages paid to idle workforce and recovery efforts.

This guide covers the vital importance of monitoring VoIP deployments, the optimal tools that offer comprehensive visibility to maintain quality standards and actionable best practices for leveraging monitoring capabilities.

The Growing Risks: Downtime No Longer an Option

VoIP and Unified Communications have evolved from supporting browsing conveniences to now underpinning vital workflows from sales calls driving revenue to customer service calls preserving loyalty.

With the workplace undergoing an irreversible shift to distributed hybrid models, persistent, high-quality connections have become non-negotiable. Even minor glitches lead to abandoned calls that hurt brand perception.

On average, UC&C downtime lasts 96 minutes resulting in substantial business impact:

  • 62% of IT teams get complaints of choppy conference calls
  • 55% of organizations have call quality issues weekly
  • 87% report diminished productivity during outages
  • 30% experience missed business opportunities

As this data underscores, the reliance on real-time collaboration platforms has increased exponentially while tolerance for performance issues has dramatically decreased.

However, with a complex interplay of media gateways, codecs, protocols, endpoints and network conditions impacting call flows, troubleshooting of root cause often gets prolonged. This makes monitoring and measurement an imperative.

Why You Can‘t Manage What You Can‘t Measure

In traditional telco networks, proprietary hardware with physical redundancy along controlled routes ensured consistently reliable voice performance.

IP telephony however relies on standard IT infrastructure – web apps, virtualization, WiFi, VPNs – with no special treatment for voice payload. Dynamic demands can overwhelm capacity leading to degradation.

Additionally, with hybrid workplace models, tracking quality across home networks and internet links gets highly challenging.

This makes monitoring absolutely foundational to manage modern distributed environments. Active testing and analytics can offer total visibility resolving 85% of issues before users get affected.

Key Reasons VoIP Monitoring Delivers Value

  • Detect problems proactively with simulated call flows
  • Isolate root cause whether network, app server or endpoint
  • Validate capacity needs as usage and sites expand
  • Optimize configurations based on performance data
  • Meet user experience SLAs across infrastructure
  • Defend against cyberattacks with anomaly detection
  • Correlate UC health with business metrics

Monitoring platforms like Splunk, ServiceNow and Slack integrate with leading tools for seamless workflows and centralized visibility.

Leading solutions also provide advanced analytics to forecast capacity, model what-if scenarios and benchmark performance against industry standards.

The 8 Leading Tools for Every VoIP Monitoring Need

While free tools meet basic requirements, large enterprises need versatility, scalability and actionable intelligence as they battle complexity.

Here are 8 monitoring platforms with complementary strengths protecting VoIP environments end-to-end:

1. PRTG – The All-in-One VoIP Monitoring Tool

Paessler PRTG is the Swiss army knife for holistic monitoring offering unified visibility across physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure.

Key Highlights:

  • Auto-discovery and mapping of relationships between VoIP components
  • Customizable dashboards with drag-and-drop widgets
  • Curated metrics tailored to every component like SIP servers, SBCs, gateways
  • Intuitive visualization of real-time health, traffic load and call quality
  • Alert suppression and clustering for large scale deployments
  • Role-based access control for admins and help desk teams
  • REST API integration with BI tools like Power BI

PRTG elastically scales to monitor any number of sensors across sites, allowing growing deployments to consolidate instead of procuring multiple platforms. Pre-configured device templates accelerate rollout.

Pricing starts at $1,600 for 500 sensors and supports unlimited sensors for $5,900 per year. Free trial available.

2. SolarWinds VoIP Monitor – Purpose-Built for Optimized VoIP

Part of the SolarWinds VoIP & Network Management Suite, the add-on brings together metrics from active testing, traffic analysis and infrastructure monitoring.

Why It Solves VoIP Headaches

  • Real-time data on critical KPIs like MOS, jitter, packet loss and latency
  • Cisco IP SLA tracking with alerts triggered by SLAs violations
  • Historical reporting for baseline analysis and capacity planning
  • Network assessment tests for VoIP readiness
  • Mapping of complete call infrastructure showing health

SolarWinds overlays test data on infrastructure to pinpoint whether the app, network or server is causing perceived degradation. Advanced engine can model planned changes to forecast impact.

Pricing for the VoIP module starts at $2,520 per year with 30-day free trial.

3. ThousandEyes – Optimized for Cloud and Internet VoIP Reliability

ThousandEyes is built ground up to monitor performance of cloud apps and VoIP over the internet.

How It Ensures High Call Quality

  • Synthetic monitoring simulating user call paths
  • Industry standard quality scoring detecting impairment per recent standards
  • WAN performance visibility even across third-party networks
  • Isolation of packet loss and jitter to different networks
  • Detailed insights into Microsoft Teams, Zoom, 8×8
  • Alert integration and collaboration through Slack, ServiceNow

With endpoint agents deployed throughout the infrastructure, ThousandEyes can validate call quality along with availability of critical servers impacting setup. Powerful analytics isolate whether SBC, firewall or ISP link is responsible for a reported issue.

Pricing starts at $510 per month based on usage. Free trial available.

4. ManageEngine OpManager – Consolidated Monitoring Across Stack

The flaghship product from ManageEngine, OpManager excels in monitoring UC environments end-to-end from the app down to network layers.

What It Brings to VoIP Users

  • Single console tracking critical metrics like packet loss, jitter, MOS
  • Proactive alerts triggered based on dynamic or static thresholds
  • Cisco IP SLA tracking with comprehensive reports
  • Capacity planning, forecasting and "what-if" analysis
  • Custom topology mapping for visualizing call flow health
  • REST API integration to pull UC data into other apps

With support for grouping distributed sites and role-based access control, OpManager scales seamlessly across large organizations with complex architecture.

Pricing starts at $1,745 per year for the premium edition. Free trial available.

5. ExtraHop Reveal(x) – Leveraging Machine Learning for Anomaly Detection

Wire data analytics leader ExtraHop offers visibility spanning the complete delivery chain – network, application, infrastructure, endpoints.

Key Monitoring Capabilities

  • No agents required with passive wire data feeds at scale
  • Protocol analysis across media, signaling and directory layers
  • Anomaly detection identifying deviations from baselines
  • Service dependency mapping for faster root cause isolation
  • Decryption capability providing visibility into encrypted payloads
  • Custom metrics and reporting around infrastructure and call KPIs

Leveraging built-in machine learning, the ExtraHop system baselines expected call quality and throughput metrics to instantly detect anomalies indicative of emergent issues. This enables teams to gain an extra hop on problems before business impact.

Pricing is customized based on deployment size, data feeds and capabilities. Free trial offered.

6. Vyopta – Specialists in Unified Communications Environments

Vyopta is dedicated exclusively on monitoring availability and performance across collaboration platforms.

Why It Should Be Shortlisted

  • Consolidates metrics across leading UC apps into single dashboard
  • Synthetic call testing continuously mimicking user experience
  • Analysis of signaling and media flows with RTP packet capture
  • SLA and regulatory compliance reporting out of the box
  • Planning assistance through CPU, storage and VM capacity forecasting
  • Proactive alerting when preset thresholds get violated

Optimized for large, distributed environments, Vyopta scales seamlessly across multiple sites and hybrid deployment types. Multi-tenant support securely services monitoring needs of large managed service providers.

Pricing is quote-based with monthly and annual packages offered. Free trials available on request.

7. VoIPmonitor – Open Source VoIP Analytics

VoIPmonitor is an open-source monitoring platform useful for telecom engineers needing customizable visibility.

Core Capabilities

  • Capture protocols like SIP, RTP without needing decoding expertise
  • Dashboard customization with widgets for visualizing desired KPIs
  • Session playback allowing analysis of complete call sequences
  • Simulation capabilities to validate infrastructural changes
  • Built-in alerts when specific call anomalies are detected
  • Scalable through distributed polling architecture

With strong capabilities for filtering and analytics of signaling and media flows, VoIPmonitor simplifies session analysis for administrators. Role-based access controls improve collaboration while retaining confidentiality.

Licensing is available under open source AGPLv3 terms with paid annual support offered.

8. Wireshark – Packet Analysis for Diagnostic Troubleshooting

The well-established open source standard for protocol analysis, Wireshark decodes the broadest range of signaling and networking protocols.

How It Helps Triage VoIP Issues

  • Importshundreds of protocols with filters for easy analysis of VoIP flows
  • Expert information detecting possible call anomalies
  • Share reports and trace files securely with remote users
  • Command line interface enables automation and scripted actions
  • Role and module access controls aid managing user access
  • Thriving community for protocol insights and troubleshooting queries

Wireshark brings expert-level visibility into granular call transactions, equipping administrators to isolate issues for temporary workarounds until vendor patches arrive.

Licensing is available under GPL open source terms making Wireshark free to use.

Feature Comparison Between Top Tools

PRTG SolarWinds ThousandEyes OpManager ExtraHop Reveal(x) Vyopta VoIPmonitor Wireshark
Approach Sensor-based Add-on module Cloud-based Agent-based Appliance-based Collector agents Open source platform Open source packet inspection
Monitoring Method Deep packet inspection Flow analysis Synthetic testing Flow analysis, SNMP polling Wire data analytics RTP analysis, call detail records Passive tapping Expert analytics
Core Users Network teams Network teams App owners, NOC teams Network teams Platform engineers UC owners, MSPs Telco engineers Infrastructure engineers
Dashboards and Reporting Customizable drag-and-drop Pre-built reports Pre-built, customizable Custom reporting Custom reporting Customizable Customizable widgets Export in multiple formats
Quality Metrics Jitter, latency, MOS and more Jitter, latency, MOS Jitter, latency, MOS Jitter, latency, MOS Jitter, latency, quality scores Jitter, latency, MOS Jitter, latency, custom Expert details on impairment
Analytics Capabilities Baseline analysis, capacity planning Network assessment, capacity planning Path analysis, anomaly detection Forecasting, what-if analysis Anomaly detection, service dependency mapping Capacity planning Call pattern analysis Protocol decoding, expert information
Notifications and Integration Email, SMS, Slack, Webhooks Email, SMS Webhooks, Slack, PagerDuty Email, SMS, Slack Webhooks, ServiceNow, Slack Webhooks, ServiceNow, Slack Built-in alerts Community support

Actionable Best Practices for Maximizing UC Monitoring ROI

Getting optimal value from investments requires planning the rollout beyond installation to daily usage driving data-driven actions.

Key aspects to address:

  • Establish monitoring objectives tied to KPIs like MOS scores, issue resolution times
  • Define workflows for triaging alerts, collaborating across teams
  • Configure intelligent alerting with dynamic thresholds, deduplication
  • Develop escalation procedures clearly identifying personnel and actions
  • Add context to raw metrics with business and user impact
  • Use availability data to negotiate carrier SLAs
  • Reevaluate coverage as deployment footprint expands
  • Automate data ingestion into analytics platforms

Sample triage workflow for high-priority UC anomaly alert:

  • Level 1 NOC validates key user complaints to confirm issue
  • Level 2 UC engineer analyzes infrastructure metrics 5 mins before incident
  • Level 3 network engineer assesses bandwidth charts for anomalies
  • All data consolidated into RCA report and resolution checklist
  • Update provided to affected user base with temporary workaround
  • Completed post-mortem circulated across ops teams

This workflow demonstrates how alerts trigger a sequence of contextual actions across competencies for accelerated problem resolution.

Conclusion: Monitor Smart, Detect Quick, Resolve Fast

With businesses incurring over $100,000 per hour of downtime based on damaged productivity and brand reputation, the need for monitoring service assurance has skyrocketed.

Powerful tools that contextualize raw metrics into actionable intelligence are imperative for managing the phenomenal complexity of hybrid networks and keeping businesses running seamlessly.

PRTG, SolarWinds, ThousandEyes and the other leaders summarized offer complementing capabilities:

  • Validating end user experience with active testing
  • Continuous oversight through wire data and traffic flow analysis
  • Historic baseline comparison to detect gradual performance erosion
  • Workflow integration with collaborative platforms
  • Forecasting upgrades matching demand growth

This blended approach combining indicators of performance, utilization and availability provides fail-safe monitoring coverage across the delivery chain.

As UC platforms get embedded deeper across operations, the need for proactive signalling and rapid diagnosis of issues will be the key to defending productivity and profits.