Connectivity is vital to all businesses, and this has become even more important in recent times. With more firms turning to tools such as cloud computing to manage every aspect of their business, it's essential these services are able to function as efficiently as possible at all times.
Therefore, it's vital that companies are able to keep a close eye on the performance of these networks and take steps to address any issues. This is where Quality of Service (QoS) comes in.
What is QoS and why does it matter?
QoS refers to a set of technologies that are deployed to monitor and manage the performance of data traffic across a network. As well as ensuring that everything is meeting expectations, it enables businesses to identify and prioritize their most mission-critical data packets.
This is vital as not all network traffic should be treated equally. Some applications, such as voice or video, for example, demand real-time performance and any delays will have a significant detrimental impact. On the other hand, less time-sensitive packets are able to be delayed without affecting the performance of the organization.
A good QoS solution is therefore vital in identifying which data packets need to be prioritized and ensuring they don't run into bottlenecks caused by other data.
Why QoS monitoring is more important than ever
QoS has always been an important element of strong network performance, but it's become more critical than ever as firms become increasingly dependent on strong network performance.
For instance, increased use of cloud computing means that maintaining a fast connection with these servers is a must. This is a trend that has accelerated in the last year, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flexera's 2020 State of the Cloud report, for example, revealed that 92% of enterprises now have a multi-cloud strategy, while nine out of ten agreed their spending on cloud had exceeded previous expectations as a result of the pandemic.
At the same time, increased remote and hybrid working, again as a result of the workplace changes brought about by COVID-19, has also driven demand for strong networking. With employees spread around the country, or even across the world, ensuring they're able to connect with critical applications and speak easily to colleagues is essential in maintaining productivity.
4 metrics you need to pay attention to
But how do you measure this network performance? There are a range of QoS parameters that firms need to be looking at to understand their situation. Here are some of the most important you need to be monitoring:
- Latency: This refers to how long it takes a data packet to reach its destination. Ideally, this should be as close to zero as possible, as the greater the latency, the less effective real-time operations will be.
- Jitter: This is the variation in latency. In low-jitter environments, packets will take a consistent amount of time to go from A to B, but in high-jitter networks, some may arrive very quickly while others suffer delays. For tools such as voice or video, high jitter can lead to choppy user experiences.
- Packet loss: How many data packets fail to reach their destination, get duplicated or arrive in the wrong order? When networks become congested, hardware such as routers may struggle to handle all packets, directly leading to poor service levels.
- Mean Opinion Score (MOS): This is an overall view of how users perceive the quality of their network. It may be based on all the above factors, but it also includes a subjective measure of quality for voice and video.
These QoS metrics can be used to identify when and where slowdowns may be occurring. But having this monitoring information is only half the task - you also need to have the right tools in place to implement QoS policies and ensure your high-priority traffic is getting through as quickly as possible.
The tools to improve QoS
To do this, selecting the right QoS solutions is a must. These ensure that you can respond effectively and select the right packets to focus on.
A good QoS service should be able to take a proactive approach that can address issues before they appear. For example, most organizations will have certain times of the day when network traffic is heavier and bottlenecks are therefore more likely to occur. Predictive services can anticipate this and put in place solutions that can handle these peaks to avoid slowdowns.
Good QoS tools should be able to prioritize certain packets either based on the data type or traffic that has been directly identified as high-priority by the business. In addition, they need to determine which paths through the network will be most effective for an application and identify when and where to add bandwidth.
By automating these processes, businesses can rest assured their networks are performing to their full effectiveness and employees and customers always have access to the resources they need.