The videoconferencing industry has long been at the mercy of the network. There are a number of network variables that could affect the performance of a videoconferencing solution. Unfortunately, not all of these variables are immediately apparent to the user. If email and the web are working, we assume the network is up. If videoconferencing fails because of something less obvious (blocked firewall ports, bad TCP speed, bad UDP speed or loss, bad TCP latency and jitter, bad UDP latency and jitter, etc), users can’t be expected to troubleshoot. A likely result is that they will assume that VC still isn’t ready for prime time, and go back to using the telephone as their primary communications for the next 2-5 years.
Therefore it becomes incumbent upon the video provider to help identify and remedy any network issues that could be effecting the video call experience. It doesn’t matter if all user complaints are 100% due to network issues, and the VC solution itself is operating as it should be. The end result is that users go back to the phone and choose not to renew their VC service. This isn’t about blame, this is about the VC industry’s inherent need to do whatever is necessary to ensure an exceptional call experience, to ensure adoption.
There are some publicly available websites to test your “network speed.” While these sites can give a little more than basic “up or down” status, they can’t provide enough information to troubleshoot at a service provider level. However, I recently learned of a solution which is designed to address this very issue. I spoke with Dave Patterson, co-founder of Firebind, to learn more about their SpeedSight solution.
There are a few interesting things about SpeedSight. One is that it provides a customized test based on the service in use. The best way to understand it is to see for yourself by taking a few of the tests offered by their free demo. As you can see in their library of demo tests, they can provide a large variety of customized tests, based upon the needs of the solution in use. In the list you will see some familiar names from our space, as well as a few videogame services (another network sensitive industry). If you click on any test, it will check not just the basic connection status, but how the connection behaves under conditions typical to the specific service. In other words, if your video service generally uses a 768 stream through TCP port 443 and UDP ports 5000-10,000, SpeedSight will send a test stream along those parameters.
SpeedSight offers not just customization, but raw horsepower, as it is the only solution of its kind that can run the full range of diagnostics over the complete set of 65,535 ports. This is a significant differentiator, as the video industry is anything but standardized, and many solutions treat their video streams in completely different ways. SpeedSight’s raw horsepower sets it up as a ready platform for literally anyone offering cloud video services in this rapidly expanding space.
A SpeedSight test is clearly preferable to a basic internet “speed test”. The much greater level of customized detail will obviously help diagnose and troubleshoot any network issues. But to see its real value you need to put it in the context of a fully integrated and white labeled partnership. I spoke with Joe Mukherjee (VP, Technology & Operations | Telemerge Canada), to learn how one such partnership is paying off. Telemerge has been providing cloud services based out of Toronto for 12 years, and offers a cloud based video collaboration on a subscription model as well as on-prem options. They are notable for being the only Canadian provider with a Cisco TPaaS certification.
Telemerge and SpeedSight have been working closely together on the integration and customization of the test suite. In fact, the current version of SpeedSight has elements that are direct results of Telemerge enhancement requests. The result is an even better tool for both Telemerge, and similar cloud video providers. It should also be apparent that the SpeedSight team is ready to provide that level of engagement to all of its partners.
Telemerge is using SpeedSight not only re-actively at the helpdesk, in order to trouble shoot user complaints, but to proactively perform sweeps and tests of their customer’s commonly used call routes. Even more forward thinking, they are using it to accelerate the pre-qualification process for new customers. From a Telemerge sales perspective, it is a nice asset to be able to open up a browser from a customer’s location, go to a Telemerge branded, highly customized, network test to immediately validate the customer’s network (green for go, red for no), or see if there are any issues. Take a minute to check out the Telemerge branded network test to see how Telemerge has leveraged SpeedSight to create a sophisticated, branded, highly customized, network diagnostic tool.
Finally, while talking to Dave, and learning about SpeedSight, we did get into some deep technical discussions. I have tried to keep this article at a more reader-friendly level, but if the IT people on your team are interested in how this all works and wants to see a little more, have them watch the video below.