Your Time in the Sun: Learning & Leading in UC Managed Services

Jason Stepp
July 28, 2022
Blogs | Managed Services

I’m a Cisco CCIE, and somehow, I feel inadequate.

Let me explain.

Years ago, I FINALLY passed the CCIE! However, my two older brothers passed theirs first…and then they passed more. In fact, my oldest brother is CCIE x4, second oldest a CCIE x3, and I’m a CCIE x1. But who is counting? Being the youngest, it should come as no surprise that I landed in third place. But wait – there’s more! My best friend is also a CCIE x2. I can’t complain though, as one of the best things about being in the daily presence of experts is that you learn. As we enter the dog days of summer and the heat continues to rise, drinking from a proverbial “Cisco firehose” comes to mind.

In addition to my brothers and many colleagues that have always been willing to help, it’s been great working for VAR’s that understood the value of continuing education, obtaining industry certifications, and attending IT conferences. In traveling across the country and attending various bootcamps for the CCVP, CCIE R/S, and CCIE Voice, I’ve gotten to spend time and became great friends with other experts in the industry that have also provided invaluable knowledge, perspectives, and methodologies.

When you look back at your IT career, who has helped you achieve your goals? What have you learned? Which mistakes have you seen or personally made (and hope no one noticed!)? You might also ask others – what are some the mistakes you have seen or made in your years of experience?

If I have learned one thing, it’s to keep it simple. Putting in the due diligence in designing a simplified dial-plan is key to a successful UC implementation, troubleshooting, knowledge transfer, and ongoing support. Leveraging call-routing options such as SLRGs are very helpful in keeping CSSs, PTs, RPs, and TPs to a minimum. There will be unique scenarios, particularly migrations with existing solutions that have years or even decades of excess configurations that make your simple design approach an uphill battle. These excess configurations often accommodate less than ideal dialing habits and features that have since been sunsetted, yet support hasn’t received authorization to remove, and they must be carried over into the new solution.

While designing a UC solution, there’s a lot of information to gather not only on the existing dial-plan, software, hardware, telco circuits, end user features, and dialing habits but also on the fundamental thing your RTP traffic will traverse – the network. Overlooking the design and health of the existing network infrastructure can and, usually will, greatly impact the goal of a smooth project. Some usual suspects you should expect to see overlooked or modified without understanding their potential impact:

  • Clearly defined business outcomes and expectations from LOBs, business leaders
  • Clearly defined project owners, action items, and timelines
  • Clear communication to the business of the new solution and end user impact
  • Project owners PTO/OOO scheduling
  • BOM lead times, supply-chain concerns
  • Proactive activation of user license, software, support contracts, and entitlement
  • Assuming the IT infrastructure is sufficient
  • Network infrastructure redundancy
  • VM Host redundancy
  • L2/L3 QoS settings, L2/L3 device sizing, uplink capacity, and queue depths
  • WAN device sizing, link capacity for applicable codecs traversing LAN/WAN
  • WAN delay to protect UC app DB replication
  • Host CPU/IOPS sizing and requirements
  • Unreliable, unsupported NTP source
  • Unreliable, unsupported backup third party app and/or destination
  • Subnet sizing to reduce broadcast domain, reduce potential DoS attack footprint
  • Routed access layer for faster network convergence and less complex multi-cast
  • Disabling CDP for security hardening that disables VLAN advertisement to VoIP endpoints
  • VLAN pruning from network uplinks
  • Changing UC app license attributes…e.g., hostname, ip-address, DNS
  • Enabling non-licensed features, creating non-compliant license event
  • Exhausting undersized PVMD/DSP’s for media resources/transcoders
  • UC self-signed, private or public certificates expiring – especially public CA’s
  • Effective and accessible end-user training
  • Testing all aspects of UC DR plan to ensure call-processing and call-handling continue functioning at customers desired capacity

I asked about mistakes earlier because we’re human. We make mistakes, we do our best to avoid them and learn from them, and we do better next time. From the beginning of my career, I wanted to make the least number of mistakes possible and be just like the guys I looked up to the most – my brothers. They were well known Cisco Consultants that designed great solutions and made very few mistakes, if any. After designing and deploying with them, I saw how the diverse skill set they had built (and helped me build) laid the foundation for quality Cisco UC and campus network solutions, based on best practices for hundreds of customers both nationally and internationally. Along this journey, I’ve certainly gained a lot of visibility into, what to do and what not to do.

After joining the Converge Managed Services Team, it became obvious there’s a team of professionals and experts here too. Most engineers have 15+ yrs. experience, with some having worked and lead teams in one of the most well-respected global support organizations in world, Cisco TAC.

I also mentioned summer earlier, since just as taking time off, relaxing, and enjoying the warmer weather are key to any successful summer vacation, so is having the right UC Managed Services partner. Converge UC Managed Services is built on a well-established governance framework that is highly automated and will give your business leaders confidence and transparency in everything, from network operations concerns to application performance and potential security threats. When problems arise (and they will!), we know it is critical to provide you with clear and professional communication. So, that’s what we do – take on the hard stuff and problem solve from what we’ve learned in the past from the experts so you can sit back and relax.

Enjoy your time in the sun. Choose a mature UC partner – choose Converge!

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