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Monitoring the Quality of Skype Connections

Many B2B communications especially when connecting outside of the country are done with Skype? How are companies monitoring the quality of Skype connections?  You might be thinking to yourself “companies don’t because the connection involves the internet and the quality is out of their control”.   This is of course a good point however, wouldn’t you like to know:

  • the volume of Skype connections
  • who is using it the most
  • when and how is the quality when they use it

Does the time of day or location they are trying to reach matter?

The answer to these questions may motivate the business managers to advise employees to use plain old telephone service (POTS) when making calls to certain countries.  It seems silly to continue trying to use Skype if 85% of the time the connection quality is terrible when placing calls to Peru. Certainly Skype has its place in the business world but, there is no sense scheduling an important conference call when history has shown that Skype doesn’t work to some locations.  If the video quality is going to stink and the voices choppy, why risk this type of connection on an important call.  How can you find out?

What makes monitoring Skype difficult is the very nature of how it makes connections and communicates with peers out on the internet.  It behaves suspiciously like a typical peer to peer application.  For this reason, I suggest enabling Cisco NBAR2  on your routers as it will accurately decode Skype connections from the plethora of other applications leveraging exactly the same ports on the network.  NBAR2 alone however, will not provide all of the metrics needed to baseline Skype traffic.  You will want details on average connection/call latency, jitter and packet loss.  To gain these metrics, you’ll need to add Cisco Performance Monitoring exports to your Flexible NetFlow configuration.

Once the NetFlow exports are being picked up by the Linux NetFlow Collector (or windows based), you can run reports to find out how much Skype is on the network and even drill in to see all the users leveraging Skype for a specific time frame or narrow in on a particular user’s connection.

Cisco NBAR2 NetFlow

Loaded with the above information, business managers can get a solid idea on when and where Skype is working to conduct business.  A little technology on your existing Cisco routers helps remove the guess work.  All you have to do is enable it and find the right NetFlow Solution. While you’re at it, attend a Cisco NetFlow Training seminar and make sure they are one of the authorized Cisco NetFlow partners.