1. Perform a network assessment
Performing a network assessment is a crucial first step because it will inform the development of your subsequent QoS policies. A network assessment will give you valuable insight into the current state of the network and provide a baseline for the type of data being processed, as well as how much. This is the quickest way of identifying congestion areas, misconfigurations, and any other network problems that might affect the effectiveness of your end-to-end QoS deployment. A network assessment might, for example, help you identify outdated hardware that needs to be upgraded.
2. Identify priority network traffic
Once you’ve performed a network assessment and documented your findings, the next step is to consider which network traffic types are of the highest priority. This will include traffic types that are most important to your business, like protocols that perform dynamic routing activities. You should categorize data flows into specific classes, according to priority level.
3. Categorize latency-sensitive data flows
The next step is to categorize latency-sensitive data flows, including voice and video conferencing. This is also likely to include applications that are critical to the day-to-day operations of your business. Continue this categorization process until you reach data streams the network assessment identified as being inessential. General website surfing, for example, might be placed in the non-essential category.
4. Categorization should involve business leaders
This is a fundamental but often overlooked QoS best practice. Although it’s useful to involve network administrators with the categorization process, it’s of critical importance that business leaders drive application categorization. Business leaders will be able to provide insight into which applications are genuinely essential, while network administrators may only be able to speculate.
5. Consider eliminating non-essential data flows
If you discover certain data flows are non-essential, you should remove these data flows entirely. Eliminating this traffic will mean QoS doesn’t need to be used to drop this traffic when congestion occurs. This can alleviate bandwidth constraints without the need for QoS.
6. Apply QoS classes
Once you’ve broken down your data flows into categories according to importance and latency requirements, you’ll need to assign these applications to one of several classes. A QoS class refers to the policy configuration performed on network routers and switches.
7. Less is more
You might be inclined, at this stage, to configure an array of QoS classes to meticulously define QoS policies for each data flow type. In this case, however, less is more. One of the reasons QoS management is so complex is because of the sheer amount of time and resources required to maintain each class and its associated policies. The fewer classes you create, the easier the process of deployment and ongoing maintenance will be.
8. Apply QoS class identifiers
It’s best practice to identify and mark network traffic with a specific QoS class identifier as close to the source device as possible. In some instances, the application might be able to tag packets on your behalf, in which case you need to trust in the classification marking process. In other cases, you can configure network access switch ports so they identify data and mark it while it’s egressing the switch. These activities will increase demand on both RAM and processing power. As such, it’s also important that you monitor CPU and memory usage once a QoS deployment is rolled out into production.
9. Avoid political headaches
Because QoS requires the prioritization of certain activities over others, you may run into political repercussions within your organization. To minimize the impact of non-technical deployment obstacles, it’s important to address political and organizational issues as early as possible. To avoid disputes, keep communication lines open so everyone is on the same page.
10. Remember QoS is not a one-time setup
It’s important to keep in mind that managing QoS is an ongoing process. It will need to be monitored closely and audited regularly to ensure its functioning properly. You should perform regular network assessments on an annual basis so you can identify any changes in data flows and application usage.
11. Implement changes as necessary
This best practice is like the previous best practice—but also emphasizes not just monitoring but making changes as necessary. When conducting future network assessments, you should use the information acquired to perform network upgrades and re-categorize applications and QoS policies where appropriate. Remember you should think of QoS as fluid, not static.
The best QoS software for MSPs
For a robust all-in-one tool that also serves as a QoS solution, look no further than SolarWinds® Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM). This software features a tool called NetPath™, which assists network administrators with enhancing QoS. The NetPath feature uses advanced probing to detect the network path from a source server to a destination service, even when traceroute is unable to do so. This affords you in-depth visibility into critical network paths, whether they are on-premises, off-premises, or in a hybrid IT environment. NetPath helps you troubleshoot hot spots across your complete delivery chain, rapidly and efficiently.
NetPath also delivers advanced performance and QoS monitoring capabilities, notifying you of outages before they impact your users. With NetPath, SolarWinds RMM collects performance metrics and information on network connectivity between source and destination nodes. This gives you insight into the end-to-end performance experienced by a user and alerts you when packet loss and latency thresholds are breached.
SolarWinds RMM also offers the NetPath feature’s node and hop information, an online backup and recovery manager, and much more. RMM is easy to use and features a dynamic dashboard designed to simplify the experience of gathering and monitoring data. A 30-day free trial is available for MSPs interested in learning more.