The Current State of Microsoft Cloud-Based Call Analytics

Microsoft Teams continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and nearly every company who currently runs on-prem Microsoft Skype for Business deployments are investigating the feasibility of moving their UC infrastructure to the cloud.

While moving UC workloads to the cloud eliminates the need for most (if not all) customer-owned server hardware, UC media still must traverse the customer network. Since the network is one of the major causes of poor call quality, customers still require advanced troubleshooting capabilities.
Microsoft does provide some basic call analytics in Office 365, but there is much room for improvement. As such, many 3rd party vendors (including Nectar, the company I work for) are keen to fill the gaps. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion and misdirection in the marketplace about what is possible with 3rd party call analytics in Office 365 UC platforms.

Skype for Business Online

Even though Skype for Business Online is being deprecated in favour of Microsoft Teams, there are still many customers who have not made the transition. As mentioned previously, Microsoft does provide some limited call analytics and reporting capabilities for both SfBO and Teams at no extra cost, but the available tools only show a subset of the available information, presented in limited ways. A dedicated person can customize the tools to meet some of their needs, but this takes time, effort and deep knowledge.
This is the ideal place for other companies to provide additional value. Unfortunately, the only way to access detailed call analytics is to use the Get-CsUserSession PowerShell command (included as part of the Skype forBusiness Online PS Module).
The output of the Get-CsUserSessioncommand provides detailed CDR and quality information for a specified user over a specified timeframe in JSON format. Much of the detail is not available in the existing O365 dashboards. At first blush, this appears to be a fantastic way to import detailed call data into 3rd party call analytics platforms, but there are some significant limitations:
  • The Get-CsUserSessioncommand only returns data for a single user
  • No built-in delta mechanism, so no way to return only new/updated information since the last time the command was run
  • Data is only available for 30 days

Theoretically, a tool could constantly run the Get-CsUserSession command for every user in the enterprise, but this is not an approach that scales to the enterprise-level.  Nectar looked at this but discarded it after early tests showed inherent scalability issues.
Another approach would be to provide a GUI front-end that simply runs the Get-CsUserSession in the background on demand for a specified user. This avoids any scalability issues and can provide some useful information on a given user’s call quality. However, this approach doesn’t allow for any enterprise-level reporting or trending data, since data for all users is never downloaded.

Microsoft Teams

As mentioned in the previous section, customers have access to a limited portfolio of Teams call analytics tools through their Office 365 subscription. There is room for improvement and vendors are anxious to show value in this area.
At the time of writing, there is absolutely no way to access detailed call analytics about Microsoft Teams calls or conferences. The Get-CsUserSession command discussed in the previous section only returns call data for SfBO calls.  Some Teams PSTN calls may show up in Get-CsUserSession results, but that’s because it appears PSTN calls are routed through SfBO infrastructure. Detailed call data on P2P calls or conferences are not available.
Some vendors provide some great analytics about Teams usage (channel members, activity etc). These analytics are provided through the Office365 Graph API and does not provide any detailed call analytics. Through misunderstanding or miscommunication, some customers end up confusing this point and think they can get the same level of call quality troubleshooting as they currently can from on-prem Skype for Business deployments.

The Future of Microsoft’s Cloud-Based Analytics

Microsoft has not shared any information about when or if they will release an API that will allow vendors to incorporate Teams call data into their existing call analytics platforms. Rest assured that Nectar is keeping a close eye on the situation and will be able to incorporate Office365 call analytics into our call analytics platform as soon as something is available.
In the meantime, if a vendor is promising they can do advanced analytics for Microsoft’s cloud platform, think of this and ask the right questions:
  • Exactly what kind of call data can the tool retrieve? (MOS scores, jitter, packet loss etc)
  • How does the tool get data from Office365?
  • Does the tool provide detailed call quality reports for the entire enterprise?

If you get appropriate answers, then you can make a more informed decision on purchasing a call analytics platform for your cloud-based UC platforms.
This article was also posted on Nectar’s website and Telecom Reseller

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