McKenna Long & Aldridge faced a multi-faceted communications challenge that threatened to impede the company's technology adoption and office expansion.
For starters, the Washington, D.C.-based law firm ran into problems with its video conferencing capabilities. Video frames would freeze mid-call, or sessions would be subject to jitters. As a consequence, some attorneys became reluctant to use video conferencing for meetings with clients. In addition, the fast-growing 575-attorney firm needed to quickly equip new offices with communications services of all kinds — data, voice and video — to accommodate expansion. That chore takes some network carriers as long as four months.
McKenna Long & Aldridge's expansion via mergers with other law firms introduced another communications issue: Vendor management. The firm found that it had inherited at least four network service providers and myriad Internet service companies over the course of its acquisitions.
"You amass different technologies and service provider relationships," says Patrick Tisdale, McKenna Long & Aldridge's CIO. "When that happens you obviously have administrative and economic reasons to right size and consolidate."
McKenna Long & Aldridge embarked on a rationalization task. The firm's engineering group evaluated the various service providers to determine which would be best-suited for the business going forward. The law firm selected Masergy Communications, a managed networking and cloud services company based in Dallas. The firm also selected a second provider for risk management purposes, Tisdale notes. The arrangement will provide failover between the different providers and their networks.
MPLS, VPLS Help Tame Video Glitches
Tisdale cites voice and video services as among his organization's top IT challenges, noting the quality-sensitive nature of those communication types. "Worry factors" include latency and the competition for bandwidth among voice, video and data traffic.
Voice and video communication touches both in-house personnel and outside customers, raising the profile of those services. "Those are the most visible uses of telecommunications," Tisdale says.
Few notice when an email takes an extra second or two to reach its destination, he says. But everyone notices a glitch during a phone call or video discussion.
Video can prove particularly problematic with respect to packet loss, jitter and latency. Tisdale says quality issues can surface when an organization connects to a third-party video service bridge through an unmanaged Internet circuit.
"You're taking this ... latency-sensitive traffic, packet loss-sensitive traffic and putting that on an unmanaged Internet circuit," he says. "Your experience [is] pretty much what you would predict."
Until recently, the risk that any videoconferencing session could revert to audio-only or encounter screen freezes was enough to dampen interest in video meetings at the law firm, Tisdale says.
Masergy's managed connectivity, however, has boosted the law firm's use of video. Specifically, the company's Managed Cloud Networking offering includes Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) services. Tisdale describes those services as "very well adapted to handle sensitive network traffic like voice and video."
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