Zoom and Google Meet - What we know

NEOnet has spent a great deal of time working with our customers to troubleshoot Zoom and Meet issues and we have gathered a lot of valuable data along the way.  This monthly update is dedicated to sharing that data along with the testing methods we used to verify network performance.

We used the following methods to test network performance:

  • External Speed Tests - this is somewhat unreliable but gives you an idea of what connectivity looks like.  This is an easy test to conduct while roaming around a building with a wireless client.  I would not consider this a reliable test, but it puts you in the ballpark of recognizing some potential network issues.
  • IPerf Tests - We used a tool call iPerf to conduct tests all the way through the network.  We used the tool to simulate a UDP stream, much like what is used when conducting a Zoom and Google Meet session right down to using the specific UDP ports each application utilizes during a meeting.  This tool allowed us to test the network speed and reliability with documented real-world results.  We conducted this test from wireless clients at the district to NEOnet through the firewall.  We also conducted this test through from wireless clients at the district to a test point on an external ISP.  The purpose of using the external test point was to prove the DDoS appliance (or any other device in the network) was not dropping any packets.  We could not do that without hitting a test point outside the network
  • Switch statistics – We looked at core switching statistics to make sure there were no obviously packet issues in the full path from NEOnet to the customer.  This was an important step to make sure our new provider was not causing any performance issues.

We used the following two tools to study and troubleshoot remote learning sessions:

  • Google Meet Quality Tool – The Google Meet Quality Tool can be accessed via the Google administration panel by searching for the quality tool or clicking this link.
  • Zoom Meetings Dashboard – The Zoom Meetings Dashboard can be accessed via the administration dashboard or by clicking this link.  This will bring you to the live sessions dashboard but you can very easily move to the Past Meetings dashboard at the top of the page.

These two tools provide absolutely everything a district would need to help troubleshoot Zoom/Meet performance issues.  Both tools provide Packet loss, latency and CPU statistics along with frame rates for audio, video and screen sharing.  It should be noted that we do missing data (CPU statistics) from the Zoom dahsboard when the device is a windows laptop.  The reason has not yet been determined, but we are leaning towards a zoom client permissions issue on the device.

The Good News

During our testing we could find no degradation in performance on the core NEOnet network or either of the hosted wireless customers networks.   Between the low latency and low to zero packet loss iPerf testing we did, along with the data we extrapolated from both a Google Meet and a Zoom customer, we could find no issues we could point to that would have any negative effects on distance learning.

The Bad News

The performance tools clearly point to device issues and student internet access as the biggest hurdles to a successful online experience.  It way very common to see Zoom and Meet bring Chromebooks to a 90-100% CPU utilization during a meeting, especially when students were streaming video.  Windows laptops seem to fair much better in regards to performance than Chromebooks, especially newer hardware.

Things to Try

  • Use your Admin statistics to understand where your issues are in the meeting.  These stats will tell you everything you need to know about a user’s session quality.  If the CPU is high (90-100%) the entire session, the goal should be to reduce the strain on the device.  If the CPU is good but there is high latency or dropped packets, there is likely an underlying network issue (students home internet).
  • Disable all Chrome extensions except those that are absolutely required for instruction.
  • Make sure students and staff are closing all Chrome tabs they do not need open.  The fewer tabs the less system resources. 
  • Do not use any extensions that enhance the grid view of a session or apply video affects to webcam video.  These seem to put extra strain on CPU performance, including Windows laptops.  This will often be the catalyst for a bad instructor experience.
  • When all else fails, disable student and/or staff video streaming.  There is usually a noticeable difference in CPU utilization when outbound streaming is disabled.  This can especially be helpful when the teacher is doing screen sharing
Technology Update