How to choose a conference phone
November 21, 2008 3:51 AM   Subscribe

Cisco vs Polycom conference phone issue. Apologies for dullness.

Rather dull VOIP conference phone question.

Long story, as short as possible.

My company has a Cisco based VOIP setup, all fairly decent and new kit. Call manager is v4 though.

My chairman works from abroad, and has a local broadband, with a Cisco ASA5505 with DSL, and an IPphone - a 7941.

He also has a totally unrelated, and not connected to us in anyway, Siemens HiPath 3000 SIP based PBX.

He wants a conference phone that will work with both. And relatively painlessly so - technologically he is as advanced as turnip and can barely dial numbers so it has to be easy.

He wants the Polycom IP7000 (because its nice and shiny) and I've also found the Cisco 7937 which looks strikingly similar. (Suspiciously slow, I suspect Polycom make them both).

Is it possible for one of these phones to work with both the Siemens (SIP) PBX, and the Cisco (currently skinny, but might be able to do SIP) router?

I dont give a damn what phone might do this, just if there is one out there. Is there a switch or device I can employ to allow use of the phone with both setups.

I'm not a VOIP expert, I just manage the setup. My Cisco reseller is not killing himself to sort this as he's not making anything on it really, and he does enough for us already without getting involved. Most Polycom resellers I've spoken to dont want to know, stating that Cisco is too proprietary and they're not really interested in selling one phone.

My 2nd to last option is to simply use the Polycom phone with the Cisco router and tell him it simply wont work with both. Failing that, the Cisco 7937 with the cisco router. Sigh.

Anyone got any experience on this? Sorry for the fantastically dull problem.
posted by daveyt to Technology (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So the Cisco 7937 doesn't do SIP, and the Polycomm doesn't do skinny. Well, you could get an asterisk server to connect to the Siemens and Cisco PBX and use either of those conference phones to connect to asterisk, but if he's as non-technical as you say then you'll probably end up being his go-to "phone guy" whenever anything happens on either system.

Just curious - what is the advantage to having the conference phone appear local on both PBXes? Presumably you can conference in external people with both PBXes, so is this just to save some money on long distance? (Since calls between local extensions on the PBX are free.) If it's just to save a few cents per minute on long distance, it's probably not worth getting involved in any of this.
posted by kamelhoecker at 6:21 AM on November 21, 2008

Best answer: What's the reason for him wanting two phones? If this is cost savings and he's non-technical PLEASE RUN AWAY FROM THIS AS FAST AS YOU CAN. The magic words are, "This is not possible." Buying both phones is ~$1600, which, if he's a chairman working abroad, should not be an eye popping cost. Plus I don't know how the Siemens network is setup, but if there is a VLAN setup that the phones are set to provide access to desktops on a separate VLAN you might make the switch cry by bringing it off and on network (maybe, it really depends on the how the switch / network is setup).

If it were me, I'd setup a SIP trunk between the two PBXs, which should be possible, and allow traffic to be routed over the Internet magic cloud and save on long-distance costs, if that is the point.

Even if you find a conference phone that does SIP and SCCP, I believe it'll have to download separate images everytime you set it up on a different network. Mr. Non-technical turnip is not going to like spending 5 minutes watching the phone pull the image from the TFTP server everytime he arrives late to a meeting with his fancy conference phone.

PS Just got done doing a large phone installation. People have very, very high expectations of phones. They expect it to just. work. While it should just work, they want it to "just work" with all the fancy capabilities that IP phones provide and believe that if it seems simple in their head, it should be simple for you to do and if you don't do it you're a lazy network guy. The key phrase I always tell myself is to "manage expectations," and never give technical talk to people who don't like technical talk. Think of it this way, you say "Well I guess I could build a SIP trunk between the two PBX so they'd be on the internal network" and he hears "I need to unplug and plug some things in, oh yeah I'm just watching youtube, ha ha ha ha, it isn't that hard dummy," when really we're talking at least a several day project involving two corporate IT departments, that is if they're up to snuff.
posted by geoff. at 8:38 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

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