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Cisco’s IP-PBX

Jan 15, 20042 mins
Cisco SystemsEnterprise Applications

* The Reviewmeister checks out Cisco's VoIP features for teleworkers

Cisco’s VoIP features for teleworkers are distributed over several disparate applications, including the soft phone and the Cisco Personal Assistant. There is also access to the vendor’s Unity unified-message store via the Web interface. Unity provides a text-to-speech capability for retrieving e-mail by phone.

Cisco’s call routing is among the richest of all the vendors we reviewed, providing the broadest set of rules-based call handling. For example, you can have your calls go to voice mail in the morning and then sent to your cell phone in the afternoon. There’s also a noteworthy personal address book tied into telephone functions.

On the other hand, Cisco’s soft-phone call quality was poor with the G.729 protocol, and only fair with G.711.

For this test, we required vendors to deploy the security infrastructure they recommend to customers who need to support teleworkers. IP Security (IPSec)-based VPN tunnels were the choice in all cases.

Cisco deploys separate VPN client boxes at the telecommuter site, a Model 831 IOS-based Secure Router, which performs encryption and authentication for a few concurrent VPN tunnels, as well as network address translation, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, IP routing and, to a user-defined extent, firewall processing.

In the configuration category we considered the hard and soft phone options, the integration of the components, and the setup and monitoring of teleworker connections. While there was some diversity, overall we rated all the vendors on the same level in this category.

Cisco recently revamped its soft phone structure, going from the previous TAPI-based software to new code that directly interacts via the Cisco “skinny” call-control protocol, formally called SCCP. Some adjustments are clearly still needed, because Cisco’s soft phone call quality needs work. Cisco’s IP hard phone performance remains stellar, however.

Cisco’s wealth of security options, and its bandwidth management and QoS features are more extensive than its IP-telephony competitors. But all that functionality leaves customers with a lot of pieces to manage and many different interfaces through which to do it.

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