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All in one VOIP Hardware Phone

Posted on 2006-07-16
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
Dear all, I am looking for a VOIP "solution" (sorry for jibberish) that can plug into an ethernet port have the user lift the handset and be making calls.

Is there hardware that, through some jiggery pokery allows this, either through internal skype credits or some other method of getting a DHCP address (we've a full network, DHCP, DNS, AD, Exchange) and we're looking to get (if possible) PoE voice hardware that is literally "plug and play".

Money not really an object, but simplicity is. We're looking at something like the Linksys SPA942, or a Cisco model.

Many thanks
Nick
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Question by:nickkirby
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9 Comments
 
LVL 36

Expert Comment

by:grblades
ID: 17123182
You would be best off avoiding skype as it is propietry and virtually all phones need to talk to a computer.

All you will need is a VoIP phone which uses the SIP protocol and is POE compatible. The Cisco phones are very nice but quite expensive. Polycom are also very good. For a cheaper phone you could get the Grandstream GXP-2000.

Then you will either need to get some VoIP accounts with a provider and configure the phones to connect to them or you could run your own VoIP PBX so the phones could use your existing telephone lines for making and receiving calls also.
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Expert Comment

by:Reid Palmeira
ID: 17127747
who is your voip provider? do you have one yet?

if you really want ease, i'd suggest an ATA rather than an actual IP Phone, take the Analog Telephone Adapter and plut that into the network, take an analog phone and plug that into the ATA. once it's programmed you're set. They're usually a little easier to move around than a full IP phone.

That said, grblades is correct, all you really need is an IP phone and a provider. You should base your hardware choice on what your provider reccomends, since they'll often have reccomendations that they have fully tested for functionality. My current favorite IP Phone choices in terms of value are the

Snom 360 (with the expansion sidecar so you get the crazy amount of programmable buttons because you can never have too many programmable buttons

Linksys 942NA which is pretty simple and has a pretty good speakerphone

Uniden UIP1668 because it has a nice little cordless unit that can associate itself to the base station.

The cisco 7960 series is nice but expensive as all heck. One nice thing, with the right XML files, you can hack it to check your email.
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Author Comment

by:nickkirby
ID: 17129432
Now I'm confused!

I know that it uses the internet to route calls, and that therefore there must needs be an intermediary to connect people together. How do they work? Do you have to pay them a subscription, or just for used calls?

I like the Linksys hardware - we're looking at PoE switches as well, specifically the Netgear GSM7324, or a Linksys variant.

What sort of things should I be looking for with a VOIP provider? There's a bewildering number of them out there.

We could run our own PBX - ideally something robust, and Windows based (yes, I know that's an oxymoron). Again, what's recommended?

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LVL 36

Expert Comment

by:grblades
ID: 17129512
Most commercial VoIP providers charge a monthly cost for the account and then you pay for additional calls. The monthly cost covers you getting your own telephone number and often includes free minutes.
With some providers the account is free and you just pay for the calls you make. With these however you dont get your own telephone number and would have to pay extra for these.

POE switches tend to be quite expensive as you get all the other functionality on top aswell. I went for a PowerdSine product which sits infront of the switches and adds POE functionality. For us this was the better option and we already had otherwise suitable switches.

You internet connection is another issue. If people are downloading files then your voice will suffer. You can get a router which supports QOS but this does not really help as it only manages outbound traffic effectivly. Its best to have a separate internet connection.

I cant recomend anything windows based. There is Asterisk which runs on Linux which is open source. Other than that you will need to look at a commercial VoIP system if you want to run your own PBX. If you donr have any familiarity with Linux then you could get Trixbox (http://www.trixbox.org/index.php) which is a Linux installation which comes with Asterisk and is all configured through a web interface.
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Author Comment

by:nickkirby
ID: 17129549
I've been pondering around and wondered if it was possible to get a bunch of IP phones and have them all use the same number, or be shared with 2 numbers?

Also, is it possible to have a sort of "shared pool" of credit which everyone could dip into, going the Skype way?

So George can make a call, and Callum could make a call, but i couldn't, and we couldn't take incoming calls. Sort of two lines, one credit pool?

I'll have a play with trixbox and see how I get on.
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LVL 36

Expert Comment

by:grblades
ID: 17129577
It is possible to have an incoming number ring two phones etc... but to do this you will have to have a PBX your end.

Most VoIP providers will only allow you to make one simultaneous call per account. Some will allow you to make many but this normally costs more and sometimes you may need to prepay a higher amount.
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Author Comment

by:nickkirby
ID: 17129619
I have to admit to being confused. I thought the point of VOIP was to save money on phone calls. If people require accounts, more hardware, specialist software etc, then why are people bothering? The rare times I call overseas negate the expense, and frankly, BT do a quite sensible offering which uses normal lines such as ISDN, at a reasoanble price.

Have i missed a massive trick here? It just seems "gimmicky", not to denigrate the hardware, but why on earth can't I :

buy a piece of hardware that has a two number 0870 XXX XXX type account on it,
plug that into my ethernet LAN (fiddle about for a minute or two telling it where to get info from)
plug a VOIP phone into my network switch

Point the phone at the black box and be making and receiving phone calls?

The digium equipment needs analog lines - I thought the whole point was to just be able to use dsl lines? Am I being thick?
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LVL 36

Accepted Solution

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grblades earned 25 total points
ID: 17129695
The digium equipment is just incase you want to use your existing lines.

Voip is cheaper. In the uk (www.voiptalk.org) you can get local incoming numbers for £2/month which is about 5 times cheaper than a dedicated analogue phone line. International rates are cheaper than BT through them aswell. If you are willing to have a 0871 national rate number then you can have these free of charge.

We run Asterisk and people run the Diax software client on their notebooks which enables them to connect to the office PBX while working at home and traveling in hotels. The cost savings compared to using mobile abroad or hotel phone rates is significant.

For I would suggest going to www.voiptalk.org and setting up an account per phone and then get a free 0871 number. Then get a Voip phone and configure it to connect to them. They sell phones themselves and give instructions on how to configure them. You will just need to buy call credit to cover the calls you make on each of the accounts.
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Author Comment

by:nickkirby
ID: 17142290
We've had a look there. Lots of information.

We'll probably go with the linksys 942, possibly Asterisk, but certainly using the voiptalk site.

Cheers,
Nick
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