Small business switches with auto-deployment features remove the complexity of rolling out IP-based voice systems
If you’ve decided to upgrade your legacy phone system to a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution, you want to make sure that installation is as smooth and trouble-free as possible. A good place to start is with your network switch. As the traffic controller of your network, the switch connects different devices and allows them to communicate with each other. To make rolling out IP-based voice easier, you can choose a managed or smart switch with integrated automatic deployment features and built-in configuration tools.
Several of Cisco’s small business switches are designed to simplify VoIP deployments as well as make day-to-day network operations easier. The Cisco 200 Series Smart Switches, the Cisco Small Business 300 Series Managed Switches, and the new Cisco 500 Series Stackable Managed Switches include auto-deployment features that remove most of the complexity of installing voice equipment. Each of these small business switches include four integrated, easy-to-use configuration and management tools and integrated features: Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) and Link-Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP), Auto SmartPorts, Voice Services Discovery Protocol (VSDP), and Cisco Configuration Assistant (CCA) Used together, these tools can result in zero-touch deployments of voice equipment.
Cisco Discovery Protocol and Link-Layer Discovery Protocol
Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) is a proprietary protocol that runs on most Cisco networking devices, including the switches mentioned above. It automatically detects all of the Cisco devices on your network and automatically configures them for the correct connectivity for each device. The switches also include Link-Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP) to discover non-Cisco devices.
In addition, these protocols tell the switch to use the appropriate voice VLAN and the correct Quality of Service (QoS) parameters. CDP is also used by the switch to instruct connected devices which QoS and Voice VLAN parameters to use.
Auto SmartPorts is another easy-to-use function integrated into the switches that helps speed up installing voice systems, and it works in conjunction with CDP to enable zero-touch voice system deployments. Once the switch detects the connected device using CDP or LLDP, Auto Smartports automatically kicks in to configure that port with the optimal parameters for that device. Auto Smartports configures the switch ports with optimal levels of QoS for voice as well as security and availability, according to the type of device you’re connecting to the switch. SmartPorts makes these decisions based on Cisco best practices and pretested configurations.
Voice Services Discovery Protocol
Using a combination of CDP, LLDP-MED (Media Endpoint Discovery), Auto Smartports, and Voice Services Discovery Protocol (VSDP), a patent-pending Cisco protocol, small businesses can deploy an end-to-end voice network dynamically. The switches in the network automatically converge around a single voice VLAN and QoS parameters and then propagate them out to the phones on the ports where they are discovered. For example, automated voice VLAN capabilities let you plug any IP phone (including third-party phones) into your IP telephony network and receive an immediate dial tone. And the switch automatically configures the device with the right VLAN and QoS parameters to prioritize voice traffic.
Cisco Configuration Assistant (CCA)
The Cisco Configuration Assistant (CCA) simplifies the job of configuring, deploying, and administering Cisco small business network solutions, including the switches mentioned previously as well as IP-based voice solutions. CCA has a simple GUI that’s used to discover and configure key voice devices, including the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series for Small Business IP-based voice solution and certain Cisco IP phones, including the Unified IP Phones 7900 series and 6900 Series. CCA can also interact with voice applications through its dashboard. After the voice network is deployed, CCA can be used to troubleshoot the voice devices and monitor their real-time status.
After the installation
Once you plug in the voice solution and IP phones, you still need to monitor and maintain the system. These three families of switches also ship with a tool useful for troubleshooting all your network devices. The Cisco FindIT Network Discovery Utility works through a simple toolbar on your web browser to discover your Cisco devices and display their basic information, like device status and IP address.
The integrated configuration and management tools of the Cisco 200, 300, and 500 Series of switches simplify the deployment of VoIP on your network. Even users without IT expertise can configure the switch and other voice components in just a few minutes. They also cut down on the time you need to spend managing your voice network after it’s installed.
Even though these configuration and management tools are intuitive, many small business owners don’t have the time to also take on network management. A local certified Cisco reseller can help you install and manage a VoIP phone system if it’s more than you want to take on. Rolling out IP-based voice can be complicated, especially for a small business with little in-house IT support, but it doesn’t have to be.
When do you plan to roll out VoIP on your network?