The best way to learn something is to get your hands on it and play around with it yourself.
Technology is no different. In reality however, this can prove difficult.
If you have or are thinking of building a Cisco Voice lab, then the aside from the Call Manager/Unity/UCCX servers themselves, you will need to deal with the question of how you will simulate your IP Phones.
You have two options here:
- Physcial Phones
Lets explore both options.
You can buy phones online from eBay or even from companies who are getting rid of old stock.
Old phones are relatively cheap and allow full functionality, however they are not ideal if you are limited by space. Note that the phones you will find for cheap are often very old and unsupported by Cisco…don’t expect them to work for very long either.
This is when you simulate having a real phone. This is done via software and is a lot more flexible.
Cisco’s official software is called CIPC (Cisco IP Communicator). This provides near full functionality, while retaining the familiarity of a normal Cisco phone.
It would be ideal for lab scenarios were it not for the fact that it only allows one instance per PC. This means if you want to simulate multiple handsets at a time, you need a single VM instance for each one. Hardly practical in any sense.
The download link can be found here. But note that you may need a Cisco Service Contract associated to your account in order to download it
Despite its utter impracticality, having a single instance of CIPC per windows installation was how I did things early on in my career.
Believe it or not I spun up 4-5 Windows VMs and installed an instance of CIPC separately in each one.
That is before I discovered IP Blue.
Their product of interest here is VT-GO PC Multilab Softphone. Although it has a free trial, it is a paid product costing $199.99. This may seem expensive, but for honing your Voice/Collaboration skills can be difficult and anything which makes it easier deserves your well earned money.
As touched upon in the description, the Multilab Softphone supports up to 5 IP Phone instances per Windows installation. You can also configure the software to act as a variation of 21 different 79XX models.
With 2 Windows VMs you can easily have 10 phones all simultaneously up, running and registered. Want more? Just increase the number of running VMs as per your need.
I have been using this software happily for 2 years now and can say it is a great alternative to Cisco’s own IP softphone solution. Give it a go!
Do you have any alternative software solutions? Leave a comment below and let me know!