Cisco Unified Communications Review
I find the ability to block incoming calls based on the originating number to be the best feature, but the reporting system needs to be more in-depth.


Valuable Features

The list of features the system provides is massive, and the XML used by the end devices allows for custom features to be designed.

That being said, currently I find the ability to block incoming calls based on the originating number to be the best feature to come along.

Improvements to My Organization

The ability to block the numbers of problem callers has helped the stress level of the end users as well as reduced wasted time. When we have a caller, human or machine, that dials into the system simply to harass our employees I can block it quickly & simply without interrupting service to the system.

Room for Improvement

It would be nice if the reporting system was more in depth. I have a reporting solution sold by a third party which works very well, but the built-in solution should be better.

Real Time Monitoring Tool (RTMT) - This tool allows you to monitor different systems. Call manager, Unity Connections, UCCX, CUPS and so on. Each of these systems can run slightly different versions, which can make it difficult to monitor the internment. You can only have 1 instance of RTMT on your computer, so if the versions are different you will get warnings about how some aspects may not function because of the version mis-match. I use the highest version I can, because it's typically backwards compatible, but a web interface for this functionality would be a big improvement.

Use of Solution

8 years

Deployment Issues

I have only deployed one system from the ground up, and that was in 2007. The issues encountered were due to the partner, not the system.

Stability Issues

Not due to the system. When I have managed global UC systems, I have found instability due to poor infrastructure in some countries.

Scalability Issues

No. The system I currently maintain was installed and maintained by a team that manages clusters all over the world. The clusters all communicate with one another, allowing for VoIP calls throughout the world.

Customer Service and Technical Support

Customer Service:

The Customer Service from Cisco is excellent. They have proven to be responsive to whatever I might need.

The Customer Service from my Cisco Partner is also excellent. I have worked with many partners over the years, and this team is very, very good at responding quickly to whatever I might need.

Technical Support:

Cisco TAC is the very best support I have seen from any company I have every had to work with. Regardless of the issue, I know that I can open a ticket and that the help I receive will be what I need. If it's a production outage, they will jump on the call immediately and bring whatever other resources they may need to get me up and running again.

*** You pay for it. The SMARTnet contracts to support your products are expensive. You need contracts for hardware as well as for software licensing. It will cost you, but you do get what you pay for.

Previous Solutions

No

Initial Setup

The initial setup was complex. The first system I put in place managed 12 locations, and setting everything up is no small task. Standardization is key. You want to have standard naming conventions on EVERYTHING! Be sure that you know what features you will be supporting and which ones you won't. DO NOT allow a vendor that you are not familiar with to go into a location and work with the folks on site AT ALL. Each vendor is going to try to sell, or at least be polite enough to answer the questions that your users ask them. The problem can be that the users end up wanting features that you aren't supporting. Most companies don't have "extra" UC engineers, and each feature that you want to have requires planning, testing, implementing and supporting. So unless you want to have unhappy users that want what they want but can't have it, don't let someone talk to them about all of the features that you aren't supporting.

Implementation Team

Other systems I have managed have been installed by vendor teams, however the system I manage now is all mine. It was installed by an in-house team, and we don't use vendors at all to perform upgrades or enhancements. I have access to a lab which allows me to test everything I might want to implement.

If you use a vendor team, be VERY careful. The biggest mistake I have seen is when a company has a vendor come in, build the system and simply hand it off. If you do this, you are preparing for failure. Be smart, if you are having a vendor install the system, insist that you sit with them every step of the way, and that you are "hands on". With the first system I implemented I sat with the engineer and configured everything myself. He told me what to do, and made sure I did it correctly, but once the system was in and the vendor left I was able to manage it very well.

Another company I worked for had a vendor doing an upgrade and "handing it off". After they made a complete mess of one of my European sites, it took me a month to straighten out everything they botched.

Bottom line - ALWAYS perform your vendor related work with the vendor, never have it built & delivered. You never know what they might do to "make it work", and some work arounds don't allow for changes later on.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

Pricing can be tough. Once you tell Cisco who your partner of choice will be they get the best discount percentage. Anyone else you have pricing solutions won't get as good of a deal from Cisco so odds are their pricing will be more.

Licensing can be an unbelievable mess. Cisco has improved it with the Enterprise License Manager (ELM), but it's still not perfect. Take the time to understand Cisco's licensing model, you won't be sorry. I always recommend to over-purchase at least a little. They have cheaper licenses, but you can end up without the licensing you need if you try to nickle and dime yourself on the license types you buy.

Other Solutions Considered

Yes. When installing my first system, I looked at Nortel and ShoreTel to compare with Cisco.

Other Advice

Be sure to have a solid, appropriate infrastructure before getting any VoIP solution. I have spoke with plenty of folks that have complained about voice quality with their VoIP solution, and with every case I found that they didn't have the correct network infrastructure to support voice.

If you're going to install VoIP in an office, be sure to do the following items.

* Have all cabling certified for voice - if it's not certifiable, replace it.

* Ensure that every Ethernet switch has 2 separate runs back to the core, going in different directions and terminating in separate switches.

* The Voice VLAN is correctly configured for every switch port that will carry voice

* QoS is implemented on the LAN and the WAN. (if you don't it WILL bite you at some point)

Of course you also want to be sure your switches have UPS power, and that they are PoE switches correctly sized for your needs. Be sure you know the draw of every device (phone, wireless AP, camera or whatever) that you intend to connect to the switch. If you over subscribe the power on your switch, end devices will not power up.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.

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