SMB: Cisco IP Phones Not Ready for SMBs

Monday, September 25, 2006
Posted by Brawlin Melgar
by Josh VanCleave

Before you jump into purchasing a Cisco IP phone system because of all the great benefits and cost saving features I suggest you take a few minutes to think about some of the disadvantages that come with Cisco IP phone systems. 

These days the  foremost factor on all companies minds is cost, and IP phone systems are more expensive than a standard PBX system, both in initial investment, and upkeep.  A company must decide if the added benefits are worth the added cost.  Companies must also factor in the maintenance costs of an IP phone system, while a PBX system is primarily solid state and are for the most part "Set it and forget it" this is not that case with an IP phone system implementation such as Cisco.  A Cisco IP phone system, for example, requires multiple servers running a version of Windows server.  This means you are responsible for maintenance of the software of these boxes, you are responsible for software updates and driver updates, and of course like any other Microsoft operating system your phone system is now susceptible to virus and hacker attacks from the outside world.  Another concern is infrastructure, your phones now require a network connection instead of a standard Cat3  run, will you use PoE (power over ethernet)  to power your phones?  If so plan on investing some money in Cisco switches capable of delivering power to the phones.  Cisco IP phones can run off of AC adapters where PoE is not available, but a standard PBX systems supplies the power over the Cat3 cable without the need for additional network switches.  Also keep in mind that any IP phone system will require hardware routers to turn the T1 lines into IP traffic so the server can pickup the traffic and route it to the handsets, another added expense with an IP phone system.

Also keep in mind that Cisco IP Phone systems require Cisco Engineers to maintain, and they, like the phone system they support do not come cheap.  This means that a breakdown in the phone system is now more costly to repair.  Also keep in mind that Cisco Ip Phone Engineers are not found on every street corner so there may be a some time to get one to come out.  Plan on spending approximately 15-25k per year to keep a Cisco IP Phone support company under contract.