If I had to name the most overlooked feature of Cisco Phones it’d be IP Phone Services. Programmed in XML and Java, the framework exists for robust directory look-up and custom apps galore. Aside from Visual Voicemail, not many phone services have penetrated the market.
In past months, I’ve have numerous requests from customers for a user-friendly framework that would pick up where Cisco left off. For example, Cisco’s corporate directory service only queries the CUCM database. If you’ve integrated your cluster with LDAP for user authentication, chances are that the only users visible in the searches will be end-users.
How do you accommodate directory look-ups for call center pilots or frequently called numbers outside the organization?
Enter, 2Ring. According to their website, Ondrej Smolar and Vladimir Sikura founded 2Ring in Bratislava, Slovakia on May 16, 2001. The company is focused on providing add-on solutions for unified communications and contact centers.
Though Twitter, I connected with Michal Grebáč, the product and project manager, for their IPPS (IP Phone Services) product line. After reviewing their product, I’m excited to say that there is a valid, cost-effective, scalable option out there for companies who need more functionality on their Cisco phones.
IPPS is a platform that runs on an IIS-enabled Windows server. Installation was pretty straight-forward. There are two steps to installation: (1) installing SQL Express and creating the database, and (2) installing the application framework. The application integrates with UCM through an AXL connection. LDAP authentication is based off UCM’s directory. If the UCM cluster is already integrated with AD, then there is no problem giving end-user’s access to this tool.
The IPPS interface is organized intuitively and works in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. The items circled in green are those available when an administrator logs in. The directory is viewable to anyone who visits the website. No login is required to perform look-ups.
The directory can also be accessed from the phone services button on the IP phone. The search function looks similar to the corporate directory. You are able to search by:
- Surname – Last name
- Name – First name
- Number – Number, as entered in directory
In addition to the directory, there are several impressive modules available:
- CLID Module – Inbound calls will display a corresponding photo if that user is configured in the directory. This would require some administration on the back-end, but would be a useful tool for intersite calling in a large organization. TCL scripts can be used on the gateways to enable this feature for callers from outside the company.
- Messaging Module – Text-based messaging between IP phones. You can also integrate this with an SMS provider to allow users to send text messages to cell phones. Message templates can also be used for sending common messages. This module also includes intercom, one-to-many (like UCM should have had out of the box).
- Phone Lock – Ctrl + Alt + Delete for an IP Phone.
- eRates – Exchange rates, customizable to the bank of your choice.
- Cam2Phone – Integration for live cameras on-premise or web-based. When integrated with the CLID module, calls from a door-way entrance could automatically display the live feed when an IP phone answers.
The camera module was the most impressive feature, aside from the directory framework. In addition to displaying the live feed from a doorway or loading dock camera, you can configure the service to display live feeds from traffic cameras or weather cameras.
I configured a number of traffic cameras from Minneapolis. When I get up in the morning, I can plan my route based on the traffic that I observe from my Cisco 9971.
You can also take a break and enjoy the view of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. The only thing better than this view, would be sitting there in person. Of course, I’d need a serious winter coat, a grande triple-shot no-foam breve, and a Verizon 4G hotspot.
Honestly, after reviewing other phone services, I didn’t have high hopes for 2Ring’s IPPS. However, I have been very impressed with this product. The directory functionality alone makes this product worth the investment. Once you add in all the extras, especially the Cam2Phone module, this product suite shines.
If you were to deploy this product, I’d suggest completely replacing Cisco’s built-in corporate directory to eliminate the confusion. In fact, I assigned the IPPS Search service to my directory button to streamline the look-up process.
There are more features available that I didn’t have a chance to review. You can synchronize contacts with Gmail, Facebook, CSV files, and a host of other directories. They also have an Outlook plugin. Yes, it gets better and better.
If you’re interested in this product, reach out to Michael through Twitter (@MichalGrebac) or through 2Ring’s website, here. They have a free trial license available.
2Ring provided me with a free license to use for evaluation purposes. Aside from the limited seat licensing for my home lab, I did not receive any compensation for this product review.