by, 26th January 2012 at 05:37 PM (14151 Views)
Monday was the big day for us this week; we've switched over on Friday afternoon to our new fully IP based system consisting of a Splicecom Maximiser 5100 Call Server supporting 118 phones. So far, so good with it all appearing to be working well and recieved well by all staff.
It has however been a long time in planning; with support from the community on here as a whole I felt it only right to detail my experience over the last few months.
I've been fortunate that a couple of years ago we had a refurb in the School which involved ripping out all the asbestos that has caused as problems with getting cabling installed. Seeing as the server room sat right under an area that needed to be cleared, and with the need to ensure that the network was fully functional during the phased closures in the School, I managed to get a new Server room organised along with a new fibre backbone as part of the enabling works. At the core of this sat a new HP ProCurve 5406zl switch with a variety of other HP ProCurve Edge switches (2626, 2510 & 2610) sitting in the 17 cabinets dotted around the site. We enjoyed a much quicker network, especially with WDS over the Summer.
The phone system in the School was an ageing Toshiba Strata DK280 which was starting to get unreliable and didn't reach in to parts of the school were it was badly needed. As a temporary solution I played around with Elastix and got a basic six phone VOIP system in place after buying some cheap Grandstream SIP phones off ebay. This worked well, but SMT were soon asking if such a solution could be made site wide with the goal of 'a phone in every classroom'.
I've had to take the time to finally get my head around VLANs, and again, Edugeek has been invaluable in helping understand this. Playing around with a spare ProCurve 2626 Edge and the Core the mist finally cleared regarding how to setup a VLAN. The next technical challenge was understanding QoS which is needed to ensure that any VOIP device has priority on the network over data ensuring no 'jitter' was present in any VOIP calls. I really took the easy route on this, and decided just to prioritise the VLAN used for voice and use port based VLAN allocation on the switches.
In total, I spoke to seven companies about a possible solution and all in all was impressed with all that was seen. Only six actually bothered to give us a quote, and after running all the solutions presented to the Governors we selected Intech Telecom to provide a Splicecom based solution.
With a date in mind for installation, the real hard work began in identifying all the ports in all the rooms around the School where we intended to place a phone. Just when you think you've tamed the beast that is your network that you've inherited, it becomes apparent how many broken ports you have, or not being able to identify where some ports run back too becomes an issue. Also, the grand scheme of keeping it simple by having a port for the PC and a port for the Phone soon goes out the window when you only have one port in some rooms which is already in use. No bother, as the phones have network ports on the back which a PC can plug into.... but this is when my mind started racing about how then do I setup the port on the switch for this? Is it untagged for phones, or untagged for data?? Further digging points to the fact that the port should be set to untagged for data and tagged for voice, with the phone itself setup to ensure Voice and Data go on the appropriate VLANs.
Then the other realisation hits with regard to powering the phones. It would seem that most VOIP phones don't come with power supplies, and it's expected that you'll power your devices using Power Over Ethernet. At this point you need to start seeing how many phones will be going back to each location and working out when it would be more beneficial to get a new PoE switch instead of using Power Bricks. As a result, I've ended up ordering 10 new HP ProCurve Switches, 5 x 8 Ports and 5 x 24 ports (HP ProCurve 2520) - why they don't sell a 12 Port PoE in that range I just dont know!? You then need to think how these are connected. Thankfully, with the new backbone, we had plenty of spare fibre pairs going to most locations so where I could I can connect these new VOIP switches directly back to the Core using Fibre..... but of course, you need GBics to connect your fibres up which are of course more money. Costs of these Gbics are somewhat expensive, so I've taken a punt at some compatibles from a gbics.com. I can hear the collective sucking in of breath from here , but with HP units being £190 a piece and compatibles being £30, I thought at that price it was worth a try. I contacting gbics.com for various guarantees, and with them being quite local (Cirencester) and sounding very helpful, I brought 6 to use on three of the links on 3 of the new 24 Port PoE switches. And, they work. No bother. I see how they go over the coming months, but I'll be more than happy to get more in in the future to help centralise the VOIP traffic back to the Core quicker.
So, switches in place, configuration done on each switch and ports identified, with the install date is looming and more discussions with the engineer from Intech informs me that to be able to use the Softphone feature on some of the more feature rich phones we're buying we need to be able to Multicast over the two VLANs. A feature, which is not available on the HP ProCurve switches unless you buy the very expensive piece of card with a very long activation number to switch this on at the Core Switch. That'll be another £1540 please ! Ordered, installed and configured.
Intech I think at this point were picking up on my nerves at this point; have I got everything setup correctly, is this going to work, etc. So, they got in contact with a specialist network consultant who looked over all the details and what we've done so far and generally gave his thumbs up to what we put in place. Intech then sent the engineer in a day early with the Call Server and a few phones for us to try out the configuration and to ensure all was well, with the view of getting this consultant in on site if need be if we couldn't get it working. I'm pleased to say, all seemed well and the job of getting each phone configured and put out into desks began.
The only hicup we came across really was the issue that was wondering about was how to configure the ports on sockets that had to have a phone with the PC piggy backed onto it. And this is where it got confusing..... We purchaed two types of phones primarily, the Splicecom IP530 which is essentially a basic IP phone with display and the PCS560 which has a much larger coloured display with programmable soft buttons. The setup for the IP530 required that the port be Untagged for Data, Tagged for Voice with the phone set to WAN on VLAN #50 (our voice vlan) and PC on VLAN #1 (for the data). However, the PCS560 required that the port on the switch be tagged for voice and for data, and again you needed to set the VLAN tags on the phone by telnetting to it beforehand. Somewhat confusing, and added another layer of complexity. Something which will be documented very clearly. It is my intention over the coming months (if not years), to get additional network ports put in areas where we don't have enough and keep the basic seperation of Voice Ports and Data Ports.
The install also involved running additional Cat5e cables from the ISDN30e Termination Point down to the Server Room, along with a 20 core phone cable. This is so we could faciliate having a door entry system running over one of the analogue ports on the call server, along with having the two reception phones being wired directly into the Call Server also. This way, we could ensure that those two phones would still operate in the event of a power failure along with retaining some other analogue phones in certain areas where they may need to call 999 in an emergency if the switches near them lost power (eg. First Aid, Science Prep, etc).
Benefits so far have been at last having an Auto Attendant, so a good proportion of phone calls can get directly to the correct department relieving some of the pressure off the receptionists. Staff are enjoying have Voice Mail, along with notification via e-mail of Voicemail. More phones around the School has the obvious safeguarding issues finally resolved, especially in our modular builds. Not missing important visitors during School Holidays as the new door entry will call a Holiday Group of phones and enable us to talk to the visitor and remotely open the door for them.
Intech have been pretty good, the engineer on site has been very accomodating and certainly seems to know what he was doing. Keeping a constant supply of Coffee for him kept him on side when I started making awkward request,.... "It would be really cool if it did this....." ,etc ! ;-)
The Vision reporting software is excellent, we now have a clear view of calls being made. We're also recording all external calls (inbound and outbound), and already this has proved useful when an irrate parent phone the School. The quality of the recordings was excellent. (We have of course put the appropriate disclaimer on our webiste!) My only gripe is that this software runs as a service on an Apple Mac only. A Linux version is currently being developed. I've borrowed the only Mac in the School from the ICT Dept, as they weren't really using it!!! ;-)
All in all, so far so good. Still not totally done. I've just ordered some additional UPS' for various switch locations to ensure we have the phones running in the event of a power failure for a period, and I'm looking to utilise more of the fibre to get back to having all my switches directly connected to the Core.
Lessons learned are; planning and documentation. I'll be spending a lot of time getting all the configs layed out and down on paper. Different coloured cables in your cabinets for everything; I'm currently using Red for Services (printers, servers), Blue for Voice, Green for WiFi, Grey for Data and Yellow for Voice/Data Mix. I still need some more cables, and I ordered too many blue! Have a contigency fund! Thankfully the savings from the Microsoft EES system this year have helped fund the extra bits I needed.
It's time consuming; I'm knackered. A few long days getting everything ready but I think its been worth it. Hopefully I won't be posting on here in the near future that something is a miss on the network.
Longest blog post ever!
Couple of photos below:
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