Given that there are over 200 different IP phones available, choosing one can be a complicated and confusing process. However, by breaking the selection process down into steps tied to a given installation’s needs, IT staff can simplify purchasing decisions.
Determine Network Requirements
The first thing to do is to figure out which phone will work on a given network. Although every phone should theoretically work with every network thanks to open source telephony and phone providers that support “bring your own device” deployments, this frequently isn’t the case. The first step to narrowing down a list of IP phones, then, is to get a list of compatible phones from a network provider.
Next, the phone needs to match the physical plant in place where it is to be installed. If AC outlets are not available at every location, or if a phone with a power plug is otherwise impractical, only phones that support “Power over Ethernet” technology should be considered. In installations that have only one Ethernet jack per desk, a phone with a built-in router becomes necessary.
Finally, the phone should support a given network’s protocols and transmission codecs. Given that this can be a confusing alphabet soup of acronyms like G.729, SCCP, MGCP and H.323, the best way to ensure compatibility is to review the system requirements for both a company’s IP telephony service provider and for the company’s IP telephony server and network equipment.
Determine User Requirements
Once a company’s network needs narrows their phone choices, selecting the correct phone becomes a much simpler matter of matching up a given unit’s capabilities to a given user’s needs. Some important features include:
Support for multiple line appearances. Most desk phones need the ability to handle between three and five lines at a time, while a receptionist’s station or an operator’s station will usually need to support at least 10 lines at a time.
Teleconferencing and speaker phone capability. This is especially important in conference rooms where phones are more likely to be used by groups of people than by a single user.
High-tech bells and whistles. While an average worker can use an average phone, heavy users and executives frequently benefit from more advanced models.
High build quality. Phones that will be used infrequently are an excellent place to save money, while units that will be used heavily should be of good quality.