Unlike a standard telephone, voice over IP (VoIP) phones require special configurations to connect to the telephony server across your network. These settings can either be entered manually, or through a process called auto provisioning. Auto provisioning provides a central location for all the phone to access the configuration files necessary for them to register to your local telephony server, whether the server is on premise or in the cloud. This adds to ease of administration and reduces the overall cost of maintaining mission critical infrastructure for an Asterisk based call center.
Many popular phones come with auto provisioning capabilities, including many Polycom and Cisco models. When selecting which phones to use, it is best to choose from a reputable vendor and ensure all phones on your network are identical. This add simplicity to the auto provisioning process.
Auto provisioning VoIP phones works similarly to how the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) functions and even makes use of DHCP options. Each phone begins by contact a DHCP server to identify itself and receive the location of the provisioning server through option 66. The phone then contacts the provisioning server which provides a set of configuration files for the phone to use. These files contain everything from the bootrom necessary for the phone to operate to the graphic files that will be displayed on any visual interfaces attached to the phone.
Depending on the type of VoIP phones being used, provisioning is commonly done using the file transfer protocol (FTP) or the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).
Configuring many VoIP phones manually is a time intensive process that can be prone to user error and often requires the attention of administrators. Having a central location to administer the configuration saves both time and money. From the perspective of the employee, they are simply handed a phone that will function no matter where they plugged into the network.
Additional benefits to administration come into play if the phones require a firmware update or change in basic functionality; which can be easily applied the next time the phone provisions itself.
Advanced Contact Center ACD products, such as Indosoft’s Q-Suite, includes features for auto provisioning many types of phone. The process is as simple as uploading the provisioning files to the server, configuring DHCP option 66, and assigning each phones MAC address to a specific employee or extension.