Cisco IPC Express's unique hardware and software architecture, integrating all the telephony, routing, and application needs that may be required by a growing business, yields two categories of benefits: lower cost of ownership and productivity enhancements.
Lower Cost of Ownership
One of the most important aspects of the decision to acquire a new communications system is how it affects your budget, or cost of ownership. The cost includes direct costs, such as equipment costs, and hidden or indirect costs, such as ongoing maintenance or support fees. This section describes the benefits of Cisco IPC Express in lowering the total cost of ownership for businesses.
Reduce Equipment Costs
Cisco IPC Express allows enterprises to converge their voice and data network infrastructure from multiple vendors into a single IP-based network. By doing so, you save not only the costs of maintaining separate PBXs or key systems from a variety of vendors, but also the expense of maintaining a multiple-platform network with IP and non-IP traffic.
Some small or medium business owners require multiple devices for data and voice communications, such as phones, routers, switches, security appliances, and application servers. Such business owners not only have to incur the costs of acquiring the equipment, but also have to purchase maintenance contracts from different vendors and integrate all these devices and appliances into the network. When a communication breakdown occurs, it can be unclear which device is responsible and, therefore, which vendor to call for support. Cisco IPC Express's integrated architecture simplifies these deployment and maintenance activities and reduces equipment and support costs.
Reduce Upgrade Costs
By migrating from a PBX or key system to Cisco IPC Express, your business can eliminate the need to upgrade individual PBX and key systems, often from disparate vendors. PBX or key systems nearing the end of their product or lease life cycles must be replaced or substantially upgraded to enable the latest applications.
Reduce Wiring Costs
Cisco IPC Express lets you optimize a building's wiring. Both computers and IP phones use the same Ethernet port, thereby requiring only a single type of wiring in a building. In addition, only a single Ethernet port or jack is required for each user, because the computer can be plugged into the IP phone's data port. Traffic remains logically separated via the use of virtual LAN (VLAN) configurations. These ensure that data traffic does not interfere with voice traffic for purposes of quality of service (QoS) and security.
Reduce Network Administration Costs
Cisco IPC Express reduces network administration costs by more efficient and simplified network management, because there is only a single IP system to manage per site versus multiple devices from potentially different vendors.
In addition, because the challenges of network management are limited to maintaining a single system, a smaller system administration staff can manage a larger number of sites and provide faster response times. The same enterprise or small or medium businesses that previously may have outsourced a number of responsibilities to external network management contractors can now gain better control over their network and make configuration changes themselves. Doing so lowers maintenance costs and better utilizes IT resources. Training costs for staff are also reduced because of the converged system.
Reduce the Cost of Adds, Moves, and Changes
A growing enterprise or small- to medium-sized business that makes frequent additions to employee headcount or that wants to manage moves or transfers within an organization in a more timely manner can save money with Cisco IPC Express. The benefit of an IP endpoint, such as an IP phone, is that it moves with the employee and only has to be plugged into a working Ethernet port for it to automatically register itself to the Cisco CallManager Express (CME) call control system. No other modifications are necessary.
Quick day-to-day adjustments such as changing names and adding a new employee, extension, or mailbox can be easily accomplished via the web-based graphical user interface (GUI) by a nontechnical administrator. These tasks do not require a support call. The installation and upgrade of the system may still be performed by an external company.
Another consideration for businesses deciding on a communications system is how beneficial it will be to the business's overall growth or productivity and, in particular, the employees. This section describes how Cisco IPC Express improves productivity for businesses.
Improve Employee Productivity by Using IP Phones
Cisco IPC Express transforms the IP phone into a business communications device. This is crucial for the employee whose job is not desk-bound and, therefore, does not have a dedicated computer. The IP phone can collect information from various sources, such as cellular phone personal contact information and inventory or account databases, and show this information on its display screen. In addition, a built-in system directory lets employees look up other employees' names and extensions and dial these numbers with a single keystroke. Customized directories can also be accessed via XML from a single point.
XML applications used with IP phones also allow users to access the weather forecast and stock quotes, perform inventory checks, enter time-card information, reserve merchandise for customers, and more.
Improve Employee Mobility Using PC-Based Phones and Wireless Phones
PC-based IP phones, also called softphones (such as Cisco IP Communicator), eliminate or lessen the need for a desk-bound phone set. A PC can become an employee's communication device, allowing that person to set up phone calls with the click of a mouse. This is an especially powerful tool for mobile employees who need to stay in contact with the office. They have instant access to all the on-site directory and extension dialing information, as well as personal directories, and synchronization with cell phone directories. The softphone can share lines with the employees' office desk phone.
The Cisco 7920 Wireless IP Phone also introduces new productivity benefits. These phones have the same features as wired IP phones and allow employees to roam without incurring cellular phone charges. They are convenient for employees, such as store or warehouse managers or health clinic personnel, who roam about during a typical workday but who need to remain available to answer important customer calls or communicate with other employees.
Improve Communication with Advanced IP Telephony Features
Cisco IPC Express includes a number of flexible IP telephony features that can improve communication for businesses. For example, with the paging feature you can use the IP phones to call a group of users or an entire department or make overhead announcements in a store or warehouse. This transforms the IP phone into a paging terminal. Another useful IP telephony feature is the intercom function. It is used to contact a specific individual with the stroke of a key and without requiring a ring cycle, delivering instant one-to-one voice communication.
Easily Replicate Telephony Configuration
Because Cisco IPC Express offers IP telephony features on a single platform, the configuration can be easily replicated across multiple sites or branch offices. This makes deployments across multiple branch offices easy to manage and troubleshoot. In addition, it improves productivity for employees who have the same communications infrastructure and features on their IP phones, regardless of which location they work in. The easily replicated configuration also makes the customer experience consistent across multiple offices or store locations that they visit.
Simplify Network Management Using the GUI
The GUI for Cisco IPC Express is a simple, user-friendly, web-based interface that does not require technical expertise with the platform or system details. Different levels of administration are available, allowing resellers to install and debug the system and office system administrators to make day-to-day changes, such as adding phones and voice mailboxes. There also is a level for end users to access and change their individual telephony feature settings.
Although Cisco IPC Express has many benefits, it might not be the ideal communications system for certain types of businesses. The decision factors include the size of your office, the choice of centralized versus distributed call processing, the WAN environment, and the features or applications required. The section "Deciding Between Cisco IPC Express and Cisco Call Manager," later in this chapter, describes when Cisco IPC Express is the ideal choice. It also provides an overview of other Cisco IP telephony options.
Cisco IPC Express System Components