This chapter covers the following topics:
It is the summer sale season at the clothing store where you work, and the floor is swamped with shoppers. One customer inquires about an item that is unavailable. With a few keystrokes on your IP phone, you check the inventory database to see if there is a similar item in another store location. As you input the customer's account number on the phone to reserve the item, the database informs you that this person is one of your best customers. You pick up the IP phone handset and page an employee to provide special assistance to the customer. The employee intercoms you using his wireless IP phone from another section of the store and promises to head over.
When you finish assisting the customer, your IP phone message waiting indicator (MWI) light comes on. You press a button on the IP phone and scroll through your messages. You have five voice mail messages and two e-mail messages. You return an urgent message from your supplier by pressing a button on your phone before attending to the less urgent messages.
Welcome to the world of convergence, where data and voice are delivered on a single IP network through IP communications systems. The preceding example only touches on the promise of IP telephony. There are many more reasons why it can transform your business, whether you are in the retail, financial, healthcare, or any other industry. First, IP telephony delivers converged applications in a cost-effective manner to users who may not have had access to them before. Instead of providing every employee in an office with a powerful computer, an IP phone can serve as the business communications device for many employees. Second, regardless of our collective readiness, the world of convergence has arrived. Just like the Internet revolution caught some by surprise, businesses that are slow to migrate will find themselves vulnerable to competitors that provide better services and have more productive employees. Finally, from a return-on-investment perspective, IP telephony reduces the complexity of having to manage and maintain separate network infrastructures for data and voice.
This book focuses on an IP telephony system called Cisco IP Communications (IPC) Express. Cisco IPC Express is a business communications solution that offers a comprehensive set of telephony features, as well as integrated routing, security, Ethernet switching, and numerous other applications on a single platform. The primary components of the Cisco IPC Express system are
This chapter introduces Cisco IPC Express used as an IP telephony system for small and medium businesses or an enterprise branch office. This chapter also covers the components of Cisco IPC Express and the applications that are possible over an integrated voice and data network.