The number-one question our Applications Engineering team receives is “How do I get started?” People are so accustomed to analog phones, which have been around for more than a century. You plug the device in, you’ve got voltage, and you go from there. With VoIP, you’re getting into networking, and that’s on the far edge of many people’s comfort zones. VoIP is a specific set of protocols that uses the network to exchange information. That’s even farther out of most people’s comfort zones. Because we offer third-party SIP phones, we support SIP in the same way that we believe other manufacturers would do so. However, we’ve found that while SIP is a standard, there are many variations that can be added to it. We’re offering an agnostic device that can connect to any other manufacturer and is not associated with any specific manufacturer. We’re out there for everybody.

We’ve created a series of tools to help make the installation process as efficient as possible. These tools are available on Cornerstone, Biamp’s online technical support knowledgebase. Cornerstone includes an extensive library of articles, with an entire section devoted to VoIP. Our VoIP support topics are detailed in the following segments.

Certification and Testing
Certification and testing are some of the first steps we’ve taken to help our customers. We’ve vetted our products and their ability to interact with other manufactures’ products before you even get started. The key point of certification is that not only do we say we support it, but the VoIP manufacturer also supports it, and that means when you call the VoIP manufacturer’s tech support, the first thing they ask is which device you are connecting. If you respond “Biamp TesiraFORTÉ VI” or “Biamp SVC-2 card,” or any other listed device, the tech support representative will say “alright, let’s continue.” Certification and testing go a long way. We also maintain an extensive tech notes database, which can be accessed via Cornerstone. As a pre-sales measure, VoIP administrators can use the tech notes to make decisions about which products to choose. The tech notes cover a significant percentage of the issues we encounter with getting VoIP to work. The remainder involves factors like unique network setups. We wrote all of the tech notes in-house, and we did that in the name of improved customer support.

Product Matrix
We’ve created a product matrix that can be used as a reference when selecting initial equipment. Our product matrix is based on the certification described in the previous section. The product matrix lays out which of our VoIP products and connections are tested, and which are certified, to function with specific manufacturers’ equipment. If a device doesn’t appear on either list, you’re at your own risk. This doesn’t mean it won’t work, but be prepared that you may hit a stopping point. However, if a device does appear on this list, you’re getting a guarantee from Biamp that we will work with you until that system is fully functional. We’re focusing on providing resources that educate and inform VoIP administrators so they feel more confident with installations. Engineering support and tech support are here to make it work. It’s our guarantee. If the device is on the list, it will work.

VoIP card installation is a complex process that relies on a number of factors in order to reach the desired result. With this in mind, we developed a thorough checklist designed to ask the right questions of the VoIP administrator and generate the important information to make each installation go as smoothly as possible. Although the checklist is detailed and includes every possible bit of information that may be required, the information needed varies on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the unique conditions of a given project, the details on the checklist are vital to an effective installation. The checklist also allows the Biamp Support team to troubleshoot an installation in the event of a problem. We can reference the checklist to determine what went wrong. The checklist is a way to build that “handshake” between the VoIP administrator and the AV integrator efficiently. Overall, the checklist was developed to start the VoIP installation process off right, saving valuable time and reducing frustration for integrators and VoIP administrators. Once the decision to go VoIP is made, we send the checklist and related tech notes to the administrator. Before filling out the checklist, we recommend checking out our VoIP product matrix, which can be found in the VoIP section on Cornerstone.

Once an integrator works with the VoIP administrator to fill out the VoIP checklist, the information is entered into our software. The VoIP system uses this data to determine whether everything matches, and when that is complete, the process of connecting to the VoIP system can continue. Both sides of the installation get configured, with the VoIP administrator and the AV integrator performing their respective functions to make everything work properly. If there’s a problem at any point, the equipment will prevent you from dialing. You can review the current state of the card and any status messages. If that section is blank, everything is working properly and you will be able to dial. If not, you can use the error message to diagnose and address the issue by looking it up on Cornerstone, or by calling Biamp Support for assistance.

We’re confident in our products and technology, but we recognize that things can go wrong even in the most expertly designed and developed systems. Some of the most common troubleshooting techniques are outlined on Cornerstone in the form of our status message key and Wireshark packet capture tech notes.

To supplement these support services, we provide onsite and online training classes. All of Biamp’s training courses cover VoIP to some degree. As an additional training tool, we launched a dedicated VoIP training course in February 2015. This course is hosted online and can be completed at a pace that suits your needs. Upon passing the course and final exam, you’ll receive Biamp VoIP certification. Sign up for our VoIP training course.

Tesira offers complex dialing features, including conferencing, multiple call appearances, and flash. It also offers locally-hosted three-way conference calling, which is limited to one three-way call per line. That feature goes a long way, and if you need additional lines you can call into a bridge. Because this function can be confusing, we focused on making it more streamlined and intuitive during our training courses. Our goal is to ensure that people know what Tesira is capable of and how it operates.

Stay tuned to Component for future VoIP posts.