We saw an interesting article over on Network News about a bad experience that a user had while trialling VoIP.
Scott Pinkerton has more than 25 years of IT experience, including more than a dozen with Argonne National Laboratory, where he currently serves as network services manager. He manages Argonne’s core network infrastructure, the one with capacity of some 80Gbps.
The problems centrered around the VoIP handsets used and Argonne deployed three models of handsets and found they had different firmware versions because power-over-Ethernet standards had changed over time. Some of the handsets would work with the Cisco 3560 switches but not the 4500s. (Pinkerton did not want to disclose the name of the handset vendor because he is still in negotiations with the company over the matter, although he did say the handset were not Cisco’s.)
Many of the users whose handsets did work were complaining of jittery calls, button lag, random key tones during conversations and other problems. Pinkerton and his team checked network syslogs for error messages and double-checked QoS settings, but all signs pointed to the Cisco switches operating at 100Mbps full-duplex, as they should.
The problem turned out to be twofold. First, the gateway connection from Argonne’s traditional PBX to the VoIP network was configured to autonegotiate speed and duplex settings. That process wasn’t consistently working, and Pinkerton’s team ultimately had to force the connections to operate at 100Mbps full-duplex.
He faced the same problem with the handsets, which would go through the autonegotiate process but set themselves to 10Mbps instead of 100M. “It didn’t work until we forced to static 100M full duplex,” Pinkerton said. Only after many weeks did the vendor admit that the handsets were failing to properly autonegotiate, he noted. “We had a lot of vendor engagement that didn’t always immediately result in vendor solutions.”
The “death blow,” however, really had nothing to do with technology. “Users were unhappy with the ergonomics of the phone, how it felt on the shoulder,” Pinkerton said. Additionally, many complained about the quality of the speakerphone, which produced too much feedback. “We forever got call-quality complaints on the speakerphone.”
It is always good to attempt a trial but like anything if you have problems with a certain vendor then you need to move on and look at alternatives as there are certainly more than 3 VoIP handset vendors in the market place plus often it is better to look at an overall vendor for the solution as you know that all equipment is tried and tested with the majority of bugs and glitches shaken out.