An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest --Benjamin Franklin
That is a very true saying - in fact one that we believe strongly in here at INE. However we also understand just how expensive it can be to undertake studying for any CCIE Lab exam. That is why, whenever we can, we try to reduce the load on you - the students - to bear this cost. Take for instance our CCIE RS Volume II for Dynamips - we do all we can to provide you the best available instruction while trying to reduce, or sometimes even be able to eliminate the hardware costs associated with studying.
So now we have taken to task trying to do the same for our CCIE Voice track products. We can't quite virtualize all of the routers used as voice gateways (pesky DSP's and TDM trunk cards that dynamips won't ever be able to support since we actually need hardware for the drivers to be able to trigger the signaling), but we thought we would try to reduce the hardware cost for you, the student, in any way we can with the necessary hardware. Anyone having decided to study for the CCIE Voice lab exam has no doubt realized that even if you decide not to take on the enormous cost of building your own rack to practice with, and instead, to rent rack time from any vendor on the market, you still must purchase your own hardware 7961 IP Phones along with some sort of a hardware VPN solution (such as an ASA 5505 or 851 ISR router) at a minimum in order to be able to practice for all of the most important features tested in the lab. This is quite simply due to the fact that the much older 7960's and all current SCCP Software Client phones (including Cisco CIPC, IPBlue VT-GO*, etc) don't support any of the newer features - those that are most critical to studying for the latest lab exam. Even if you can manage to find refurbished 7961 IP Phones from eBay for roughly $150/phone and $500/ASA5505 - you still have to invest over $1,000USD just in hardware before you are ready to rent the rack! Seeing as how the 7961 phones are already a generation behind the current ones, and the possibility that when you pass your lab 6-12 months from now that they will likely be 2 generations old and harder to sell for the same price you paid for them - it becomes a very expensive venture to undertake!
To that end, we have made the decision to equip each of our voice racks with three 7961 phones (one at each "site" within the rack topology). Now the only way adding these phones to our racks makes any sense for our students is if we give them some way of controlling them. So we decided to form an exclusive partnership with the most premier remote phone control software company on the market - VoIP Integration. They recently upgraded their very popular Remote Phone software and have added a bunch of features, not to mention made the screen refresh rate a lot faster. Anyway - onto the good stuff. If you are a current (or future) Voice customer of INE, our strategic partnership with them will allow you to purchase their normally $199 Remote Phone software for a significantly reduced cost. One license will allow you to run multiple instances of the software in order to allow you to control all of the phones connected to your rack from a single PC.
If you have the ability to procure these hardware 7961 phones, they are still a great study option, and we still of course still support both IPSec EzVPN in Network Extension Mode and SSL VPN for everyone of our 14 Voice racks, just as we have done for well over a year now. And of course every live Voice course that we teach uses six hardware 7961 IP Phones - that won't change.
Students outside the US who have experienced higher latency and trouble getting their remote hardware phones to stay registered to CUCM or CUCME may also wish to consider this option and ultimately find this to be a very acceptable alternative.
One final reason that drove us to form this partnership and invest in phones for our racks was that we've been asked by so many of our Voice students to provide an option for them to study with 7961 phones as they travel from site to site, and don't wish to, or in many cases simply cannot, take their hardware phones with them. This gives them the inexpensive option to study using either our phones directly connected to our racks or else their own phones at their main study location connected to our racks via VPN, remotely controlled with this software.
Either way you choose, you now have an equally suitable option for studying for your Voice lab. The only unfortunate part about this is that you know have less of a reason not to be studying for your exam.
Only thing you have to do to qualify for this deeply-discounted version of VoIP Integration's Remote Phone software is to have 1) purchased any one of INE's Voice Products, and 2) send me an email expressing your wish to purchase a copy of their discounted software. VoIP Integration will then in turn send you an email to purchase the software at the discounted rate.
Finally - stay tuned for a new announcement approximately one week from now on a brand new Voice product that I personally am very excited to deliver! Something that I have been wanting to do now for a very long time, and something that so far, every live classroom student that I've run the concept by, has emphatically communicated back to me how deeply needed this type of instruction is in the Cisco UC marketplace, well beyond the help for the CCIE exam that it will provide. I wish I could give you more info right now - but my flight is landing for my next week's training class, and I am being told to put my laptop away. So watch this blog early next Friday for the announcement of when this product will (so very soon) launch!
In the (modified) words of Napolean Dynamite:
I hope all of your wildest (studying) dreams come true,
*IPBlue VT-GO can register to CUCM as a 7961/62 phone, however it does not actually act like one. Many of the most important features tested in the lab, specific to the 7961, don't work with the IPBlue soft-client - such as Globalization and Mapping Globalized to Localized, G.722 codec negotiation, and many of the softkeys needed.