I have been asked for many years now, “What is the best phone to use when studying for the CCIE Voice exam?”. And while this answer has changed over the years with the different blueprint requirements (with no doubt whatsoever it will change again come next blueprint), the answer for the past year and a half has been a tough one. You see, the actual CCIE Voice lab exam uses Cisco 7965G phones – which you certainly do not need to run out and buy, since all of the same features can be tested using a lesser model, say a 7961 or 2 hardware phone (only difference would be the background image – color and resolution). And certainly, without a doubt, using hardware phones –attached to an INE / GradedLabs Voice Rack using hardware EzVPN through a Cisco IOS router or Cisco ASA– is hands down, the absolute best way to study.
However, not everyone has the capital outlay needed to achieve such a pristine study environment. In fact, when we at INE got together with another company to offer a discounted rate to students on some ‘remote phone control’ software –so that students could get the ‘next best thing’, namely controlling the same hardware phones without purchasing them– the price still exceeded many of our clients’ budgets. They would say (a bit incredulously) to us, “You mean I spent all this money on your great self-paced products, but now I get surprised to find that I must spend more money just to make your racks work for my lab session??”. And you know what? I tend to agree with them. It didn’t seem all that fair at all. And then that company decided to raise their prices, which I understand -business is business- it just didn’t fit with our needs for our students any longer. So now, after having been approached by every company in this comparison list to use their product, we settled with what we believe is far-and-away the absolute best among them, Variphy Insight, and let our clients use it for free. That’s right, it costs you absolutely nothing to use our remote phone control software with our racks. And we have FIVE 7961 phones and one PSTN phone attached to every single CCIE Voice rack. Not only is their product lightweight by the pure use HTML, but it can be used with any OS.
So what I have done is, after carefully evaluating many possible methods of hard-phone vs. softphone vs. remote phone control software, put together a side-by-side comparison of many of the more popular means of studying for the CCIE Voice exam. This list is by no means exhaustive, however it is a very fair look at each product and what it can offer you in terms of 1) Cost, 2) Features, 3) OS Support, and 4) Ability to Use One Client for everything you need to do in your CCIE Voice self-paced studies. I hope this helps some people, and please comment on things you like, dislike, or would like to see, and we will do our absolute best to accommodate you.
By the way, we will be releasing complete rewrites with exhaustive video solutions to our Volume I and II workbooks in coming weeks – a few will release in less than 2 weeks.
Oh, and stay tuned for some upcoming announcements soon that will make your self-studying even easier!
About Mark Snow, CCIE #14073:
Mark Snow has been actively working with data and traditional telephony as a Network Consulting Engineer since 1995, and has been working with Cisco Call Manager and voice-over technology since 1998. Mark has been actively teaching and developing content for the CCIE Voice track since 2005, and the Security track since 2007. Mark's story with both data and voice technology started out quite young, as he began learning around the age of five from his father who was a patented inventor and a research scientist at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Mark started out on Unix System V and basic analog telephony, and went on from there to large data networking projects with technologies such as Banyan Vines, IPX and of course IP, and large phone systems such as Nortel 61c, Tadiran Coral, Avaya Definity and of course Cisco Unified Communications Manager in both enterprise and 911 PSAP environments across the US and internationally. Mark is also an accomplished pilot and punched his ticket in 2001. When Mark isn't learning, labing, consulting or teaching, he can be found either piloting or possibly jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, hanging off a rock somewhere or else skiing out west. He also might just be enjoying a quiet day at the beach with his wife and two wonderful young kids, Ryleigh and Judah.
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