We are finished with our L2VPN beta testing, and are very happy to report that all 38 of our beta testers reported back not only no issues with connecting to us, but also an incredible experience overall with phones that appear directly connected to their rack switchports, and that behave and function exactly as they did when any of them have previously sat for the CCIE Voice lab exam. We are happy to announce that every one of our Voice racks now fully supports SIX Layer 2 VPN connections – one for each phone.
At INE, we are all about putting as much knowledge in your mind as it can hold, as many tools in your hands as possible, and doing it all for far less than anyone. We offer so many ways of connecting to our Voice racks and often I get asked which method is the best and which they should use. So I thought I would take this time to quickly outline all of the ways we offer to connect to our racks, and then break them down by most-to-least desirable methods for doing so after the break.
Outline of Connection Methods
- Layer 2 Hardware VPN – Use Your Own Hardware Cisco IP Phones
- (This option is the only true way to experience the CCIE Voice lab)
Option 1: Layer 2 Hardware VPN – Use Your Own Hardware Cisco IP Phones JUST LIKE Actual CCIE Lab
This is by far the best option, and gives you the exact lab environment that you will experience when you give your actual CCIE Voice lab exam – and if you are just starting on studying for your CCNA or CCNP Voice exams, this option will make by far the most sense, giving you the ability to test everything naturally as if you had your own rack of equipment. Pretty much the only reason you would not use this option, is if you don’t have the needed hardware to support it, or you are on the move a lot and don’t have a place to dedicate to setting up hardware phones. This option is exactly what Cisco uses to connect all of their remote CCIE testing facilities back to all of the centralized gear in San Jose. In fact, even if you give your exam in San Jose, CA, you will still experience this same setup (they do this to keep every experience the same). This is also the exact same method that we use in each of our live CCIE Voice bootcamps.
To use this option, you need to have a Cisco IOS router and a Cisco Catalyst switch. The router needs to have 2 FastEthernet interfaces – be it either a 2611XM, 1841, 28xx, 29xx, 38xx, etc., etc.. No older 2600s (must be XM) and no 8xx routers. Also no ASAs (sorry, they just don’t provide the needed feature set). For the switch, it needs to be a 3550 or better (sorry, no 3500XL or older). Oh, and hardware IP phones. Oh, and the switch doesn’t need to be a PoE switch – you can use power cubes with your phones if you prefer. Details on how to connect with this option will be found in Appendix A of the newest Voice Rack Rental Access Guide
Option 2: Layer 3 Hardware VPN – Use Your Own Hardware Cisco IP Phones
This is the 2nd best option. You get to use your own hardware phones (which at some point in your studies, is a must to be fully prepared for your studies, even if you start out using our remote control option). The only reason you would choose this option over Option 1 is if you don’t have both a supported Cisco IOS router and Catalyst switch. If you do have both of those (see above for requirements), then move back up to option 1 for the only true lab experience.
To use this option, you need to have a Cisco IOS router or a Cisco ASA 5505 or a PIX 506 (no ASA 5510 or PIX 515 support) and hardware IP phones. And for this option, it can be a Cisco 8xx router – it just needs to have 2 ethernet interfaces (not switched interfaces, routed interfaces — easy way to tell is if you can assign an IP address to them). Details on how to connect with this option will be found in Appendix B or C (depending on IOS or ASA respectively) of the newest Voice Rack Rental Access Guide
Option 3: CiscoAnyConnect SSL VPN – Use Our Rack-Connected Phones with FREE Web-Based Variphy Remote Control
This is your third best option, and one that you would most likely choose if you either were on the move a lot, or else didn’t have the resources for both IP phones and a router. Using this option gives you full routable access to everything on your rack, which allows you to remotely control the IP phones attached directly to our racks using our provided free Variphy web-browser-based software, or else your own software phones, if you so choose. The nice thing about this option, is that you don’t have to manually download or install any software from Cisco’s web site – everything is automatically installed through your web browser when you first sign on.
To use this option, all you need is a Mac, Windows or Linux laptop/desktop. Details on how to connect with this option will be found in Appendix D of the newest Voice Rack Rental Access Guide
Option 4: IPSec (EzVPN) VPN – Use Our Rack-Connected Phones with FREE Web-Based Variphy Remote Control
This is your fourth best option, and one that you would choose if for some reason you prefer not to use SSL VPN and also again if you either were on the move a lot, or else didn’t have the resources for both IP phones and a router. Using this option again gives you full routable access to everything on your rack, which allows you to remotely control the IP phones attached directly to our racks using our provided free Variphy web-browser-based software, or else your own software phones, if you so choose.
To use this option, you need to have the Cisco VPN Client (separate download from Cisco.com – we cannot provide) and a Mac, Windows or Linux laptop/desktop. Details on how to connect with this option will be found in Appendix E of the newest Voice Rack Rental Access Guide
Option 5: NO VPN AT ALL – Use Our Rack-Connected Phones with FREE Web-Based Variphy Remote Control
This is your fifth best option, and one that you would be likely to choose if you were either visiting a remote machine, or if you simply could not or did not want to install or use any sort of VPN connection.
Using this option gives you routable access to most everything on your rack, and does provide you with everything you need to practice, with the only exception being that you cannot use your own software phones, however you CAN remotely control all of our rack-connected phones since all you need is a web browser to accomplish this. This method gives you access to everything you need to study on our voice racks via the following methods:
- Web browser access to all configuration windows
- RDP access to UCCX and XP-UTIL machine
- Telnet to all your devices in one of two ways:
- RDP to XP-UTIL and then use Putty installed there to telnet/SSH to anything
- Telnet directly to PSTN router and then telnet/SSH to anything
which allows you to remotely control the IP phones attached directly to our racks using our provided free Variphy web-browser-based software, or else your own software phones, if you so choose. This nice thing about this option, is that you don’t have to manually download or install any software from Cisco’s web site – everything is automatically installed through your web browser when you first sign on.
To use this option, all you need is a web browser and a Remote Desktop Protocol client. Details on how to connect with this option will be found in Section 8 of the newest Voice Rack Rental Access Guide
Finally a note about our provided free Variphy remote control software called Insight. We have a strategic relationship with Variphy that allows us not only to provide you with free control over our voice racks, but also allows us to give you their software for free usage in your own private racks, if that’s how you choose to study (If you would like a personal copy, please unicast me). This software is accessed purely through your web browser, and therefore is completely OS agnostic. It also looks, acts and performs exactly like a Cisco IP phone — not relying on some obscure software client interface that not only looks nothing like an actual Cisco phone, but requires complex keystrokes, mouse clicks and about 10 shots of espresso to fully understand and operate. It’s very simple. You want to press a Softkey? Press that softkey. You want to dial a number? Dial that number on the keypad. Desire QoS stats? Press the help key. Sure, it has loads more powerful features than any other client (in fact remote control is not even close to it’s primary feature – just the one we utilize most), but we don’t require you to know them nor do we tout them as they really have nothing to do with studying for your CCIE Voice Lab exam. They simply exist should you wish to dig deeper. If you are a consultant, this might be the most invaluable tool you have in your arsenal. In fact it is used by some of the largest global consulting firms providing managed UC services to multi-cluster installs with overlapping IP schemes with hundreds of thousands of phones per customer. For instance, install a system, and go back later and want to see exactly what has changed (and exactly who changed it), this tool will do that in spades. And not just for CUCM. Oh, and it doesn’t rely on arcane CTI protocol. Everything is done through lightweight and modern HTTP. Take a quick 2 minute tour of it here.
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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