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Google Voice - it's rather cool

We have just started moving over to Google Voice in Trust schools. This is to replace the existing telephony systems. If you are a G Suite organisation, then its a really cool solution and works very well.

If you didn't know, this is a cloud-based solution and you users can use their Voice number on any device, anywhere - not just the physical desk phone (entirely optional) sitting at school. You have integration with all of the other G Suite tools - especially Calendar and Meet. Basically read all about it here. I'm not going to duplicate the Google blurb - but go through a few things to be aware of.

Cost

  • Voice licences come in at around £8 per month. Each user who needs a Voice number needs one and every physical handset is associated with a user.
  • Handsets - you have to use the Polycom handsets - VVX150's start at around £75. Remember you can use Voice on any internet-connected device - so these are strictly optional. You can see the full range of handsets here.
  • Calls to Voice numbers are free - others are £0.01 per minute.

Admin Setup

  • This is all done in the G Suite admin console and follows these basic steps:
  • Initiate number Porting. You want to keep your old number? This takes about 3-4 weeks - so kick it off and set you switch over date.
  • Enable Voice as a service for the users who are going to use it.
  • Add a Voice licence to the users who are getting numbers.
  • Create locations. You need to specify the address of your site or sites as you will need to specify a location when assigning a number to a user. This is also used to determine what the local number code will be for the user.
  • Assign a number to each user - you can pick a local area number.
  • Create an auto-attendant to hand incoming calls.
  • Assign the ported number to the auto-attendant.
  • Create ring groups if required - these can make multiple handsets ring at once and other things.

All of the above is very easy and all point and click. You can have a large site set up very quickly. Now the harder bit - physical handsets!

Handset Setup

I've so far provisioned the handsets offsite at a location I know works well with Google Voice. You should get the OBI edition handsets. We did not - our ones came with the SIP firmware. This means you have to firmware flash each phone. So our phone provisioning went something like this:
  • Add a desk phone in the management console. To do this you need the MAC address of the phone written on the back of the phone. You also need to give the handset a name and assign it to a user. then stick a label on the phone so you know which is which.
  • Plug the phone into a POE port and let it boot up. If it has the correct firmware on it, then it will reboot a few times and come up with the name of the user after a while. If not you need to flash it.
  • On your DHCP server look up the IP address of the phone (they say Polycom in the hostname - so easy to find).
  • Go to the web interface https://phone ip
  • Enter the default password: 456
  • Navigate to the firmware update menu and select custom.
  • Paste in the following URL into the box: https://www.obitalk.com/VVX-OE/6.3.1.1/release.xml
  • Click check for updates. You will see one.
  • Apply the update and wait - the phone will reboot a few times and show the username of the assigned user after a while.

Physical handset deployment

  • You need a POE data outlet. The phones have a passthrough port for a computer if you are short of ports.
  • Scope the site before you install and confirm there is a data outlet and if not, how you are going to get one to where the phone is meant to be. You might need a bunch of POE injectors if they don't have POE switches. af standard is fine as the phones use less than 15W.
  • Ensure the network will support the requirements - these are detailed here. Depending on the site, I've had to put phones on DHCP reservations and exclude from filtering.

If after all that, you have succeeded, you will be greeted with lots of green happy phones on the management console:





Comments

  1. How many phones are you deploying? Are you replacing classroom phones as well? What about emergency calls when God forbid internet goes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Varies by site. 6 in a small primary - 18 in a bigger one. We have put some in classrooms. Voice works on any device - so you can make calls on mobiles phones - so you can use you school numbers even if the school burns down.

      Delete
  2. Hi Roger,

    Are you using this phone system primarily or do you have something in addition to this. My concerns with Google Voice is that it is not very feature rich in comparison to other phone systems ie

    No Hunt groups
    Doesn't have the ability to allow calls at certain times only Avaya call them time profiles)
    How do you transfer calls?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Primary phone system.

      We have found its features are far more extensive that other systems and definitely compared to what we have replaced. It also ties in nicely with G Suite. You have to be a G Suite org for it to make sense.

      Hunt groups from a quick Google = Ring Groups in Google Voice - so for example we have things like press 1 on the auto attendant > makes two phones ring > if they don't pick up > another phone rings etc - can be as elaborate as you want and dead easy to do.

      You link active hours to your Google Calendar.

      Transfer calls - on a Polycom handset press the transfer call button or on the web/app press transfer call - not much too it really. Much the same as any other system I've used.

      Delete

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