Polycom SoundPoint IP300

The Polycon IP300 is a budget priced phone, but has a construction that suggests otherwise. It's fairly heavy with a solid handset that has a German, 'made to last' feel to it. The buttons are well sprung and have a nice, quality travel when pressed.

The display is also exceptionally nice for an entry-level phone. Many phones on the market with higher price tags have far smaller, harder to read displays. It’s not backlit, but that won’t really matter unless you like to work in the dark.

The IP300 supports two VoIP accounts as standard, with SIP or MGCP protocols (not both) being your only options. That means no support for other protocols such as SCCP (Cisco “Skinny”), H.323 or IAX either. This won’t be a major problem unless you’re running either an old or a proprietary system that doesn’t support SIP or MGCP and you can’t upgrade. SIP is pretty much the industry standard these days, and just about everyone bar Cisco uses it as standard and even its phones can be upgraded to support SIP.

Once the IP300 is on the network, either using DHCP or by manually entering the IP address details directly into the phone by the keypad, you can then enter the phone’s IP address into a web browser and configure it there.

One of the first things I had to do was upgrade the phone to the latest release of the Polycom firmware. This requires you to place the firmware on an FTP or TFTP server, and supply these details via the web interface. As annoying as this might initially seem, in that same FTP or TFTP space, you can put a series of XML files named after each phone’s MAC address, where you store SIP account details and a couple of generic files where you can store global variables that are common to all phones. Every time the phone is powered up, the phone looks at this storage space and checks to see if there's a new revision of the firmware – and downloads it if there is one.

Despite the use of a non-standard cable (that Polycom can supply), the phone supports both the Cisco standard for Power-over-Ethernet (POE) and the industry standard 802.3af. The phone also supports Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP), so a Cisco POE (or compatible) switch/router can see each and every phone using this protocol, for ease of management.

Using POE, you can remotely reboot the phones when an upgrade comes along or if you want to update the configuration of one or all of the phones. A UPS on the network switch can supply power to the phones and can continue to provide power in the case of a power outage. This can be very useful (and legally required) in order to contact emergency services.

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