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Cisco vs. Polycom


Which VoIP Phones are Best Suited for your Business Environment?
Cisco vs Polycom Cisco vs Polycom
Cisco IP Phone 6851 with Multiplatform Firmware Polycom 331

Best in Class Business VoIP Phones

Hosted PBX Service is at the center of the Modern Business Phone System and Monmouth Telecom Hosted PBX Service supports any device that is SIP compliant.  SIP is an open standard. There are many different hardware manufacturers and software vendors producing devices and soft phones, which conform to the SIP specifications. Cisco and Polycom both make SIP phones. This is great news for you the consumer. You have a wide selection to choose from, with manufacturers competing to provide you with the highest quality phone at the lowest price.  With Monmouth Telecom Hosted PBX, you can choose which phones you want to use, without any fear of being locked in by this choice.  The Office VoIP phones that you purchase for Monmouth Telecom Hosted PBX can be used with any SIP compliant service or PBX.  This is in sharp contrast to the proprietary gimmicks being perpetrated by major PBX manufacturers.  They have VoIP phones that don't inter-operate with any system other then their own.  Kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it? Learn more about Hosted PBX in our Hosted PBX Information Center.

Many different phones are fully compatible with the SIP Standards. We have had the opportunity to test and deploy thousands of different makes and models of Office VoIP Phones in a wide variety of Industries and Business Scenarios.  For each use case there are different criteria that you must measure the phone by.  Here are our recommendations on "Best in Class" devices for the most common use case scenarios.

Table of Contents

  1. Basic Model Phone
  2. Executive Phone
  3. Receptionist Phone
  4. Conference Room Phone
  5. Wireless Phone
  6. Soft Phone
  7. Learn More and Watch Feature Videos

Basic Model Phone

Winner: Cisco 6851 Multiplatform Firmware

Cisco IP Phone 6851 with Multiplatform Firmware

This phone must be economical, reliable and long lasting. It must have a full duplex speakerphone and a full set of customizable soft buttons. In this class we recommend the Cisco 504G. This is a battle-tested phone from a trusted company, selling with a very large volume. The result is a reliable phone at a competitive price. Multi-cast paging is the icing on the cake that makes the Cisco 504G the clear winner. Polycom's comparable entry-level model is the Soundpoint IP 331 (shown at top). The Polycom has slightly thinner in form factor. The Polycom phone has 2 lines instead of 4 with the Cisco and it is slightly more expensive than the Cisco.

Cisco has a Crucial Advantage for Desk to Desk (Intercom) Paging with Large Installations

Intercom Paging is a feature where someone can broadcast their voice over all of the speakerphones of all of the phones, simultaneously. Think: "John Doe please call extension 102. John Doe extension 102." Cisco and Polycom both support this feature. However, Cisco has introduced an implementation of this feature which saves businesses a lot of bandwidth, on an expensive WAN connection. The name of this feature is Multicast Paging. First, Polycom requires each phone that is playing the page to receive its own audio stream. If you have 50 phones, that is 50 identical audio streams. If each audio stream is 80kbps that is a total of 4mbps which would require 3 T1s! Cisco's implementation requires a total of two audio streams for every page, regardless of how many phones are being paged. Cisco achieved this by enabling the phones to listen on a broadcast ip address. The paging audio stream is sent to this broadcast address, and the LAN switches, make sure this traffic reaches all the phones. This is a very efficient way to handle paging and represents a large savings for businesses who rely on intercom paging.

Full Duplex Speakerphone is a Must

A business phone must have a full duplex speakerphone. This allows you to make yourself heard when the person on the other end will not stop talking. A full duplex speakerphone is a much more accurate representation of a natural conversation, where two people can talk to each other simultaneously. A half duplex speakerphone will only transmit audio in one direction at a time, making it very difficult to get a word in, for example when a sales person launches into their pitch. Polycom has made a name for itself providing a rich speakerphone experience. Cisco has caught up, as of 2011, when they introduced their 500 Series VoIP Phones with a high quality full-duplex speakerphone.

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Executive Office Phone

Winner: Cisco 8841 Multiplatform Firmware

Image result for cisco 8841

For an Executive phone we expect to see all of the features of a General Purpose Office Phone with a number of Enhancements. Mandatory Executive Features include color screen and bluetooth for wireless headsets. Features we have identified as differentiating are primarily focused on optimizations, which save the user time in any way possible.  These include extra soft buttons to reduce the number of button presses the user needs to press in order to perform an action. These extra buttons can also be used to monitor other extensions within the organization, answer your secretary's ringing phone, pull a call out of a queue, and many more. The Cisco 525G2 has an additional soft button over the 504G, a high resolution a color screen, and bluetooth capabilities. 

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Receptionist Phone

Winner: Cisco 6851 Multiplatform with 6800 Key Expansion Module 

A Receptionist generally has the most demanding phone needs of the entire company.  They often handle heavy call volume, passing off each call rapidly.  A receptionist phone must have the ability to speed dial many people in the company, and monitor many employees, quickly and efficiently. This is generally done with a sidecar, which attaches to a phone and has a number of buttons that light to indicate different states. These lights can indicate an extension is on the phone, ringing, or idle. They can also be used to speed dial the extension.
Cisco again has the advantage in the market place for this scenario.  The Cisco 6800 Expansion Module  adds 28-lighted buttons and is compatible with all of the Office VoIP phones in the Cisco 6800 series.  At 28 buttons per sidecar, Cisco has the densest receptionist phone on the market. Both Polycom and Cisco have sidecars for their phones. However, Cisco's is denser, less expensive, and available for all of their 500 series phones.  
Conference Room Phone▲ Back To Top

Winner: Polycom Soundpoint IP5000

Polycom Soundstation IP5000

A Conference Room Phone must have multiple microphones and speakers, so that it can sit in the middle of a conference room and capture all of the speakers within the room, clearly. A Conference Room Phone must also support satellite microphones for large boardrooms. The Polycom Soundpoint IP5000 does just that with 3 microphones and 4 speakers in the base and support for expansion with additional microphones and speakers.

Polycom is no latecomer to the speakerphone game. Polycom conference phones have been rebranded by high-profile manufacturers such as Avaya. The Polycom IP 5000 is a durable, well tested, conference phone with a huge installed base. Polycom's early entry into this field has enabled it to work out all the kinks and establish itself as a reliable leader in conference room phones.

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Wireless Phone

Winner: Polycom's Kirk Line of DECT wireless phones

Polycom Kirk Butterfly Handset Series

This competition comes down to a technology choice:

DECT or WI-FI for wireless phones?

The answer is still DECT.  WI-FI, unlike wireline internet, has yet to see widespread adoption of QOS standards. What does that mean to you the consumer? It means that when you have multiple devices using the WI-FI, the voice will not always receive priority treatment.  VoIP, unlike email or web browsing, requires very low latency and does not tolerate packet loss. As a result WI-FI's lack of prioritization standards makes it a poor choice for wireless voice. Polycom has a wide range of DECT phones to choose from, which only convert to VoIP at the base station, where it is connected into the LAN with an ethernet interface. Cisco is only selling WI-FI phones, which subject you to poor audio quality when there is resource contention on the wireless lan.

In the wireless VoIP arena we have recommendations and one warning. Don't try voip over WiFi. This technology has simply not matured yet. QoS is a requirement when it comes to VoIP if you want reliable quality phone service. Wifi is inherently a shared medium, and without rock solid QoS your calls will suffer. QoS over WiFi is still more of a research project with several proprietary solutions competing to be the next standard.  Monmouth Telecom recommends a DECT wireless infrastructure, specifically Polycom's Kirk Line of DECT wireless phones.  These phones are very durable and are built on mature technology that works.

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Soft Phone

Winner: X-Lite by Counterpath

A Soft Phone provides you with the ability to place and receive calls from a computer or a smartphone. We have chosen a soft phone made by long time Soft Phone Developer Counterpath, who has been developing soft phones for over 10 years.  In addition to being stable and feature rich, It has two must have softphone features:

  • A Free Version - X-Lite
  • Supports Mac and Windows
  • Smartphone Version Supports IPhone and Android

Neither Cisco nor Polycom provide a software phone.

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Learn More

Other Phones we've tested and deployed

We have tested many other phones including the Polycom Soundpoint Series of SIP DeskphonesAastra SIP phones, and older versions of Cisco phones.  On occasion a customer wants to sign up for Hosted PBX Service with phones that we have not come across before.  We have a streamlined testing process for certifying your phones for use with our Hosted PBX service.  That's the freedom of the SIP open standard.  

Hosted PBX Service

Visit our Hosted PBX Information Center for more on how your business can save money and increase productivity with Voice-Over-IP.

Watch our Videos covering features of the Cisco VoIP Phones.

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Monmouth Telecom

Founded as an Internet Service Provider in NJ in 1995, Monmouth Telecom has grown to offer a complete set of innovative and economical Business VoIP Phone Services and Business Internet Services.  We were NJ's first Internet Service Provider turned Telephone Company in 2000 and in 2006 we began providing businesses with increased functionality using VoIP. Learn more about Who We Are and how Hosted PBX / Virtual PBX is changing the face of business telephone service.

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