Using Cisco 7900 series IP phones on Asterisk

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Breathe new life into a widely available product

The trend for IP phones is towards the latest, most flashy handset.  Colour displays are all the rage for top end business use, but there's still plenty of life to be had from phones that many businesses are disposing of.

Cisco prefer you to use their Call Manager software but the 7900 series will work fine by flashing with SIP software and linking up to a low cost Asterisk server.

The earliest of the 7900 series - the 7940/7960 series - works on a fairly old XML configuration and there's limited information on these handsets.  Go for a 7941/7961 or 7942/7962 and these are much easier to manage.

Where to start

Decide what type of Asterisk server you want.  A low powered system like Raspberry Pi is capable of handling a dozen handsets with ease.  Atom servers may be better for small businesses.  Larger organisations will want a dedicated mid to high end server with redundancy.

Once you've decided on the server you need to work out the software.  An easily configurable system may be one like PBX In A Flash which is available on many platforms including Raspberry Pi, PogoPlug, BeagleBox and x86 systems.

Next is the power

You'll need either a POE switch or a Cisco Power Cube - enough said, these are the only two options you really have.

Then it's configuration time

Set up on a dedicated forum.  PBX In A Flash is a dedicated forum that incorporates the FreePBX GUI on top of Asterisk.  This forum also features a resources guide with dedicated pre-configured XML files you can flash to the handset, along with info how to flash SIP onto the handsets.

Now you're all configured...

Simply sit back and make those calls.  You've just saved a lot of money by putting in one of the workhorses of the VOIP world back in business.
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