SIP VoIP for Home and the Day of Sadness

Today is a sad day, because yesterday I came up with an evil super plan, however today I realise that it just cannot be. My evil super plan was this. To purchase a SIP line from an ISP, configure my Cisco 2651XM with CME and have the SIP line trunked into the router. From here, […]

Today is a sad day, because yesterday I came up with an evil super plan, however today I realise that it just cannot be.

My evil super plan was this. To purchase a SIP line from an ISP, configure my Cisco 2651XM with CME and have the SIP line trunked into the router. From here, I was going to replace our existing Windows Home Server with Windows Small Business Server 2008, which I would install Office Communications Server 2007 R2 onto.

The combination of SBS and OCS would give us the ability to use Unified Messaging (UM for Exchange) and would allow us to use the Office Communicator client on the desktop and Office Mobile Communicator on our Windows Phone devices. I would then have configure the 2651XM and OCS to trunk the SIP line between each other using guides available online for configuring OCS and CME to talk so that inbound calls on the SIP line would be routed to the OCS server.

This just gets better now, because the second part of the plan was to configure a hunt group in OCS which would group both me and Nicky together. If someone were to ring the home phone, it would ring both of us simultaneously and then the first one to answer receives the call (that’s the hunt group at work). If nobody answered then the caller could leave a voicemail on the OCS server which would be delivered to both me and Nicky to our SBS Exchange mailboxes using UM.

Just stop for one minute to think of the power and the feature set am talking about here?

  • Imagine being able to answer your home phone anywhere in the world from either your PC or mobile?
  • Imagine being able to receive voicemails left on your home phone from your inbox anywhere in the world via PC, mobile or Outlook Web Access from an Internet cafe?
  • Imagine making phone calls to numbers anywhere in the world just like using a normal telephone but at the fraction of the cost?

This is what CME, SBS and OCS could do for us! SBS would even perform the automated backup tasks for us that Windows Home Server does currently. That’s all good, but where is the sadness? Well here it comes.

First off, I knew in previous versions of Windows Mobile that you could only support one Exchange mailbox at a time, however I had hoped that my Windows Mobile 6.5.3 Touch HD could manage two. I use my corporate email on my phone already so using Exchange at home would force the need for multiple account support, however I today tried to add a section Exchange mailbox and got the error that one already existed 🙁

Secondly is bandwidth. The domain which our email accounts belong to is I have many accounts setup in this domain for members of the family. At home we have a Virgin Media 20Mbps internet service. This provides us 20Mbps downstream and 768Kbps upstream. Although I have done no formal calculations, this is the showstopper.

Imagine the bandwidth required to operate an Exchange server? Every single email coming in our going out, every single email client connecting to download those emails or send new ones? Now imagine on top of this, the bandwidth required to keep the SIP channel active to allow us to make and receive phone calls. Now add to this, the normal daily bandwidth of our home internet connection – World or Warcraft, PlayStation Network and other online gaming, YouTube, file downloads and then normal web traffic. I think jamming all of this down our internet connection is just too much, and I think that although the functionality would be immense, I think that the usability of the functions wouldn’t and it would turn what should be an outstanding experience into a miserable one.

I commented to Nicky that if we lived in the US and had Verizon FiOS then it would be okay as the upload on that service is sufficient to support all of this, but at the moment here in England, I just don’t think we could do it.

My second idea was to use purely CME without OCS. This was actually the first idea but I decided very quickly to drop this idea for several reasons:

  • The Cisco 7941 and other handset type phones are too big and cumbersome for the home and not very user friendly either.
  • The Cisco 7921G wireless IP phone is a useful device in terms of functionality but it lacks style and the £350 eBay price tag puts it well out of my reach.
  • The Cisco WIP310-G2 is a gorgeous looking piece style wise which I would be proud to have in our home, has a good user friendly interface and is supported in CME (all good so far) but the price of £169 is too much still.
  • Cisco IP Communicator client for Windows would go some of the way to give us the functionality of the Office Communicator software (although not all the way) but there is no mobile version of the IP Communicator which wouldn’t provide us with the hunt group / on the go functionality that OCS would.
  • CME alone wouldn’t give us UM or messaging at all for that matter. I would need the Cisco Unity Express (CUE) module for my 2651XM which is very expensive. A co-worker suggested Asterisk which is a free PBX application, however I want to do this properly or not at all.

I could of course use OCS without Exchange, however that throws another spanner – OCS needs Active Directory. If there was a version of OCS for Workgroups which didn’t require a domain then I could install that on WHS more than likely and it would work beautifully, however because OCS requires a domain, SBS becomes the obvious choice for it’s backup and other features, but by using SBS you add Exchange will foils the whole plan.

If anyone out there runs SIP, OCS or Exchange at home and has any suggestions or information about bandwidth consumption then please let me know.