As we know, customers can use VoIP in a variety of ways on a large number of devices. While this provides the requisite amount of flexibility, there is a certain utility with having a landline like phone sitting in one place receiving calls. Every office has them – sometimes one for each employee sitting behind a separate extension. With the regular PSTN system, everything is so standardized that you can just plug the phone into the existing system and have it work without any flaws. VoIP however requires just a little bit more configuration to get things working properly because not all SIP providers use the same settings. Unfortunately anything that gets between the user and the actual use of technology is a hindrance and it’s in the interests of VoIP phone manufacturers as well as SIP providers to make the setting up and usage of VoIP phones as seamless as possible. This is where a boot server or a provisioning server comes into the picture.
Instead of leaving the setting up and configuration of VoIP phones to the customer, SIP providers have tied up with VoIP phone manufacturers to allow the phones themselves to perform the necessary configuration. A dedicated server sits remotely with the configuration information necessary for the phone to work. When the phone starts up or boots, it contacts the server over the Internet and gets exactly the right settings which will allow it to work perfectly. These include parameters such as codecs, STUN servers, and a plethora of other little details specially meant to fine-tune the workings of the VoIP phone.
These boot servers can also be set up manually with self hosted VoIP systems like Asterisk. It allows a large number of phones to share the same configuration at the same time without any hassle instead of manually having to enter the details into every single device. Moreover, it makes shipping devices to remote locations extremely straightforward since the receiving party doesn’t need to have any further information about how to set it up. They just need to connect it and the work gets done by itself.
Such a system also makes it remarkably simple to mass upgrade the firmware on VoIP phones and to apply security patches in a consistent manner. No longer does each phone have to be individually updated or controlled and the risk window for an organization as a whole decreases dramatically. Contact your ITSP to find out whether or not they have a boot server or a provisioning server which automatically sends the configuration data to any VoIP phone that you purchase. It’s possible that they have a tie up with a VoIP phone manufacturer which will automatically have the server settings built into it.