Collaboration, Where to Start? Why CMA Might Be a Good Choice

by Toby Sauer

So your organization just told you that they have decided to purchase the Cisco Unified Communications Manager to replace your existing phone system. Perhaps you are a traditional PBX technician, or you work primarily with the data network, and now you have to start supporting the IP phones. It can be a little scary to have to learn something brand new.

The positive side of the conversation is that your organization is going to send you to training. That’s a huge hurdle crossed. Your boss tells you to figure out which classes you need to take, and that you can attend them.

Since you heard that Skyline ATS has great Cisco training, you look at their course catalog and are a bit overwhelmed with all the choices. Well, I’m going to try to make that easier by explaining a bit about one of the courses to help you decide if it’s the best fit for your organization’s training dollars.

Communications Manager Administration (CMA v12.5)

Communications Manager Administration (CMA) is an “admin” class. So what does that mean exactly? Skyline ATS course directors wrote this course back in Call Manager 4.x days. We’ve been updating the course to align with the version changes ever since. Each time we go through the process of deciding what should go in the course, we try to define what an “admin” is in the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) world.

When we started this journey, a system administrator (admin) was a person that managed phones. The admins built new phones, changed existing phone configurations, made simple dial plan modifications, and setup features for users. A traditional admin usually has no access to a router to make gateway changes.

The problem with the definition is that an admin in one company may fit that definition exactly. Still, another organization requires that you handle way more with the system. The concept of what an admin does in the real world will never be resolved. The result of all these heated discussions is that the CMA course assumes you will have access to the Cisco Unified Communications Manager administration web interface, but that you will not be responsible for voice gateway configuration.

If you are starting down the road with the Cisco Unified Communications Manager, the CMA course is definitely the place to start. You will learn the basics of the system without drowning in the details.

The CMA course assumes that you might know how to spell Communications Manager, but have no other experience. However, it is an excellent course to take if you have been self-taught on Cisco Unified Communications Manager, and now you want to know more of the essentials.

While the current version of the course is 12.5, the Cisco Unified Communications Manager functions covered in the course have not changed significantly since version 3.3. As a result, CMA is valuable to administrators for Call Manager versions 8.x, 9.x. 10.x, 11.x, or 12.x.

A three-day course, CMA is taught Monday through Wednesday. Public classes are taught in physical classrooms or via Webex in virtual classroom environments. Students taking CMA can pair the class with Unity Connection Administration (Call Manager) (UCA v12.5) which is taught on Thursday and Friday of the same week.

CMA starts with the architecture and how all the pieces fit together to make VoIP function. What is the router doing for you? What are the different ways you can deploy the different parts of the system? We won’t spend a huge amount of time on it. Just enough so that you have an idea of what you can do with the system.

Once you understand the layout of the components, it’s time to learn how to access the application known as Cisco Unified Communications Manager. There are various web pages and SSH configuration points for CM. What is their purpose?

Once you know how which section to access, you need to know how to configure the system to support phones. Some core functions need to be considered, and then you have to build the devices. Are you building one phone or 50? Do you want to control the process, or should the user do the work? There are multiple ways to accomplish the task, so we cover them all.

In the past, you could just build phones. Due to changes in licensing and new features, you need to consider the concept of “users.” Why you need users and how to configure them is all covered in this section of the course.

Once phones are built, you have an excellent intercom system, but I bet the users also want to call outside your system. This is where you encounter the heart of any phone system –  the dial plan.

How do I call for pizza? Someone just caught the microwave on fire, how do I call the fire department? I need to call Germany or Japan. All of these activities are controlled by the dial plan. Everything from controlling what digits the user has to dial on their device to what digits are sent to the phone company is covered in the dial plan modules.

How do you stop someone from calling international numbers after 5 pm? How can you allow some people to dial international numbers, but restrict others? The lobby phone should only be able to call internal numbers. All of these tasks are handled by toll-restriction settings. Cisco calls this Class of Control or partitions and calling search spaces. The restriction process is relatively easy, but it won’t feel that way until it “clicks.” CMA covers the various ways you can control access to numbers.

The last part of the course covers the features users expect from a phone system. Items such as Music on Hold (MoH), conferencing, forwarding, shared lines, Call Pickup, and Call Park are covered. In this section, you get to play with more advanced topics such as Extension Mobility and Single Number Reach.

Don’t Forget the Labs

Any good Collaboration course will include lectures that explain the topics and also have access to labs where you get to play around with the features. The lab for CMA starts with a freshly installed 12.5(1) Cisco Unified Communications Manager. The student configures everything required to make the phones, dial plan, and features function correctly. The CMA lab uses actual equipment, physical 8800 and 7800 series IP phones, not simulations, so you configure the same software that you use back at the office.

I hope that sheds some light on the CMA course and I hope to see you in class soon.

Training Resources:
Cisco Course Catalog
Cisco Collaboration Courses
Communications Manager Administration (Call Manager) (CMA v12.5)
Unity Connection Administration (Call Manager) (UCA v12.5)


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