IP phones are important components in unified communications deployments, so optimizing their provisioning and management is critical. In that context, an organization must clearly understand the distinction between the two.
IP phone provisioning certainly isn't rocket science. Using Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol or File Transfer Protocol for simple provisioning, an organization can provide appropriate software and default configurations prior to rolling out its IP phones. Once plugged into the network, the phones receive the configuration and software as specified in advance. It's a one-time initial setup, and it's that simple. But it's not very flexible.
Far more powerful is being able to go beyond provisioning to the management level, and being able to differentiate configuration based on different groups, locations, or needs.
A provisioning server allows organizations to customize configurations for the HQ, branches, or any other specific types of workplaces. It allows organizations to choose different software for different needs. For example, some users may need a Skype for Business configuration while others in the same work environment require a contact center configuration. A flexible provisioning server can differentiate the configurations and provide for both a Skype for Business configuration and a contact center configuration -- or any other environment.
This flexibility serves an organization well beyond day one. Such a system provides IT with a powerful day-to-day lifecycle management tool. IT has the flexibility to operate parts of the organization with one set of software and others with different software, and to monitor the health of the IP phones on the network at all times.
A simple search allows IT to drill down to perform detection and correction of phone problems in a matter of minutes. What would happen, for example, if a common area phone got disconnected? Provisioning wouldn't help you figure out where or what the problem is, but a management system would. With a management system, you could search on a user's name and in one click get results yielding the properties of the IP phone, such as on which virtual LAN it sits, its Link Layer Discovery Protocol identity, and its IP address. You could also take action to remedy issues, such as resetting, upgrading, or changing the configuration, remotely and quickly.
Ultimately, this power and flexibility translates into significant cost savings for an organization, especially one with a large number of IP phones, as help desk time can be reduced dramatically.