Buying In Bulk

August 10, 2011

Several years ago I couldn’t have said this, but by and large my favorite administrative tool for Communications Manager these days is the bulk administration tool.  It’s come a long way in it’s evolution: I don’t remember ever using it in 3 (if it was even available), 4 was useful but far from powerful (you could bulk import phones, but if you wanted to bulk update, not everything was available), 5 and 6 started to get really useful (you could now update just about everything on phones, but there were still some things like route patterns, translation patterns and so forth that weren’t available).  When you get to version 7, this tool really hits it’s stride and becomes a thing of beauty.

Before writing this I had discussions with several people about the bulk administration interface and most people were comfortable with using the phone insert and update functions but a lot of people weren’t terribly well versed in the import/export functions which I truly think are what makes this tool shine.

First let’s talk about what import/export is.  Like the name suggests, it’s a way for you to export configuration information out of the communications manager or import configuration that you have edited in a spreadsheet back into the server.  Got several hundred route patterns to enter into your system but don’t want to wait around for the page to reload after every entry?  Import/Export is for you.  Need quite a few translation patterns because the DID to extension mapping isn’t what you had hoped for?  Perfect use for this tool too.  You can also do a number of things like exporting phone configurations and then modifying one setting and re-importing over the top of what you already have.  The uses of this tool are huge and varied, it would take me more time than I have to explain all of it to you, so instead I’m going to go over just one thing that used to be a major headache for me: bulk creation of route patterns.  Let’s go through the process:

When bulk creating route patterns I like to start with something I have already created in Communications Manager.  A gold standard, for lack of a better term.  This is the route pattern that you have created that most of your route patterns are going to look mostly like.  Generally when you have patterns they there is going to be some commonality between them (if you have enough of them to warrant bulk importing that is!).  Things like partition, route list, discarded digits, numbering plan and so forth.  By having your gold standard route pattern created that means that we can just export that and then use it as a template in a csv file rather than figuring out the settings in the spreadsheet format.

After creating the route pattern, you will be ready to export.  Go to: Bulk Administration – Import/Export – Export.  You will have a whole lot of check boxes to choose from.  This just goes to show you every aspect of Communications Manager that you can edit with the import/export tool.  Enter a file name in the field at the top of the page, then check the items you want to export.  The check box that you are looking for is under the Call Routing Data section and is called Route Pattern.  Check that, scroll to the bottom of the page and submit the job (if you want to run immediately select the radio button for that, but be aware that this is doing database calls and could impact performance).  Once the job has completed (which you can verify by going to Bulk Administration – Job Scheduler) you can go download the export file at: Bulk Administration – Upload/Download Files.

The file itself is going to be a .tar file and in that file are a header file and a csv file.  You don’t need to modify the header file at all, but you will need that later in the process so keep ahold of it.  Now, go ahead and open the csv file.  Most likely it is called routepattern.csv. Whatever it’s called, keep note because we’ll need to make sure it keeps that name moving forward.

A quick note about editing these files for those of you that use Macs.  For some reason, when I try to open the csv file on my Mac it tells me access is denied or some other such nonsense.  I can open it just fine on my Window VM, so that’s what I have done.  If you have a solution to this problem, please let me know!

Once you have the file open in Excel, go ahead and delete everything but the first line (that has is the header for this file) and the “gold standard” route pattern.  Since we are using the same settings for everything but the exact pattern and the description, you should now be able to fill out the spreadsheet with any new patterns you need to configure.  Just enter the information that is changing and fill the other settings down.  It’s my recommendation that if this is your first time doing this that you should just do one route pattern for your first time.  That way, if you find that something is completely wrong, you only have one completely wrong item rather than 900 completely wrong items.

Once your file is the way you want it, save it back to a file named routepattern.csv (or whatever it was named originally) and use a tool like PeaZip or something else to TAR that file (together with the original Header.txt).  You can name the resulting tar file what ever you want.  Upload the file to Communications Manager under: Bulk Administration – Upload/Download Files. Click add file and find the file and put it in the import section.

Now you’re ready to import your configuration.  Go to: Bulk Administration – Import/Export – Import. You will be presented with a drop down that will allow you to select the file you just updated.  On the next page, check the check box for route pattern.  There is also a checkbox for override configuration.  Check this is you are re-importing route patterns that will have changes that you want pushed from this file.  Decide when you want to run the job and then submit it.  Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the job to complete and your route patterns will be in the system!

This is by far my favorite administration tool in Communications Manager and has saved me from tedious data entry on more than one occasion.  I will say to use it with caution, becasue there isn’t an undo button for any of this.

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