When law firm McMillan Binch LLP moved across the street from Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza to BCE Place December 19, it also moved up the technology food chain.

A voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system, high-speed document

processing, new workstations and an expanded wireless network are among improvements in the new quarters.

And despite the changes, the move went well. “”I’m amazed that it all went so smoothly,”” said Bruce McWilliam, a partner at the firm.

Chris Duncan, the firm’s information technology director, said the VoIP system was the toughest upgrade because of the research involved. The phone system in the old office was about 20 years’ old, so it made sense to install new technology rather than pay to move the old across. But Duncan said he had a number of queries from partners in the firm who had read of VoIP installations elsewhere that turned out badly. “”I think in most of those cases those people didn’t ensure that the quality of service was there,”” he said.

On the second day in the new offices, McWilliam said clients were already commenting on the clarity of the new Cisco Systems Inc. system. Staff can look up internal phone numbers from any phone, he said, and the firm plans to add unified messaging soon.

Duncan said the biggest benefits are in the savings from running voice and data over one network with just two network drops per office and the ease of moving and adding phones.

McMillan Binch replaced 10 of its 14 photocopiers with a document imaging system that includes 70 printers and 35 scanners, set up in clusters at secretarial stations. The scanners can send faxes, scan documents into the firm’s document management system and make copies via the 40-page-per-minute printers. Four conventional copiers remain in the photocopying centre, Duncan said.

A wireless network extended throughout the old offices, but only staff could use it. The new location includes an entire floor of guest offices. Guests will receive user IDs and passwords providing wireless connections to the Internet — and through it their own corporate networks — from inside McMillan Binch’s facilities.

Guests will also have access to a subnet of the McMillan Binch network, providing them with Internet access but not to the firm’s own systems, Duncan said. This function was not live on moving day but was due to be implemented shortly. Another law firm, Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, recently enlisted wireless hotspot operator Spotnik Mobile Inc. to provide wireless access for guests in its Toronto office. “”My sense is we’re seeing a lot of interest in this area,”” said Steve Henderson, general manager for the legal industry at the Toronto office of IBM Canada Ltd., which helped in that installation.

The new office is also equipped with about 500 new IBM workstations with 17-inch flat display screens.

While not all the technological changes are obvious to clients, McWilliam said, “”I think what they will notice over all is better service, better responsiveness — things come out just with a better quality.””

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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