War museum fights network fatigue with VoIP

The Canadian War Museum is dedicated to showcasing Canada’s military history, but when it came time to designing the infrastructure, the museum decided to be forward-looking.

The museum opted for a voice over IP (VoIP) infrastructure with a point-to-point wireless connection back to its sister organization, the Canadian Museum of Civilization since all phone services had to flow through that building.

Cost savings was one of the main reasons for choosing VoIP in the new War Museum, which opened its doors in January, says Gordon Butler, the chief information technology officer at the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corp.

The museum puts its conservative savings estimates at around $100,000 per year.

It also wanted to take advantages to the additional features offered by VoIP beyond telephony.

“We’re interested in the new technology that VoIP brought to the table,” Butler says. Eventually, the museum wants to take advantage of the integrated messaging and video capabilities of VoIP.

They want to expand the ways in which employees can talk to each other and retrieve their messages. More importantly though, says Butler, the museum eventually wants to be able to offer educational teleconferences to schools across Canada.

“We have a full educational program here that we deliver to schools in Ottawa and Gatineau. And now there’s not a physical limitation, he says, adding that most schools now have broadband capabilities.

The museum opted for a Mitel Networks system with two 100 MB DragonWave Inc. wireless connections between the two museums.

“There is a huge cost savings for not having that amount of bandwidth on ground in wire.”

The museum is monitoring the connection using Computer Associates infrastructure management tools.

“It allows us to maintain the systems and act proactively on them and react in real time.”

The museum corporation hopes to eventually roll out the VoIP system to the civilization museum, which has about 400 phones, Butler says. The museum has already made The war museum has 100 phones.

The museum did initially have some concerns about the technology.

“There is always a concern when you go over to VoIP about the quality of service,” Butler says. “It helps you identify weaknesses in the network. We identified certain tweaking that was required in our network.” Though users are unlikely to notice lost data packets, they will notice lost voice packets, he said.

The museum isn’t alone in its concerns.

According to Forrester Research Inc., when asked what they think consider the most important factor consider when acquiring video and voice over IP technology, 36 per cent of network and telecom purchasers say reliability.

Still, there are compelling reasons to switch to VoIP, says Forrester vice-president Lisa Pierce.

Though there might not be as much network cost savings in North America, VoIP can offer organizations a foundation with which they can transform many of their separate business processes and integrate them to a greater extent than was possible before, she says. They can achieve “higher degrees of productivity as a result.”

But VoIP suppliers need to do a better job of educating potential customers about the benefits of VoIP. According to a forrester survey, about 40 per cent don’t intend to use VoIP or other IP technologies.

As well, there are many security concerns with VoIP, she says.

Some of these are similar to data security concerns. Others, Pierce says, are distinct to VoIP.

“For instance, it’s possible to commit toll fraud using VoIP, and many companies’ existing security capabilities have no protection against that.”

Users need to understand the scope of what they’re undertaking, she says.

“One must be able to throw aside many existing assumptions about how the technology will work. For instance, many customers overestimate their internal ability to adequately engineer and maintain VoIP because they assume it’s a protocol change out.

“It’s really something much bigger — an architectural overhaul. And they find out the hard way that they do not have the internal resources to do the job as well as they need to. They often out-task or outsource in such cases.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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