When Totten Sims Hubicki Associates learned its aging Mitel telephone system was coming to “”end of life”” and would no longer be supported by Bell Canada, IT manager Kam Mohammed took it as an opportunity to head in a new direction: convergence. While the main goal was to leverage the engineering
consulting firm’s existing Ethernet data network in order to combine voice and data onto one platform, Mohammed says he was also looking for a communications system capable of integrating the company’s two office locations east of Toronto in Whitby, Ont., so they would appear as one central headquarters.
In addition to two Mitel switches — one located in a north Whitby office and the second in the south Whitby headquarters five kilometres away — Totten Sims Hubicki (TSH) was running six copper tie lines between the two sites. Mohammed said these lines were both expensive to use, since charges were based on distance and usage, and unreliable.
“”From time to time everything would get locked up and you would have to restart the system,”” he notes, adding that both offices would be affected. “”We would also get calls into the main switchboard (in the south) and our live attendant would pass the calls off to the other system, but she was doing it blindly — she wouldn’t know if a call actually got out there.””
REPLACING THE NETWORK WAS NOT AN OPTION
Rather than sending a detailed request for proposal out into the market, TSH invited three vendors to review its existing network infrastructure and to make recommendations. While all three came back with proposals that included converged Internet Protocol (IP) telephony strategies, Burlington, Ont.-based BrantTel Networks was the only provider willing to work within the framework of the company’s existing data network.
“”The others said, ‘for your IP solution to work, you’re going to have to upgrade your data infrastructure,'”” notes Mohammed. “”The equipment was brand new. I couldn’t just go back to the board of directors and say it wasn’t good enough.””
The proposal put forward by BrantTel was based on software provided by Markham, Ont.-based Avaya Canada Corp. According to Avaya convergence specialist Tracy Fleming, the products are designed to work with several types of network switches.
“”We don’t assume that a customer’s existing infrastructure has to be ripped out and replaced,”” he says. “”In the majority of situations, it doesn’t have to be.”” In the case of TSH, Mohammed says he was convinced his Ethernet network would sustain the convergence of voice and data after testing a similar Avaya installation at BrantTel’s Burlington office.
BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE
Following a detailed design and implementation process spearheaded by BrantTel, TSH went live with its converged IP network in May 2003. At the same time, it moved its north Whitby office to a different floor in the same building, taking advantage of the fact that it only needed to drop data wires in the new location to support both phones and computers.
Since then, Mohammed says he’s been pleased with the quality of phone service and has seen no network degradation at all despite the fact that employees often send fairly large, sophisticated engineering drawings back and forth between the two offices. The main advantage to the new communications platform is increased customer service, he adds.
“”Especially for important clients like government ministries, we like to track their calls,”” he explains. “”We don’t want them going to voicemail if they’re looking for someone since they don’t have time to play phone tag.”” Using the features of the IP phone system, the receptionist now has the ability to grab a call before it goes into voicemail and have the employee paged — regardless of which office the employee is working in, he adds.
In the future, TSH would like to expand VoIP capabilities to its six other offices in Ontario so all internal calls will be as simple as dialing a four-digit extension with no long distance charges incurred. For now, he’s content to enjoy the ease of maintenance the Whitby installation gives him, including the ability to do moves and changes on the fly from his desktop.
“”I can do it from here now instead of going to the north office every time there’s a change,”” says Mohammed. “”… I don’t have to worry about copper lines, I don’t have to worry about maintenance on copper lines and I don’t have to worry about static or losing lines.””