This was the main catalyst for change but when Paul Bullough, the IT manager, began to assess the situation he soon realised that there were other problem areas related to the communications systems. For example, some of the IT and communications systems, which typically in small emerging businesses, had grown fairly organically, were felt to be in need of an upgrade.
Early in 2005, GSP approached L3n, a Cisco Premier Partner with an IPT specialisation, to discuss solutions that could address their changing telephony, security and networking needs. Over the years, as GSP had grown, a variety of different solutions had been utilised to supply these services and they were not all providing the level of service that was required for the growing business.
Paul Bullough, IT Manager at Global Software Publishing agreed, “We researched the market and looked at replacement options; these included traditional PBX systems, IP telephony solutions and hybrid systems. We spoke to various system integration companies and finally decided that the converged IPT solution based on a Cisco solution as presented by L3n suited us best.
“The IPT solution provided by L3n proved extremely cost-effective, flexible and feature rich. It also addressed other problem areas which in turn reduced our internal support issues. Because voice and data are combined, we only needed a single internal network; this significantly reduced our material and labour costs. Our overall management responsibilities have also been simplified. This will further reduce our operational costs.
“One of our major problems was our lack of structured wiring outlets brought about by our recent growth. Options included re-wiring the building but this would have been disruptive and added additional cost to us which could not be recouped if and when we moved. IP Telephony offered the answer to this particular problem in that we could use a single wiring outlet to service both an IP phone and a computer/desktop/laptop. An IP solution would also allow us to use power over Ethernet (POE) which would reduce our power outlet demands by removing some handsets that required 240v power on our previous system. The issues mentioned previously along with the fact that IP Telephony would be embracing the latest technology helped us make our decision.”
Maintenance is often touted as one of the hidden overheads for IT managers. The time taken to learn new interfaces and languages in a mixed vendor environment can put undue strain on support staff. Cisco have addressed this problem by providing modern graphical user interface (GUI)- based management interfaces for their latest product offerings. Three tools allow GSP to manage the redundant switch cluster that is core to GSP’s buildings, the telephony service and the firewall. Bullough comments, “The web-based GUI tools have offered me a common interface into the new systems that are intuitive and simple to use. I can perform most changes we need internally but if I have any questions, L3n are always on hand to assist by phone or remote management protocols. This has eased our internal support burden considerably allowing us to concentrate on user application queries and longer-term projects.”
The Cisco 7900 IP phone series was used as part of the roll out and these have proved to be a huge hit amongst the user base. The phones include an LCD-based interface, soft keys and are simple to use with little training requirement. GSP company director, Mike Corbett commented, “The users have loved the new phones, they are so easy to use and we can easily make use of features we never had before. Where people have needed training, the combination of easily available on-line video courses and supplied feature sheets have been more than adequate. There has been nothing but praise for them since we put them in.”
GSP are also happy in the knowledge that any telephone handsets purchased could in future support the common protocols, thus not tying them to any one vendor’s PBX/IP PBX. (Cisco phones support SIP/H323/MGCP and SCCP). Bullough comments, “Knowing that the phones we purchased could be used with any major protocol and non Cisco IP PBX meant we could reuse the handsets even if we decided to change IP PBX vendors. While we do not envisage doing so, this does offer us the opportunity to maximise our original investment should this ever happen.”
Overall both Bullough and Corbett are pleased with their choice of vendor. “We wanted to work with a local company that had proven experience in the field of telecommunications. L3n listened to our requirements and worked with us over a period of months to ensure that our requirements have been met. They have phased the installation to our timescales so that we have been able to gradually accustom ourselves to the new system and expose the business to minimum disruption. The integration of voice and data networks has enabled us to reduce the complexity of our company information systems, make the day to day management easier, standardise on one vendor and have a single support organisation who know our network very well.”
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