|Leeds Co-op: Head Office||Voice over IP: World's Biggest Alchemy?|
Leeds Co-op needed communications for their Head Office, including telephone lines for voice along with internet connectivity and email for staff. For the voice solution they had ordered Meridian from BT. Whilst reviewing their requirements, Leeds realised they had a large number of lines from BT and were unsure what was needed - but knew they had a very high line rental and ongoing call costs. For email IT had planned to give only select staff email and had started to roll-out Microsoft Exchange. Property Department became concerned about IT costs spiralling out of control and the functionality provided by the proposed part-implement solution.
As existing LCR clients of The Phone Co-op, Phone Co-op Systems was contacted to see if we could provide a solution that would provide the same kind of savings to the telecommunications hardware it was already providing for the calls. They found that for less money they would also gain significant data connectivity and convergance functionality than with the BT / Exchange Solution.
Phone Co-op Systems worked to a fixed price for the installation of the communication solution. Phone Co-op Systems staff are committed to ensuring full functionality catering to individual needs. We had a week to implement the solution. As well as installing the phone system hardware this included loading and configering at lease four different programs on every PC in the building. To achieve this Phone Co-op Systems personnel had to be the first onsite and the last to leave. The full convergance solution Phone Co-op Systems implemented over the course of a week included:
Installed Communication System: The Network Alchemy system was installed to provide voice calls and secure internet connectivity
Installed a CTi Server: installed to provide virus-scanned incoming/outgoing email and fax to/from desk for all staff members
Listed redundant lines: Phone Co-op Systems listed all the existing analogue lines that were no longer needed i.e. director’s private lines, fax machines, modems, bank lines as they all became extensions off the system, we also moved all payphones off dedicated lines and added them as extensions onto the system
Installed software enabling all staff to benefit from screen popping and email/internet connectivity: TAPI, Phone Manager, email and fax to desk on around 75 PCs (primarily running Windows ’95)
Reduced the number of lines from 47 analogue to 20 channels of ISDN saving over £ 3,500 in line rental per annum.
After the installation, Phone Co-op Systems ensured we were available to sort out any issues, queries or connectivity problems including after-hours and weekends. Our standard working hours are 9 – 5:30, but Phone Co-op Systems staff have worked with the Leeds Co-op IT Manager have working to resolve shop to head office connectivity issues at 7:00pm. This was to ensure Till Data could still be collected when the separate till data routers weren’t talking. The Till support company is meant to provide a 24 hour support service, (which is why they don’t use the Alchemy to Alchemy connection) however when there were problems at a redeveloped site they weren’t contactable so the Alchemy to Alchemy conection had to be used.
Effects on Leeds Co-op Head Office
With the installation of the Alchemy and CTi Server, the office-wide functionality significantly increased whilst substantially reducing line rental and ongoing costs. The dissemination of information is more efficient and effective, people are easier to contact and phone usage is much more efficient.
Staff communications is much easier, more immediate, effective and even saves paper.
All staff have a direct line, reducing the load on the switchboard and means callers to Head Office are answered faster.
All staff have email and are able to receive faxes to desk and able to send faxes electronically.
Staff now know which branch/shop is calling in before answering the phone.
Standard Phone Directory – this allows them to easily click and dial to all the branches/shops in the region.
For less than a total of £650 for the entire email software, the email was upgraded so that all staff could have email
Using the Alchemy system the lines have been rationalised.
Dedicated fax lines, directors lines, pay phone lines and PDQ lines have been ceased.
With all the lines going through the Alchemy, Leeds are able to implement a policy that all calls must go through the system, thus all calls benefit from LCR.
Flexible voicemail options make the calls more effective. Out-of-hours calls for Funeral Service and Properties Department are now automatically transferred to the designated recipients mobile phones, rather than telling customers to dial another number.
Many people, in their personal voicemail greeting, give the caller the option to ‘press 0’ and be transferred to their mobile phone so they can give their customers better service.
The electronic faxing is especially useful for the Travel Department because the Travel Manager regularly receives faxes of special offers and is now able to easily forward to all his Travel Shops rather than manually faxing many pieces of paper.
After the system was customised to Head Office’s required configuration, Leeds realised the same benefits could apply to their shops needing refitting. Typically, Phone Co-op Systems have been able to
Reduced line rental by 50%
Rationalised phone numbers: Rather than having 24 different numbers coming in, Leeds were able to cease over 20 lines
Provide a secure and standard method of providing connectivity between Head Office and the shop which helps the IT department support remote users.
Back-up route for Till data.
The solution has been so successful, Leeds is continuing to rollout the solution to the Food shops, Funeral parlours, Optical shops and Travel shops. The ability to accommodate the extra shops has resulted in the need to replace the Head Office system with a larger one and reusing their existing system at the Funeral Head Office.
The implementation of Phone Co-op convergence solution has resulted in extensive initial and ongoing cost savings for the Leeds Head Office and shops. Both verbal and digital communications are much easier and effective and staff are able to provide a better quality service because of it. Phone Co-op Systems continue supplying on-line remote support for Leeds and install the high-quality systems fulfilling the Co-op’s needs.
This article has also been used by Avaya as one of its case studies
The World's Biggest Alchemy Series Solution?
In a clear demonstration that voice and data convergence and in particular Voice over IP (VoIP) provides business benefits and cost savings today, the London Bible College depends on an innovative Alchemy Series solution for all their communications needs.
The Customer's Brief
The London Bible College (LBC) situated in Northwood, Middlesex, caters for approximately 500 students, 150 staff and doubles up as a hotel and conference center outside of term-time. IT Manager, Robert Draper, needed to update his voice and data communication system to meet the requirements of the students and staff in addition to the demands of a first class hotel and conference center - all, of course, on a limited budget! In addition to fulfilling the basic requirements, Robert also had a "wish-list" that included Internet access in every bedroom, along with a private phone, voicemail facility and personalized billing.
Traditional technologies could certainly fulfill some of Robert's requirements, but at a far greater cost than the budget allowed. Additionally, these solutions would have required copper cabling to be run throughout a large campus to every room. A combined Alchemy Series and Penguin (a Linux based billing system from Q.931) solution proved to be the only way Robert could meet his goals and his budget.
The solution based around two ArgentBranch platforms, utilized a combination of standard analogue telephones and Voice over IP technology at a significantly lower cost than any legacy configuration could possibly have met. The network infrastructure used a combination of structured cabling and long fibre runs to provided the required connectivity.
Caltell Communications (01484-423456), now part of the Xpert Systems group, are a long standing datacomms distributor, who seeing the opportunities offered by voice and data convergence, started distributing the Alchemy Series in January 1998. For the London Bible College project, they partnered with voice and data convergence specialists CTI Communications Ltd (01242-621621), the two parties working closely together to design a solution to meet all of LBC's requirements.
The Alchemy Series solution, installed in late Summer 1999, has achieved the following;
The first installation of its kind in the education sector
Telephone and Internet access in every room
Students/delegates can view their personal phone bill on the LBC Intranet, hear the balance read to them over the phone at any point and preview the cost per minute of a call before it is made.
For pre-pay use, the system stops calls being made once the students/delegates credit limit is reached, without the use of credit cards
The entire network can be managed remotely, via Remote Access with corresponding security. This can even be achieved from a Web browser on Robert's mobile phone.
Within two minutes, Robert can change the configuration of the system from normal term time operation to that required by the Conference Centre with hotel-type billing functionality.
The Acid Test
The measure of a successful installation is the degree to which it satisfies the original brief. However, the key as to whether the brief matches user expectations is harder to quantify. Within the relatively new technology area of voice and data convergence and in a demanding configuration such as the London Bible College, the comments of the users and the IT Manager are paramount.
Robert Draper found the Alchemy Series platforms to be "stable, easy-to-use and flexible, furthermore, a recent student survey found that they were really pleased with the voicemail facilities. As for the VoIP, the Quality of Service is truly excellent, you cannot tell that it's not a traditional telephone system." Clearly the customer and the users are happy.
Clearly the solution designed and supplied has met the brief of the customer and pleased the users. That it has done so within a tight budget speaks volumes for the cost-effectiveness of the Alchemy Series and of their ability to converge within the customer's data requirements.
What is also clear from this installation is that the partnership between the parties (supplier, reseller and customer) is of critical importance in achieving such a satisfactory conclusion.
If this case study proves one thing, it is that, with the Alchemy Series, the theories of the Next Generation PBX and voice and data convergence are theories no longer. The future is here!