Implementing a company-wide VoIP infrastructure to coincide with a headquarters relocation has proved a timely catalyst to evaluate IP-based desktop videoconferencing according to Melbourne-based accounting firm Pitcher Partners.
Pitcher Partners' IT manager Damon Burgess said when the company relocated in June to a refurbished building it assessed its existing telecommunications equipment.
"It was doing the job but there was significant cost in moving it," Burgess said. He ultimately decided on greenfields VoIP infrastructure on Cisco technology because existing skills on the platform in his IT shop meant the least amount of retraining.
"We wanted to minimize the impact," he said. "We looked at several vendors, including NEC, Nortel, Avaya, and Mitel, but the level of integration, features offered, and overall package [from Cisco] made sense."
Reliability was another pressing concern for Burgess who said his experience so far was that, "Cisco has typically stayed up and there is redundancy in the network design."
"There are duplicate Callmanagers and servers. All switches are power over Ethernet and power protected."
Pitcher now has just under 400 IP handsets at its Melbourne headquarters, with intraoffice VoIP between interstate partner organizations the next step.
"It will grow to thousands of handsets as I don't see any limit," Burgess said. "Each site is a separate partner but we expect cooperation between the sites."
Pitcher has now purchased videoconferencing equipment for training purposes and to enable partners to videoconference from home. This will coincide with a national virtual private network.
"Now we are completing a national VPN for videoconferencing and will start using VoIP interstate," Burgess said, adding that once a national VPN is bedded down it would be a logical step to have videoconferencing which could benefit everyone. The IT department is now testing it.
"We're looking to use the technology to host conferences for training and technology updates," he said. "This will save airfare costs and there will also be a reduction in training and material costs."
Pitcher has also bought IP softphones to make calls from notebooks which is "the next step", including wireless VoIP for support staff.
"Because it's greenfield, the ROI comes out of the initial costing," Burgess said. "We saved on infrastructure costs for cabling and would have bought new equipment anyway."
Pitcher is using PowerTel's IP VPN with QoS for VoIP and video. It has 2Mbps to the head office and 512Kbps to the branches.
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