Library opens new chapter with IP telephony

The State Library of Victoria has invested over $400,000 to become the first government organisation in Australia to install a full IP telephony solution.

Ian Patterson, technology services division manager, State Library of Victoria, said the implementation took three months and involved the rollout of the Cisco IP telephony solution throughout the organisation. The library's staff of over 370 had previously been accessing voice messages from answering machines.

Patterson said the old PABX system was not meeting the library's needs, and a cost-effective alternative was needed.

"At the time, we thought Cisco's offerings were the most advanced, and it would also integrate with our Cisco network infrastructure we already had in place," Patterson said.

"We looked at different alternatives: standardised PABX, a hybrid system (for example, Nortel) and we looked at 3Com. But at the time, Cisco was the most advanced, suited our needs and was also cost-effective in comparison to others," he said.

"The library utilises a variety of system functions including call pickup groups, hunt groups, voice mail and auto attendant. Cisco's 7960 and 7919 phones have been used together with powered switches -- deployed UPSs all installed with full redundancy."

The library ran a two-month pilot program before implementing the more than 330 handsets in eight buildings.

"We originally had a variety of nine different handsets throughout the organisation, and then we switched to Cisco and went down to two handsets, the 7960 and the 7919. We also had about 80 answering machines, so it was good to finally get voice mail."

Patterson said the library had to integrate its three reception areas with hunt groups and call pickup areas. He added that if he had the chance to do the implementation again, he would probably consider a full rollout of the handsets in one go, rather than the staged rollout the library undertook.

"Doing it bit by bit is very time consuming and everyone wanted to know how to work it. Maybe if we did it all in one go it would have been easier," he said.

Patterson expects to see a return on investment for this project in around four years. "After two years we will own the hardware for which we have a finance lease for over two years. Before we went with the IP telephony solution, we were renting $100,000 a year on PABX rentals and handsets.

"What we have now is so much more than a phone system, it can integrate into our browser-based data systems and allows us to interact with our customers on screen when on the phone, which we couldn't do before."

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