A tailor-made VoIP system

Bespoke men's tailors implements hosted IP voice and MPLS

When bespoke men's tailor Gieves and Hawkes moved its 25 UK outlets over to IP telephony, it also converged not two but three services onto a single new MPLS connection.

The company, one of the country's oldest tailors, had been using leased lines for data and two separate suppliers - BT, and Cable & Wireless - for voice calls. A move to IP telephony was an obvious next step, according to its IT team and its financial director, David Collins.

"Our brand is our business, so by simultaneously future proofing and streamlining our network, we can ensure that we stay ahead of the pack and reduce our costs at the same time," he said. "Using one provider for all of our networking needs, and implementing VoIP at the same time is the perfect solution for us."

As well as its well known address at No. 1 Savile Row, London, Gieves and Hawkes has administrative offices in Esher, wholesale and overseas businesses, and stores including a flagship location for its Gieves brand in Knightbridge's Sloane Square. It employs around 160 people and turns over some £20 million a year.

The two main offices were linked by a leased line from Easynet, but the company realised that not only could it save money by replacing this, but converging its voice and data would bring yet more savings. In addition, replacing three suppliers with just one would simplify fault-reporting.

Rather that run its own IP telephony, it decided to take the hosted route, inviting pitches from both BT and Viatel, and eventually picking the latter's hosted IP voice service.

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The service took around three months to implement, and Collins says the company is now saving around 10 per cent on line rental and over 20 per cent on call costs. In addition, it is routing all calls via just one receptionist, instead of needing one in each office, and inter-office calls are now free.

"Our receptionist in Esher has been with us for some years, and really understands the company," Collins adds. "For her to be able to handle all of the calls for the company is a great asset.

"We did have a few teething problems with the VoIP system initially, but were very impressed with the speed at which Viatel handled these, and everything now works perfectly. The speed of accessing our servers has also improved significantly."

Staff now have remote voicemail access and can divert calls to home phones or any mobile phone, so enquiries can be routed to the right person, wherever they are. In addition, the new MPLS network enables Gieves and Hawkes to back up its data via the network, and it has cut the cost of network management because it is simpler to administer than the leased line.

Because the VoIP system runs over Gieves and Hawkes' network, the IT team can analyse calling patterns and adapt the call plan so that the company always gets the best deal on its phone calls. In the future, Gieves and Hawkes will be able to forward voice calls to users via email, so they do not have to phone in for messages.

Collins adds that a notable benefit is the ability to move between the two main offices but still be contactable on the same number. "I'm frequently in the Esher office for a few days, and then back in Savile Row, and it's really handy that our phone numbers move with us," he says.

Quite what past Gieves and Hawkes clients, such as Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington, would have made of it all is anyone's guess. But hopefully it would be "England expects," rather than "Publish, and be damned!"