Article

Global VoIP implementation unites scattered telecommunications

Shamus McGillicuddy

When a patchwork of legacy key systems began to grow unreliable and difficult to manage, an international industrial auctioneering firm executed a global VoIP implementation to centralize management and cut telecommunications costs.

Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers, a Vancouver-based auction house with 40 sales sites across the globe, used to see auctions for industrial equipment disrupted when a

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PRI line failed. Auctioneers would be taking bids for tractors over cell phones while support staff scrambled to get the PRI back up and running.

"We have these big two-day auctions at each of our sites, and they happen five or six times a year," said Ritchie Brothers' telecommunications manager Chris Farrer. "In the past, we had an auction at our Phoenix site, and their local PRI failed right before their sale. Everyone would be on their cell phones, and you're trying to route calls to our salespeople and lots of email would be going out through the company letting everyone know that the phones were down. It creates a lot of energy and panic."

Global VoIP implementation starts with formation of new team

Until three years ago, Ritchie Brothers' telecommunications were completely decentralized. Each of its 40 sites had its own legacy voice system that was installed by a local business partner and independently managed. Then the company formed a global telecommunications organization under Farrer, based out of its Vancouver headquarters, with a mission of replacing all those local key systems with a single global VoIP implementation that could be centrally administered from Vancouver.

"The company had grown to the point where we were struggling with these local business partner relationships," Farrer said. "We were getting different levels of service from different business partners, and every time we deployed a new solution for an office, it was like starting all over again. We were trying to build a very standardized communications system, but every time we went into a different city, we were treated as a small business.

So Farrer took a global approach to installing a new IP telephony system. Most of the legacy systems across the company were Avaya products, and he had liked the reliability of Avaya's legacy products and felt that his 1,100 users were already familiar with the company's technology generally. So he decided to move forward with it as Ritchie Brothers' global vendor.

"Our goal was to replace all of those key systems with gateways and flatten the network and consolidate all the equipment here in Vancouver and extend a similar feature set to all our users," Farrer said. "We chose the Avaya Communications Manager platform. That seemed to be the one that did that best."

VoIP implementation regional at first, then global

Ritchie Brothers is starting out with three regional hubs for its global VoIP implementation: the Vancouver global headquarters; its European headquarters in Breda, The Netherlands; and its U.S. headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Both Breda and Lincoln are running Avaya S8500 Media Servers with Communications Manager. Regional offices call into those regional hubs via local onsite gateways. In September, a third S8500 server was deployed in Vancouver, where most of the company's communications infrastructure, such as its voicemail servers, is located.

Over the next 90 days, Farrer will centralize his VoIP implementation by redirecting all the various gateways to his Vancouver media server, and then he will retire the two regional media servers.

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"All those gateways will call back to the server here in Vancouver," he said, "and then ultimately the whole company will be working off one great big phone system in Vancouver."

The benefits of the global VoIP Implementation

Business continuity for the company's telecommunications systems has improved tremendously since the global VoIP implementation, Farrer said. For instance, if a PRI fails at a remote site, auctioneers no longer have to take out their cell phones.

"Now we've got them on Communications Manager, we have provisions in place if they lose their PRI line," he said. "Their calls get rerouted back to Vancouver and then replaced over our MPLS network and still routed back out to the sales site. So we have lots of business continuity capabilities that we just didn't have when we had standalone solutions."

Farrer said he has also seen some simple business process improvements with a global IP telephony deployment. For instance, the company now has seven-digit dialing between all of its offices across the globe, making it simpler for European offices to dial up North American offices, for instance. The company also now has a global voicemail server, which simplifies the sharing and forwarding of messages.

"Our salespeople have deals going on all over the world. And although a message might be coming out of Denver, they might also be selling equipment out of Orlando. An employee might want a voicemail I left in Orlando to show up in Denver," Farrer said. "With all these local systems, that became a problem. So we wanted one big voicemail server where anyone can send a voicemail or forward a voicemail from Orlando to Denver to wherever."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor


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