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IP PBX eases VoIP transition for gas company

An IP PBX with SIP helped one gas company upgrade to a new phone system while also jumping into VoIP.

An IP PBX based on the SIP standard saved a Pennsylvania oil and gas company from having to revive its dying phone system when moving into a new building.

When Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) moved to a new location, the company didn't want to take its old phone system with it. According to Glenn Slocum, of SDC Associates Inc. and technical supervisor for PGE, the old system clipped conversations and frequently caused echoing, making it difficult to conduct conference calls and other conversations. While some considered the old system still somewhat dependable, Slocum added that it was becoming increasingly tough to manage and expanding its footprint would be an expensive upgrade.

PGE launched a search for a new PBX and evaluated several vendors along the way. Ultimately, PGE decided on SIPxchange from Pingtel Corp., a Bluesocket Co., for standards-based open source VoIP.

According to Slocum, before going with Pingtel, PGE tried software from another vendor, which didn't work as planned. While he wouldn't say exactly which software-maker it was, he said the experience was so bad that "everyone was really jumpy over here."

The original software choice had features that didn't work and other issues, like the lack of a proper license from the distributor, sending PGE back to the drawing board.

After deciding on Pingtel, which required not much more than a software swap, Slocum said things fell into place right away. "Features that did not work on the old one worked right away," he said.

The new system brought with it some growing pains, like balancing so volumes were correct. But those kinks took just a short time to work out, prompting a collective sigh of relief from Slocum and upper management, who feared a repeat of the last software debacle.

"Management was shocked," he said. "Especially after our first attempt with all of the problems we had."

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Taking the VoIP plunge, Slocum said, was an easy choice for PGE, which wanted to replace the aging system, but also wanted to future proof its communications infrastructure to ensure it could adapt as technologies shift and change. The new system, he said, was able to integrate with the host of new Polycom phones PGE had just purchased, meaning it wasn't a wasted expense and it cut down on overall system replacement costs. PGE uses the phones to monitor the presence of employees using busy lamp fields on the Polycom 601 attendant console. Additionally, an AudioCodes MP-118 standalone FXO gateway connects the solution to the PSTN.

SIPxchange, Slocum said, has Web-based management, which makes managing the phone system, including phones, gateways and other devices, much easier than under the old system.

"We have to be VoIP in the future," he said. "IT seemed like an opportunity for us to get that in place and be where we want to be in five years. Why put something in that we're just going to replace in a few years?"

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