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Converged VoIP network eases law firm relocation

A converged VoIP and data network has helped one New York City law firm update its communications capabilities while also easing the relocation to new office space.

The installation of a converged VoIP and data network helped New York City law firm Allegaert Berger & Vogel LLP (ABV) ditch its old communications system when it moved into a new office earlier this year.

The network, designed and deployed by consulting firm Business Technology Partners (BTP) Inc., helped push ABV's network to the next generation with the installation of VoIP phones, new desktops, a BlackBerry server, and time tracking and accounting software applications.

But according to BTP's Joshua Aaron, one of the main goals of the relocation deployment was to ease anywhere communications.

"ABV has been growing pretty steadily," Aaron said of the firm's move into new office space. The move expanded the firm's physical footprint and also required a massive upgrade of the back-end technology.

ABV has a large number of remote partners and other users, and Aaron said it was necessary to deploy a network that made communications a business asset for the firm. BTP designed a Cisco network, including CallManager Express for VoIP. The upgrade also included remote telephony, IP softphones and integrated unified messaging capabilities. ABV kept its existing server hardware but installed a Microsoft Small Business Server, providing a platform to streamline workflow and improve communications and collaboration.

"They had no way for remote workers and staff to feel like they were connected to the office," Aaron said of ABV's old method, which included a Nortel TDM platform.

Also, the firm's old email solution was outsourced, but the messaging is now integrated into the Microsoft Exchange environment to allow partners to retrieve messages from anywhere.

"As the firm grows, they can take advantage [of] the different applications," Aaron said.

Christopher Allegaert, one of ABV's partners, said the firm had been playing a sort of "communications catch-up."

ABV is considered a smaller firm by New York City standards, Allegaert said, but the new network and communications capabilities can give the firm a competitive edge, even over some of the largest firms.

"To compete as we do on a regular basis with the big boys," he said, "this technology sends a message to all of our clients and our adversaries."

According to Aaron, the ultimate goal of the converged network is to enable more collaboration and the ability to communicate from anywhere. Since the firm has several remote partners and workers, offering them access to internal communications tools and applications has become imperative.

Also, Allegaert said, the cost of moving the old, outdated system from the old office to the new location would have been more expensive than the full upgrade.

Aaron added that certain applications, like the integrated messaging portion, can be turned on or off as needed, meaning that partners who still want to receive email and voicemail in the traditional way can choose to do so.

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"They now have a platform on which we can layer these applications," he said. "We standardized all of this technology across the board. Everyone has the same setup. As it burns in, people can take advantage of using it."

Along with the new communications tools, ABV now also has a fleet of BlackBerrys deployed. The system was configured with backward compatibility to accommodate upgrades of certain software applications, allowing older documents and information, such as financial applications, to continue to be accessed.

"The implementation of our new voice and data network allows us to deliver an unprecedented level of customer service," Allegaert said, adding that the system BTP designed leveraged existing IT resources and smoothed the transition to the new office space.

Lara Lee Hullinghorst, director of operations at BTP, said the transition was fast. It started on a Friday and was up and running come business hours on Monday. That quickness and ABV's ability to leverage new tools as the firm grows were key components of the deployment, she said.

"This turnkey approach was critical to their business," Hullinghorst said, "and now the firm has a scalable technology platform that will enable them to keep pace with their growing client needs."

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