Laboratory gives VoIP second chance

“Once bitten, twice shy,” goes the old saw.

But it doesn’t apply to Montreal-based CTBR Bio-Research Inc.

Despite a bad experience with an early voice-over-IP (VoIP) system, CTBR decided to give the technology another chance. In fact, the company opted to move over completely to VoIP when it came time to upgrade its network.

The reasons were savings and simplicity.

Thanks to some aggressive pricing from Cisco Systems Canada Co., CTBR was able to install a completely new network running VoIP at a price only slightly higher than what the new network alone would have cost, according to Simon Lane, CTBR’s infrastructure manager. He said CTBR is able to manage the unified network with fewer people than the previous separate voice and data networks required.

CTBR began planning for the move to a new network in 2002. At the time the firm was running separate voice and data networks, with a small VoIP implementation.

While small in size, the VoIP system caused some big headaches.

“It was the wrong product for us at the time,” Lane said. “We weren’t set up to support it. It was too new for the expertise we had in-house at the time.”

To make matters worse, the early VoIP gear supported senior management, “which is perhaps not the best place to try and experiment,” Lane notes sardonically. Lane came on board at CTBR in 2002 and began planning for the move to a new network.

While Cisco was CTBR’s provider for its older network, the firm wasn’t Lane’s first choice for the new one. “I’ve got to admit we really weren’t set on Cisco at the start,” he said. “We weren’t pro-Cisco at all, simply [because with] the first Cisco telephony system we had, we were a little bit bleeding edge. The distributor at the time wasn’t supporting us as well as they could have.” But Cisco’s offer for the combined voice and data network proved too good to refuse.

“We also made sure they were the prime people on the contract, so we were dealing with them directly,” Lane said. “That was a big influence.” After an extensive planning process, CTBR began building the new network in 2003 and finished up last spring.

Despite some problems with an analogue phone gateway that supports emergency phone services if the network goes down, Lane is pleased with the new network’s performance.

“We’ve been very happy,” he said. “Overall the network’s been working very reliably.”