Norshield Financial tries VoIP for net efficiency

Norshield Financial Group already had video set up for internal conferences and meetings for employees in its Montreal headquarters, as well as the Toronto, Chicago and Barbados-based offices. But according to CEO Dale Smith, the network wasn’t living up to its full potential.

“There was a lot of dedicated availability that wasn’t being used” on the network, he said. After all, “we’re not having video conferences for eight hours a day.”

Norshield decided to explore voice over IP (VoIP) as a way to eat up that unused bandwidth, and save money at the same time — the firm faced some hefty telecom bills thanks to its far-flung offices.

“We were spending about $14,000 to $15,000 a month on long distance calls,” Smith said. “It was getting to be a significant number.”

Voice over IP puts voice traffic onto an enterprise’s data infrastructure, bypassing the public-switched telephone network (PSTN) and resulting in low long-distance charges.

Norshield chose BCS Global Networks Inc.’s IPC Tone, a VoIP system that passed the financial firm’s analysis.

According to Matthew Smith, Norshield’s IT manager, BCS offered to engineer the network to satisfy particular needs of each Norshield location. Toronto, for instance, is Norshield’s Canadian sales hub. Employees in this location make mostly local calls to nearby customers. The Toronto bureau has advanced calling features, so workers can create ad-hoc phone conferences.

BCS also provides Norshield with video capabilities. Both video and voice are “hosted” — the routers and computers that support the systems reside with BCS, not with Norshield, said Dan Tanel, BCS’ CTO in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Smith, Norshield’s CEO, said the hosted solution made sense for his firm. “The analysis indicated that with the pricing we were able to get at BCS, we were better off to go with their method than do it ourselves.”

According to Jon Arnold, VoIP program leader and industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan in Toronto, hosted IP phone systems could cause some companies to reconsider their communications methods. He said large firms that shunned earlier hosted voice services like Centrex might decide in favour of hosted VoIP, because this newer service presents features that weren’t available on Centrex, such as easy management.

For the most part, however, large companies will probably stick with their premises-based phone equipment. “It sounds simplistic, but they like to own their own stuff and they probably have the IT infrastructure to maintain it,” Arnold said.

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