Steel company forges savings with IP phones

Nearly three years ago, Sean Green knew he had to do something about his cumbersome phone system. The manager of information systems at Maritime Steel & Foundry, a Dartmouth, N.S.-based bridge and steel maker, was growing frustrated with the lack of features and the difficulty in managing the company’s old system.

Green began his quest to find a new communications platform that would not only make managerial tasks a piece of cake, but also put a stop to the company’s reliance on telecom carriers, which had historically serviced and maintained the legacy system.

“The original system took up an entire wall,” Green explained. “It was gigantic, full of many different parts, and really hard to get your head around. We didn’t have things like missed call (display), caller ID or call waiting. It wasn’t easy to transfer calls from person to person. Basically we found that the system wasn’t very self-servicing at all.”

Green found a solution in 3Com Corp.’s voice over IP (VoIP) platform, which enables voice and data communication over a single network, eliminating much of the complexity of managing two separate networks. The company purchased a 3Com NBX 100 and noticed significant changes.

By amalgamating its voice and Internet systems into one, Green explained that the company’s adds moves and changes, which had once cost upwards of $100 each, had become as simple as plugging in a jack.

“Anywhere there is a piece of Cat 5 cable run, all we have to do is plug in the phone, which comes with a built-in hub, and you can plug your computer into the phone and you are running off the same line,” he said.

In addition to the newfound simplicity, the 3Com system offered all the features, including caller ID, call transfer, call waiting and missed call display, lacking in the old system.

Having enjoyed the successful deployment of the original NBX 100, Maritime Steel recently opted to install another, to ensure seamless communications between its four locations: two in Dartmouth; one in New Glasgow and one in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Now that Maritime Steel has a second NBX 100, Jerry Gushue, 3Com Canada’s regional account manager for Atlantic Canada, explained that the foundry can take advantage of the system’s IP Virtual Tie Line feature.

According to Gushue, Virtual Tie Lines enable two offices in different locations to communicate over existing data circuits, and act and link as one location.

And, while Maritime Steel purchased its first NBX 100 nearly three years ago, Gushue noted that the original and the new system are still essentially the same.

“Customers who purchased these systems have been protected because the platform itself has been upgradeable really since 1997,” he said.

It was this factor that made 3Com’s offering more appealing to Maritime Steel, Green said.

“The chassis we bought three years ago is pretty much the same as the chassis we got this year,” he said. “The system gets better with each new piece of software that [3Com] adds to it.”

All features aside, Green said the true value of the systems came in the ease-of-management department. From enabling IP communication over a wireless bridge, to enabling e-mail, fax and voice mail to be delivered as media files in Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange application, and even allowing for remote management anywhere around the world, Green said he has no complaints.

“The ease of management and installation just far surpasses what the telcos are offering.”

To learn more about 3Com’s NBX 100, visit the company online at