Hosted VoIP spells savings for Toronto firm

Some of Leon Kuperman’s peers thought he was crazy to install a voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone system, but now the CTO of Truition Inc. says his company is laughing all the way to the bank.

Using Telus Corp.’s IP-One hosted voice and data platform for communication, Truition, an e-commerce developer in Toronto, is saving $2,000 a month, money that otherwise went to third-party conference bridging companies to facilitate phone meetings with customers. IP One, by contrast, has conferencing capabilities built in.

“I had a lot of people saying I was crazy when I was implementing this solution,” Kuperman says, recalling the jeers of his peers. “‘It’s untried; it’s untested.’ But people in the United States have been using this technology for many years now.”

That’s not to say, however, that Truition had an easy path with the VoIP-based product. A lot of work went into the implementation.

Kuperman says Truition first considered IP One when it planned to move to larger offices, required to accommodate a growing staff. The phone system at the old office wasn’t capable of supporting many more users than it already was, and Truition expects to add employees down the road. “We’re growing quite rapidly,” Kuperman says.

But Truition faced something of a crossroad when it came to moving ahead with a new communication platform. Although Truition would likely benefit by VoIP — technology that puts voice traffic on data infrastructure and affords easy moves, adds and changes, as well as close ties between computers and phones for advanced management features — the firm wasn’t sure if it should buy the equipment, or subscribe to a hosted solution.

“It became an ROI (return on investment) decision,” Kuperman says. “Are we going to buy a new phone system and spend $40,000, $50,000 on it, or are we going to look for something that, as the company grows, grows with us, and we only pay for what we use?”

Truition decided to go the hosted route. Kuperman says the firm chose IP-One because it seemed to be one of the few hosted voice-data communication systems available that provided quality of service, conferencing and business-class features such as find-me, follow-me and time-of-day routing, which lets users decide how calls are treated — sent to voice mail from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., to a cell phone from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., for example.

He first heard about IP-One from a Telus rep; Truition has a data centre with the telco. “I certainly shopped around,” Kuperman says, but the Telus offering seemed the best for his firm.

Truition needed the VoIP system installed quickly. Kuperman started researching potentials in April; the new office had to be up and running by August. “There were some heated conversations about timelines: ‘This has to happen Aug. 1, or it’s not happening.’”

According to Frank Panza, Mississauga, Ont.-based director of product management at Telus, normally it takes up to 45 days to install the IP-One service. “We got it in under 30 days,” he says of the Truition project.

Although Kuperman was hopeful that Telus would come through, he wasn’t completely convinced that the service provider would be able to meet the tight deadline. That’s why he had the phone system from the old office installed at the new location — “a plan B,” he says. “But we never turned it on. Of all the facilities we were planning, I think IP-One was the first one to come online on Aug. 1.”

He says IP-One offers not only savings in conference calling, as mentioned earlier, but also in long-distance calling charges. “Because I’m able to aggregate my long-distance demand into one package I’m able to negotiate a much better rate.”

IP-One is hardly the only hosted IP phone system on the market. For instance, Bell Canada earlier this year unveiled its Managed IP Telephony solution, which offers a similar hands-free approach to VoIP. While Bell touts its platform as a national offering, IP-One is only available in Ontario and Quebec. Panza says Telus plans to roll out the system across the country in the future.

Telus brought IP-One to market more than a year before Bell announced its product, Panza says, noting this as a reason for companies to choose his firm’s offering over the competitor’s. “Do you want to do business with somebody that’s had experience deploying these sorts of solutions, or do you want to do business with somebody that’s learning how to deploy?”

After going through the implementation process, Kuperman has advice for other companies considering hosted VoIP platforms. He says it’s important to train end users before the system is in place, so they don’t swamp the telecom manager with questions at go-live time.

Kuperman also says it’s imperative to tell external partners and customers about any changes that could affect their getting in touch with the company. At Truition, the new phone system meant new phone numbers for employees. Although the firm explained the situation to callers via the automated attendant, many callers pressed zero and relied on the customer service team to direct their calls.

“We probably didn’t give as much warning as we could have,” Kuperman says, adding this bit of wisdom: “Make sure you give yourself enough time to test properly. We really ran it down to the wire, which is probably more of a stressful activity than it should have been.”

In the future Truition plans to tie its Germany, U.S. and U.K. operations into the Toronto phone system, so users in those countries get the same features as their T.O. counterparts. Truition also expects to turn on an IP-One feature that lets users access and manage their voice mail messages via their e-mail inboxes.

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