When JobBag director David Blaymires arrived at work one Monday morning to discover his ageing phone system had given up the ghost, he took it as a sign it was time to move into the age of Voice over IP.
The nine year-old Alcatel PABX had lead a fruitful life serving JobBag, a Sydney software house developing accounting and resource management software targeted at SMEs. A fried motherboard meant the Alcatel had handled its last call, but the system's limitations were already becoming apparent as the business grew.
"We had persevered with it, because initially we weren't challenging it too much. When we first bought it we only had four people, but as we grew we started to see the need for some flexibility in the way we handled calls," Blaymires says.
"The Alcatel PABX was effectively a closed system - you'd couldn't really do anything with it except make telephone calls. It was limited in terms of the voicemail system and how you could structure and manage calls. When it finally bit the dust we started looking around for alternatives. We spoke to Centrix Solutions, the company that looks after our network, and they suggested Zultys - which they were using themselves inhouse."
Zultys Technologies is a US-based Voice over IP provider offering a hardware and software solution based on open standards and running on a Linux base. Zultys' software allows users to integrate the telephone and computer on their desk, letting them listen to voice mail or initiate calls from their computer. Presence and instant messaging features allows users to see if colleagues are at their desk and available.
"The primary thing for us wasn't cheap phone calls, the primary thing for us was how flexible we could make the process of expanding our business," Blaymires says.
"Even after we saw the Zultys system we still shopped around. Alcatel have their own Voice over IP system, but the difference was with Alcatel you were locked into their IP technology and any bolt-ons had to be from Alcatel. The reason we thought the Zultys system was better is because it fully supports the open SIP protocol so we can bolt any SIP device onto the system."
JobBag has had a consultant working from Melbourne for several years.
Now she can create a Virtual Private Network link to JobBag's Sydney head office and then connect her VoIP phone directly to the Zultys PABX.
This allows her to dial out through the office switchboard, make internal calls to staff members and use presence features to see if colleagues are available and vice versa.
The Zultys system allows JobBag to easily add new lines and create sub-groups within the organisation to handle particular types of incoming calls. For example, a support call will forward to whichever staff member is available within the support group. If no-one is available, the call is transferred to a voice mailbox designated for that group which any member of the group can access.
Staff working at home or remotely can connect to the Zultys system via VPN and use a software phone on their computer as if it was the phone on their desk at work.
"In the future the Zultys system is going to be the thing that glues together the offices we will have to set up as we expand. I've got new people starting in Melbourne and we might need to set up offices in other places such as Perth and New Zealand. If I put someone over in Perth for a week or two each a month, they are still part of the team because they can tap into the technology where ever they happen to be," Blaymires says.
"Remote staff need to feel connected to the organisation and to be able to participate in what's going on. Having a really good phone system which makes them feel included is a big step towards doing that."
This was first published in September 2011