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Company uses Internet to create one big virtual phone system

Venture Technologies practices what it preaches with IP telephony

Venture Technologies has offices in Jackson, Birmingham and Memphis. But you can dial one number to reach CEO Gerard Gibert — or any of the other employees — at any of the three locations.

“My phone follows me from office to office, and even to home,” Gibert said. “With our new IP telephony system, we have one big virtual phone system as opposed to three separate systems. Every telephone appears as an extension to a centralized system even if the telephone is in the Memphis, Birmingham or Jackson offices, or even someone’s home. We’re using the Internet to tie all those phones together. So it is not a separate phone system from my data network, but more devices on the same network carrying voice and data traffic. It all looks the same to the network. It is just packets of data.”

Since Venture Technologies opened in 1985, it has taken the position to practice what it preaches. The company uses the technology it recommends to its clients. That is why Venture replaced its older, traditional PBX system with Cisco’s IP Telephony about a year ago.

“Like many of our clients and prospects, we were seeking a way to enhance our corporate communications while trimming costs,” Gibert said. “Cisco’s IP Telephony provides that.”

No-brainer for upgrades

Gibert said switching to IP telephony is pretty much a no-brainer for anyone who is in the market to upgrade their phone system. Just as cell phones have become commonplace today for remote communications, he expects IP telephony will rapidly replace traditional business telephone systems. The benefits are just too great.

“IP telephony will become the standard for business voice communications, just as IP has become the standard for data communications, and cell phones have become the standard for remote communications,” Gibert said. “The days of the proprietary separate voice systems are giving way to IP systems based on open standards. In an IP telephony system, one phone system is served by centralized administration. Anytime you have centralized management and the ability to eliminate separate infrastructure, typically overall costs and hassles go down. You don’t need separate vendors for phone and computer networks.”

Since everyone in his company is an extension connected to one system, people have to dial only a four-digit extension number to reach anyone else in the company. Gibert said being able to reach employees at other locations by dialing a four-digit number has huge value. Voice mails can easily be forwarded to other employees at any location. Another plus to companies with multiple locations can be reducing costs by having a single receptionist for all locations. Plus, long distance charges are eliminated between offices.

Since members of Venture’s staff work from home-office locations in Hattiesburg, Nashville and Albany, Ga., Venture also installed Cisco’s IP phones at each remote worker’s home. The ability to reach colleagues working from home with the same ease as if he or she was in the same office next door can be a big time and money saver. Gibert said this innovation also makes their remote workers feel more a part of the Venture family.

Gibert said other major benefits of IP telephony include simplification and virtual elimination of moves, adds and changes since a physical phone follows its corresponding worker to any network connection. Changes, additions and moves can all be administered from a computer anywhere in the network.

Left behind?

Some people in the industry have challenged whether IP telephony is actually a mature enough technology yet to be trusted for a company’s communication lifelines. But Gibert said failure to recognize the superiority of this new technology could leave people in the dust.

“I remember when manufacturers of mid-range and mainframe systems said that PC technology would never have a place in a business environment,” Gibert said. “Today, microcomputer technology dominates business data processing. Most of those old-guard manufacturers refused to adapt, and thus exited the business.

“IP telephony defines a whole technology that deals with business voice communications systems that use a businesses data network to transmit traffic throughout their business. So all the voice traffic and the connections between all of your business phones and system that service the phone, management, administration and voice mail systems is IP based. You have centralized cabling infrastructure and network as opposed to separate ones.”

An example of the efficiencies that can be achieved include using IP telephony to “marry” voice mail with e-mail. Voice mails can be attached into e-mails. You can forward a voice mail saved as a .wav file. The recipient clicks on the audible file to hear the voice mail. Conversely, checking voice mail can be used to “read” a user’s e-mails.

“You have convergence of voice and e-mail into a single system,” Gibert said. “The bottom line is converging your data network with your voice network. That is what IP telephony buys you.” Cisco calls it unified messaging.

John Little, Venture’s chief technology officer, said the company has been installing IP telephony for more than four years.

“During that time, we’ve learned a great deal that we’ve incorporated into our installation methodology, thus insuring successful deployments,” Little said.

Venture’s engineers completed all of the configuration, installation and deployment of the IP telephony system while the old system was in use. All of Venture’s users were trained prior to the switch. People left work Friday afternoon using the old system and started work Monday using the new IP system. There were no interruptions to their operations.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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