ShoreTel Saves AlphaStaff Thousands Of Dollars And Provides Disaster Recovery To Ensure Business Continuity
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With 33% growth in four years, Alpha Staff outgrew its office in Boca Raton, Florida. With an outdated Panasonic PBX-based system, the company lacked disaster recovery and remote capabilities.
INTEGRATION OF REMOTE WORKERS
The need for a larger office prompted AlphaStaff to reevaluate its business processes. “When in the market for a new location, we looked how we did business”, says Jack Rahner, director of IT operations for AlphaStaff. “We determined that a large percentage of our workers worked remotely or from home, and we had to upgrade a new phone system that would integrate those workers into our telephone system and support a new and quickly growing call center.”
AlphaStaff’s top priority was to gain a disaster recovery plan to ensure business continuity in case of events such as hurricanes. Since AlphaStaff provides payroll services for more than 38,000 customers, it could not afford to have a system down when people are waiting for paychecks, which is what would happen with the old system.
ALPHASTAFF INTERVIEWS THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS
Rahner knew what a Voice over IP (VoIP) system could do for AlphaStaff. He began looking closely at market leaders Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, and ShoreTel. After a side-by-side comparison, ShoreTel was of interest because of the distributed nature of the system, which perfectly fit his disaster recovery plans. After five months using both Cisco and ShoreTel in lab test environments in multiple cities, AlphaStaff chose ShoreTel.
We did major architectural design evaluations of both Cisco and ShoreTel, and we were very impressed with the distributed architecture of ShoreTel, which is something Cisco did not offer, explains Rahner. ShoreTel has truly taken a revolutionary approach to designing a phone system, and provides us with disaster recovery capabilities, which was a key requirement.
SHORETEL’S DISTRIBUTED ARCHITECTURE PROVIDES MUCH-NEEDED DISASTER RECOVERY
ShoreTel provided AlphaStaff with two of its ShoreGear 120/24 voice switches, and two ShoreGear 60/12 voice switches, as well as more than 150 ShorePhone IP telephones. Rahner notes that the disaster recovery features in the ShoreTel system allows the company to run its Fort Lauderdale-based business and continue to service 38,000 people without losing a step during a disaster, such as Hurricane Wilma.
“The disaster recovery capabilities are great, and actually we use them routinely,” says Rahner. “For instance, we brought down our Atlanta facility for some maintenance purposes and were able to reroute all of those calls, it was completely transparent to customers calling in.”
The ShoreTel implementation was simple, and Rahner notes that it is very easy to maintain the system, even remotely. ShoreWare Director, ShoreTel’s browser-based management interface, allows AlphaStaff’s IT personnel to access the system from anywhere on the network. Through this browser, every site and feature can be managed, including voicemail, automated attendant, and desktop applications.
“Moves, adds, and changes are much easier with ShoreTel its like night and day compared to the old system,” claims Rahner. “We’re able to manage the entire system in-house with two entry-level technicians on board. ShoreTel has a very intuitive interface, and managing the entire system is fast and easy.”
“WE DID MAJOR ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN EVALUATIONS OF BOTH CISCO AND SHORETEL AND WE WERE VERY IMPRESSED WITH THE DISTRIBUTED ARCHITECTURE OF SHORETEL, WHICH IS SOMETHING CISCO DID NOT OFFER. SHORETEL HAS TRULY TAKEN A REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH TO DESIGNING A PHONE SYSTEM, AND PROVIDES US WITH DISASTER RECOVERY CAPABILITIES, WHICH WAS A KEY REQUIREMENT.” – Jack Rahner, Director of IT Operations AlphaStaff.
With the ShoreTel system in place, all AlphaStaff employees are on a centralized email, phone, and voicemail system, using four-digit dialing to reach employees at either location, even when they’re working from home. ShoreWare Personal Call Manager gives users the equivalent of a desktop PBX a powerful, all-purpose tool for managing voice communications.
“Before ShoreTel, employees handed out business cards with two or three telephone numbers on them,” states Rahner. “Now, with ShoreTel, they only have to give people one number, which either reaches them wherever they are or sends the caller into voicemail, which automatically triggers an email to the intended person. Nobody misses a call and everything is centralized. We’ve improved productivity and time efficiency, as well as customer service.”
AlphaStaff is also using ShoreTel’s Converged Conferencing Solution, a 48-port conference bridge, which allows employees to quickly and easily set up conference calls on the fly, minimizing the time it takes to address customer or office related issues. “I expect the return on investment for the conference bridge will be about six months, based on what well save not using an outside service provider,” says Rahner.
OFFICE ANYWHERE ENABLES EMPLOYEES TO WORK ANYWHERE
ShoreTel’s Office Anywhere allows AlphaStaff employees to choose the device they work from such as a cell phone or home phone and that device assumes the identity and capabilities of the employee’s regular office extension.
“Office Anywhere helps us solidify our brand by allowing caller ID to indicate AlphaStaff is calling, even if the call is being placed from a worker’s home office,” explains Rahner. “This has improved customer satisfaction considerably since callers just automatically reach the right person at one number, regardless of where that person is working for the day.”
SHORETEL SAVES ALPHASTAFF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS A MONTH
With ShoreTel, remote workers still utilize the PSTN network, but their calls are routed through our main office lines. Since we get much better long-distance rates than those workers do at home, were saving literally thousands every month, says Rahner.
MOVES, ADDS, AND CHANGES ARE MUCH EASIER WITH SHORETEL – IT’S LIKE NIGHT AND DAY COMPARED TO THE OLD SYSTEM
AlphaStaff anticipates future growth, which the ShoreTel system can easily accommodate. The organization also plans to integrate ShoreTel into its CRM solution, which will give call center employees even more robust information on callers before picking up the phone. CRM integration will provide screen pop-ups with detailed customer information, which will maximize sales and enhance the customer’s experience.
“Changing phone systems from standard to VoIP is a cultural change, but with ShoreTel it was an easy adjustment,” concludes Rahner. “Everybody loves the ShoreTel system. The facts that were saving so much money, and I’m assured of disaster recovery, also helps me sleep much better at night. I look forward to developing a new call center in Atlanta, now that we have ShoreTel as our IP telephony partner.”
Trend Micro resolved the following issues by purchasing Zoom:
- Overly complex or difficult communications platforms
- Expensive hardware or software systems
- Unreliable or poor service quality
- Using too many different solutions
- Difficulties connecting remote teams or sites
- The need for a more efficient/effective way to reach customers and other external parties
Trend Micro purchased Zoom for the following benefits:
- Collaboration feature set such as screen sharing, co-annotation, remote control, whiteboarding
- Video and audio quality
- Larger meeting and webinar capacity
- Replace and/or integrate legacy conference room hardware
They use Zoom for the following:
- Internal team meetings
- Demoing their product/technology for prospects and customers
- Legal depositions or case work
They use the following Zoom products and features most frequently:
- Screen Sharing and related feature like co-annotation and remote control
- Mobile Meetings (start, join, screen share)
- H.323/SIP Room Connector
- Group Messaging (IM/Presence)
- Zoom Rooms
- Video Webinar
Increased productivity by 20-39% with Zoom when compared to previous communication solutions or methods
Trend Micro rates the following Zoom features when compared to the competition:
- Quality: far superior
- Ease of use / deployment: far superior
- Collaboration Feature Set: far superior
- Reliability: superior
- Customer service: superior
First Independent Trust Company in Vermont Trusts Lifesize for its Collaboration Needs
ORGANIZATION: TRUST COMPANY OF VERMONT, BURLINGTON, VERMONT, USA
The Trust Company of Vermont is a state chartered trust and investment management firm for individual investors, corporations and non-profits. Employee-owned and managed, the company is dedicated to building a strong, stable environment for clients and staff across five branches in Brattleboro, Burlington, Rutland, St. Albans and Manchester Center. Services offered include custody, investment management, trustee and fiduciary advisement, and estate planning, among others. As the first independent trust company in Vermont, the company is unique in its industry for its independence, expertise and approach to maintaining long-term relationships.
Because the company is based in the rural state of Vermont, traveling between branches can often be challenging for staff and clients, especially during the harsh Winter months. Additionally, each investment manager has clients scattered throughout the state and maintaining a face-to-face relationship with them can be difficult if lengthy travel is frequently required. The Trust Company of Vermont was looking for a way to not only connect with their clients irrespective of distance; they also wanted to improve collaboration between the various branches from an internal perspective. The answer was video conferencing. When the Trust Company of Vermont first explored video collaboration options, they were discouraged at the solutions they found. Consumer-grade products like Skype did not offer the high-quality experience that the firm needed to cultivate strong client/advisor relationships. Additionally, the free video products lacked critical security features that were a necessity for the Trust Company and its clients when discussing confidential financial information. The company was eager to find a video product that provided secure, high quality video and audio without compromises.
We had heard of a nearby law firm in our community that had been successful with a video company called Lifesize, and we were excited to learn more, said DeBellis. Once we got in touch with Jim OMalley from Corporate Data & Voice Solutions, Inc. and saw a demo of the Lifesize Icon system, we knew we had found the answer to our problems. It was amazing to see what a true HD video collaboration solution really looked like. Though it was a sizable investment for the small firm, the employees collectively decided it was worth the cost due to the travel savings they would undoubtedly experience. After the demo, the company purchased Lifesize Icon systems for each of their conference rooms across the state. They coupled the endpoints with Lifesize touchscreen phones to enhance the simple user experience of the total solution. Additionally, the company purchased a number of Lifesize UVC ClearSea licenses to support video on desktop computers and mobile devices.
Lifesize Icon solutions have made a positive impact on the company, both internally and externally. Though the company was a bit hesitant to introduce its clients to this new form of technology, the initial reception was outst anding. With Lifesize ClearSea, clients are able to connect with their preferred investment manager over video wherever they may be, and this convenience and flexibility won over their clients instantly. Likewise, clients and investment managers feel peace of mind knowing that the confidential conversations they have over video are secure and inaccessible by third parties. Within the organization, the company has used video in a variety of ways, from weekly training sessions to discuss changes in tax and trust law to company-wide staff meetings. Employees are even able to work from home or while on vacation in a warmer climate during the harsh Vermont winter. With the touch of an iPad or the click of a mouse, investment managers are able to connect with clients and colleagues from the location of their choice.
The Wharton School Teaches with BlueJeans
Higher education institutes have attempted for years to connect students and faculty outside of the classroom and create extended learning experiences. This problem is pronounced further when students, staff and faculty members are dispersed, but have the need to collaborate together. Students are often faced with technological challenges when it comes to study group meetings, where they would like to be able to see each other and effectively collaborate on shared documents.
One of the premiere institutes for business education is The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In their quest to achieve excellence in teaching and learning, they have pioneered several initiatives to bring cutting-edge innovative solutions to students and faculty members. This was evident when they rolled out iPad2 for all Executive MBA students earlier this year, in order to provide instant access on the go to any resource that students need. This initiative created strong connected communities of students and faculty members, thereby fostering an environment conducive to rich collaboration.
With fresh iPad2 in students’ hands, Wharton Computing wanted to find ways to bring these students back into the classrooms, even when they were physically not there. The traditional audio/web conferencing solutions did not provide the rich interactive collaboration that they were looking for. Their goal was to leverage the front-facing cameras on iPad2 and use video conferencing to bring communities together. The high-definition video conferencing systems in the classrooms at Wharton were a perfect fit as Wharton looked to bridge the historically disconnected islands of conference room systems with the mobile video conferencing devices like iPad, iPhone, etc.
The above vision of bridging classroom video conferencing systems with handheld mobile devices was made possible when Wharton discovered BlueJeans Network. Wharton has number of study groups in their Philadelphia and San Francisco Executive MBA classes that use BlueJeans to meet with fellow students in their study groups. They have also been able to use this service to attend classes taught by professors or Teaching Assistants. Several faculty members also plan to host office hours in the BlueJeans cloud, enabling students to attend them independent of where they are.
Thanks to BlueJeans Network, Wharton can continue to maintain its innovative and cutting-edge ways to enrich learning and knowledge. What was once fathomed and discussed on the whiteboards of Ivy League schools has turned into a reality, fulfilling the vision that Wharton always had to extend classrooms beyond the four walls!
An Airtight Case for the Vidyo Communication and Collaboration Platform
Vedder Price P.C. is a business-oriented law firm composed of 265 attorneys with offices in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. The firm offers clients a wide range of services in three core practice areas: Corporate, Labor & Employment and Litigation. Within each of these core services are a number of boutique practices. For example, the firm holds a world-class status in asset-based finance; banking; executive compensation; investment services (mutual funds); and aircraft and equipment finance.
Vedder Price incorporated video conferencing into its daily practices several years ago and, like many law firms in the U.S., has come to realize the value of video communication for a variety of company-wide applications. Due to its numerous benefits, including significant productivity gains, cost savings and employee safety, video conferencing is high on the list of technological innovations within the past decade that have the greatest impact on helping a law firm increase its revenues. When people cannot be physically present in the same location, video conferencing serves as an important medium of communication.
INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE POINTS TO THE VALUE OF VIDEO CONFERENCING
Along with cutting costs, a clear benefit of video conferencing to law firms is increased efficiency. It allows for more flexible scheduling of depositions or meetings, as travel and delays in attendance no longer need to be factored into planning. In a profession where
unnecessary billable hours are a frustration to clients, the use of video conferencing ensures that a lawyers time is not wasted in airports and cabs. This is a benefit to lawyers and their clients, alike. Additionally, law professionals can now use video conferencing to perform depositions, deliver training, and comply with mandatory continuing legal education. And, any of these above-mentioned video meetings may be recorded for later viewing on the attorneys, court reporters or judges desktop or laptop computer.
However, until just recently, to gain all of the advantages that video conferencing has to offer, law firms have had very little choice but to use expensive, IT-intensive systems that require dedicated networks specifically designed to support high-end room systems. This meant a law firm needed to make a large investment in a dedicated network, purpose-built equipment and a technical staff. Scheduling a meeting, booking a conference room, conducting a remote interview, or understanding how to work a product feature, would involve contacting a third-party for support. The process was costly and complicated.
VIDEO CONFERENCING VS. VIDYOCONFERENCING
VidyoConferencing has done away with the need for expensive dedicated networks and complex purpose-built equipment. Vidyo’s unique platform provides the highest quality transmission and reception of telepresence-quality video over shared IP networks (including the Internet) on standard computers.
Though Vedder Price had initially invested in a Polycom VSX 7000 system, after using it for five years, they determined that they needed something more versatile, scalable, and affordable. According to Maureen Durack, Director of MIS at Vedder Price, “We were looking for video systems that could provide us with multiple endpoints on multiple devices as opposed to the standard room-to-room connections. We needed a system that would provide HD capabilities with minimal network load and provide scalability for future expansion. Vidyo delivers a natural, life-like experience that is important for legal proceedingsand services: the ability to clearly observe participants reactions; even subtle expressions, and body language.”
Lonnie Horvat, A/V, Multimedia Specialist at Vedder Price, explains, “Our objective, when evaluating a new video conferencing solution, was to choose a system that was not tied to a propriety standard, network or equipment. Vidyo offers amazing flexibility in terms of the off-the-shelf equipment and devices that can be used as endpoints. Polycom and Tandberg offer ancient technology. They can only go so far re-engineering what they’ve been using for years. Vidyo is designed for the future; it’s a state-of-the-art platform that is capable of upgrading and moving forward as new technologies and equipment become available.”
THE VERDICT IS IN
After extensively testing the Vidyo system for several months, Vedder Price was more than convinced that Vidyo was the way to go. By unanimous decision, Vidyo was the firms choice to replace its existing video conferencing system. “VidyoConferencing has given us a tremendous advantage, allowing us to expand in the future and achieve equipment freedom and geographic flexibility,” said Durack. Now that the company has switched to VidyoConferencing, they are able to use video communications and collaboration much more than they were able to with their former system — for CLE (mandatory continuing legal education that all attorneys need to complete each year), regular legal meetings between all offices, administrative meetings between office managers, and for depositions that once required extensive travel and time consumption.
According to Lonnie Horvat, “Since we deployed Vidyo, more and more of the Vedder Price staff are discovering how great it is and want to use it. It’s an, ‘If you build it, they will come’ scenario. What were seeing is that our employees now know that Vidyo is a valuable tool at their disposal; the more they use it the more they love it, and they use it again and again.”
In her closing statement, Maureen Durack says it best: “To me, Vidyo is an extension of what we always try to do with our firm’s technology to say yes we can. With Polycom we were saying no we can’t do that too often. With Vidyo, no matter how many curve balls you throw at it, it still is easy to use, works well, and achieves what we need it to do.”