How to save thousands of dollars with voice-over-IP

By Phil Hochmuth, Network World |  Networking

Aramark Uniform Services had a problem. The company wanted to upgrade its voice capabilities, but the sheer number of locations made that a messy and expensive proposition.

The Burbank, Calif., company provides uniform sales, rentals, manufacturing and cleaning for many industries, from airline ground crews to overnight delivery truck drivers and major league ballpark peanut vendors.

Aramark has more than 28 facilities plants and 200 offices nationwide. Keeping the voice networks at each site running efficiently and adding new features was a challenge, says Ash Patel, Aramark's director of IT infrastructure.

"Basically, 99% of our sites don't have voice mail or a PBX," Patel says. This caused problems such as mishandled orders and lost customer service calls, he adds.

Patel has a Lucent (now Avaya) Definity PBX and voice mail system in Aramark's main office in Burbank to support 300 users. The PBX is cost-effective for a large corporate office, but Patel says he needed the same advanced capabilities of his PBX in each of Aramark's 28 uniform manufacturing, laundry and distribution facilities throughout the country. The cost of a PBX in each site would have been too great, he says.

"We would have had to spend a separate $30,000 [to upgrade each Definity] just for voice mail," in the remote sites, he says. "The [Definity PBX] is $100,000. We can't put that in every site."

Instead, Patel went with the $15,180 InstantOffice 5500 from Vertical Networks. The InstantOffice product is a Windows NT device that supports voice mail and automated attendant, and can compile data on customer service calls. The device can act as a router, support up to 84 phone and data connections, and have T-1 and ISDN ports for connecting to a WAN.

In addition to getting the customer service phone systems in shape at the remote offices, the devices also save the firm money on long-distance phone charges for intracompany calls.

"Our monthly long-distance bill at Aramark [was] about $140,000," before using the InstantOffice to tie the remote offices together with T-1 lines and IP voice, Patel says. "I see at least a 40% savings every month on long-distance charges alone."

The company saves even more by combining separate voice and data T-1 lines at each site into one line from AT&T, Patel adds.

"Right now we're paying around $80,000 a month for both [voice and data] frame circuits. We'll save about another $20,000-plus a month once they're combined," at every site, he says.

The InstantOffice 5500s Patel installed also give Aramark better control over each remote site. This includes collecting data on service calls to make the sites more customer-friendly, as well as remote management of the Vertical Networks devices.

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