A technological journey

Some of you are aware that we have been planning our corporate move to a hobby farm in Mount Albert, Ont. Well, we have moved, and what a journey for technology it has been!

To wrap up 2005, we thought we would share with you our journey, technology solutions and thoughts of converged technologies and impact on the telecom industry.

During the technology design phase of our project for our residence/ expanded corporate facilities/ executive retreat building, we reviewed, analyzed and tested many types of new and emerging converged solutions. Some of them are CPE (owned by clients), while other are hosted solutions from Canadian and U.S. providers.

We decided to go with a combination of owned equipment and hosted solutions for our distributed, technology-savy consulting firm.

How did we wire the facilities?

The main residence building is a 1901 Edwardian restored century brick farm house, combined with a new two-story executive retreat building and numerous outbuildings. The restored farm house turned turned out to be a really interesting challenge to install Category 6 wiring throughout all rooms. But it was done, without exposed runs of wires, and with respect for the existing architecture. In addition, our new ‘universal wiring’ design allows us to move, add or change for any service to be connected in any location throughout the retreat.

We will be installing fibre between the various buildings in the spring, combined with wiring to the front gates, and finally, adding 802.11G throughout the retreat to support our consultants and clients working throughout the retreat using various Wi-Lan technologies. (We are looking forward to testing sip and soft phones once the Wi-Fi infrastructure is in place).

Thanks goes to Jim, Keith and Jim from Activo for providing us with the infrastructure which will serve us for our voice, data and video present and future needs.

What about PSTN, wide area and Internet connectivity?

<p.Top of our list was reliable high speed access. We are not in an area served by cable, but are fortunate to be in a DSL serving area from Bell Canada. Due to the age of the outside plant, we ran new external trunk facilities down the 500-foot driveway to the new commercial demarcation centre. We now have very good business grade high speed Internet access to run our various VoIP platforms on. Our traditional analogue lines are clean, well provisioned and will provide us with reliable communications.

Thanks go to Tony, Eileen, Dean, Mark and Scott from Bell and ExpressVu for making sure we have the best external connectivity. Special thanks to Lise, Lorne and Jessie for “pulling it all together” for the relocation of our numerous Bell services with executive support from Mary Anne.

What about cellular you say?

Well, this is great news: Fox Hollow is indeed in a hollow and at the top of the hill is cellular services provided by Bell and half mile the other way is a tower provided by Rogers. So, even in the basement of the farmhouse, through the 12-in. thick walls, we are able to get maximum signal strength.

Data and VoIP Servers, LAN Switches, terminal adaptors, power and tech room space?

This was one of the more interesting parts of the project design: Where do you put advanced technologies in an old farm house and where the new retreat building won’t be finished until spring?

After much discussion with our technology vendors, it was agreed by all to install the technology room in the main house since it had the best clean power (200A), cleanest and coolest environment and space available to boot in the unfinished basement. (there are two in the farm house). The basement will be cool in the summer, we won’t have to worry about air conditioning and there is a separate exit to the outside for safety reasons. Since this basement is also separated from the main one, we will install proper fire safety equipment for all of the technology located in this room.

Traditional telecom racks were installed for the servers, VoIP servers, terminal adaptors, etc. Wall boards, bix frames and distribution panels were mounted nearby into the stone basement wall. Interesting point in this basement is that one of the stones that made the original foundation is estimated to be at least 3 to 4 tones.

VoIP Servers and Applications

We also took the opportunity to examine our use of our VoIP applications and re-designed the IVR interfaces and additional applications to support not only our consultants, but our extended team of partners and clients. We can now link various groups together and further leverage the many features within both the Mitel VoIP and telework server in addition to networking to our soon to be installed Nortel BCM 50 for Grayfox Institute, which will be run out of the executive retreat centre once completed.

Thanks to Andy, Gary, Debbie and Garry from Mitel for your creativity, support and innovation during our re-location. Also, thanks to Susan at Nortel for encouraging us to investigate cross-compatibilities for grayfox and Fox Group with our growing extended teams.

Hosted VoIP Solutions

As part of our growing SMB technology test lab, we chose to include two VoIP hosted solutions from Bell and Telus in our new capabilities. This will provide us with alternatives to our PSTN connectivity, and allow us to have 416 and 705 area code visibility for our distributed client base outside of the GTA. This will also provide us with the opportunity to truly understand the differences and benefits of this emerging technology solution.

Thanks to Bill from Telus and Lise from Bell for your support in our provisioning of these services.


Is technology getting easier to install with converged technologies – No!

But, with the involvement from many of Canada ‘s top telecommunications and networking technology professionals we now have access to and use of some of the most sophisticated converged IP telecommunications, networking and wireless solutions available in Canada, and we are about 80 kilometers from downtown Toronto!

Is it getting easier to manage – Yes!

Since most of the devices are “on the network”, we can easily troubleshoot connectivity from any PC. We can also remotely manage the various IP and server-based solutions, which we haven’t been able to do before. More to follow on this one.

Special thanks to Bill Elliott, our director of consulting for being a great technology architect and project manager working with us on this important part of Fox Group’s continuous expansion.

We welcome the opportunity to have Bill show you how he “put it all together”, and how we believe that this converged environment can help distributed enterprises finally gain substantial productivity gains from IT.

Bill Elliot can be contacted at [email protected] or 905.473.3FOX (3369) x 1400.

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