VoIP launches library into 21st century

Telebyte Communications Inc. doesn’t get many service calls from the Red Deer Public Library anymore.

But that doesn’t bother Gordon Dean of the Alberta solution provider.

Telebyte, which has been working with the library for about five years and is an Avaya BusinessPartner, implemented

a voice over Internet protocol telephony solution two years ago that allows the 90-year-old library to make its own adds, moves and changes.

“”Red Deer Public Library (RDPL) was one of our customers previously and they sat through the presentation that we put on the benefits of IP telephony,”” said Dean.

“”They wanted a system they could manage themselves and not have to have a company like ours continuously visit their location to make changes and provide maintenance.””

The Avaya IP Office, which is part of Avaya Inc.’s Enter-prise Class Internet Protocol (ECLIPS), has improved customer service by unifying its network infrastructure. The Avaya solution allowed RDPL to integrate its two branches, its main downtown location and one branch location, to provide faster and more effective services to its customers.

Avaya IP Office also enhances RDPL’s working relationships with its partners, the Family Literacy Program and The Red Deer Adult Literacy Program, which operate on the converged network.

Dean Frey, director of library services, says RDPL is very pleased with Avaya’s solution.

“”It’s been a good thing for the organization in terms of call management and providing a higher level of customer service for the people in Red Deer, especially using our fibre network to integrate the two branches.””

RDPL has two locations — one located downtown and the other located five km away in North Red Deer.

More than books RDPL recognizes that integrating technology into what it does not only makes it a more efficient organization, but also increases its profile in the community. The library sees itself as more than a place where books are stored but also as an information hub and popular destination for the community of 70,000 residents in the City of Red Deer, situated mid-way between Edmonton and Calgary.

“”Our use of technology and connection to the Internet is making us more relevant for a lot of people,”” said Frey.

With an average of 650,000 visitors per year, RDPL is one of Canada’s busiest libraries.

To meet the growing demand from an increase in number of visitors and calls to the library, it decided to upgrade its communications systems when the city built a fibre network infrastructure.

The 13,000 km fibre network is part of a province-wide initiative called Alberta SuperNet. When completed later this year, the Alberta government’s $193 million investment will link 4,700 libraries, schools, hospitals and provincial government offices in 422 communities across the province.

It will also bring broadband services to most Alberta businesses in residences in rural and urban areas. As of  last month, the SuperNet connection between Edmonton and Grande Prairie had been completed.

Service revenues down

Telebyte made a presentation to RDPL on the benefits of IP telephony compared to its previous NEC phone system, which was costly to maintain and difficult to manage.

Frey said he’s saving between $500 to $1,000 per month in terms of ongoing costs including the lease on the NEC system and not having dedicated fax lines.

“”We’ve saved money by cutting down the number of incoming lines that the library was using,”” he said.

Dean added RDPL is also saving money in maintenance and service charges.

“”They have IT experienced people who know systems and how to manipulate data. They were looking to be able to do something on their own,”” he said.

One of the cons for Telebyte is that it doesn’t get the number of calls from RDPL that it used to.

“”They’re able to do it themselves, which is a good thing for Red Deer.””

And at $30,000, the total cost of the solution was significantly lower than most enterprise solutions while offering the sophistication of big-business voice and data communications.

While Telebyte sees the largest growth in VoIP coming from the oil and gas market in Alberta, which makes up 60 per cent of its business, Dean says SuperNet will generate more business from the public sector, which makes up 20 per cent of its business.

Schools, libraries, government and others are “”waiting until the implementation is done to get on board with installing an IP telephony solution,”” said Dean. With Bell West as SuperNet’s prime contractor, RDPL had to make the switch to VoIP a little sooner than it wanted.

Telus, RDPL’s previous telephone carrier, wouldn’t guarantee the library would have its numbers after a particular date.

Telus loses RDPL to Bell  “”(Telus) didn’t appreciate losing the business,”” said Frey.

Added to the complication was the fact that Telebyte is also a Bell distributor.

“”We were able to offer them better rates through Bell than what they were getting from Telus,”” said Dean. RDPL is saving 25 to 30 per cent in monthly rentals.

Aside from the monetary benefits, there has also been a major improvement to customer service. With the old system, visitors needed to call several different numbers to reach a person, department or local branch.

If, for example, a customer dialed the main number of the downtown branch they would be manually transferred to different departments depending on their request, or asked to hang up and call another number.

With the growing number of calls, this proved to be an impediment to the library’s goal of providing the best customer service. Avaya IP Office automatically routes customer calls over the libary’s converged WAN to the appropriate department or contact person and transfers calls to another location if one branch is closed.

Frey hopes to use Avaya IP Office as a base for future development including integrated voice mail and e-mail systems.

He said he’s also interested in PDA wireless solutions for the library’s mobile workers.

“”I would love to be able to pick up my voice mail messages from my e-mail inbox once I get the spam problem solved.””

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