Medway Council slashes costs and improves business agility with IP telephony

Medway Council is a unitary authority in Kent, providing all local government services for a quarter of a million people. Medway is made up of the towns of Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham and more rural areas, including the Hoo Peninsula.

Services for which it is responsible include education, environment, social care, housing, planning and business – everything from frontline services such as rubbish collection to work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that services in Medway run smoothly and cost effectively.

The challenge
Medway Council’s almost decade-long partnership with Redstone Converged Solutions first began when three of its sites required new PBXs. The cost of replacing the PBXs was so prohibitive that Medway Council decided a move to IP Telephony (IPT) offered a more cost-effective and future-proof solution.

With a view to rolling it out beyond the initial three sites, Medway Council required a supplier that could fulfil its long-term vision of delivering IPT solutions over a data-only service, but found that most suppliers only wanted to sell the more expensive traditional carrier services rather than this emerging technology.

Redstone Converged Solutions had the expertise and experience to support Medway Council’s vision.  “When we first started using Redstone Converged Solutions it was in no small part because we wanted to roll out a data-only service to a lot of our schools,” recalled Michael O’Connor, Network and Security Manager at Medway Council. “Redstone Converged Solutions understood our goals, and was flexible enough to provide us with the service we required.”

The solution
Medway Council first implemented Cisco CallManager in two theatres and a visitor information centre. Switches were upgraded to offer Power over Ethernet (PoE) for the new handsets, as Medway Council’s IT team felt having a separate power supply for each handset would be inefficient and a step back compared to the existing telephones that employees used.

While cost was the major motivator to move to IPT, other benefits factored into the decision. For the theatres it meant call queues could be handled more easily and across multiple sites, and for new build schools that were to be technology showcases the very best new and cost-effective IT systems could be demonstrated.

The outcome
Eight years on, the vision of Medway Council and innovation of Redstone Converged Solutions has paid dividends with increased flexibility and reduced costs.

Medway Council now has 4360 IPT handsets at 105 sites including visitor information centres, social services offices, community centres, sport centres, primary schools, secondary schools, care homes, children’s residential units, libraries and many more.

Medway Council ascertained – taking into account staff, equipment and service costs – that a standard phone extension typically costs them in excess of £18 per month. The equivalent in IPT is around just £6 per month, bringing substantial budgetary savings to the council both in terms of lower maintenance and reduced exchange line costs. Medway Council has also benefited from a reduction in its call costs, as more sites convert to IPT and larger volumes of calls are carried completely over IP.

IPT has also brought substantial efficiency savings when it comes to maintaining the telephone systems. “As it’s a familiar IP based technology the desktop support team can now support all the equipment on the desktop,” said O’Connor. “Instead of sending out dedicated telephone technicians, we can have a single technician visit a site and do both PC and telephone support which is a much more effective use of their time.”

IPT enables greater flexibility and speedier response times to business critical demands. When one Medway site suffered a PBX failure it was faced with long lead times to purchase, replace and install a new system. Medway Council’s IT team was able to take advantage of their existing IPT solution, and with fifteen spare telephones and a switch they had the site’s telephones back online the same day.

When the threat from Swine Flu escalated in the UK, the IT team was able to respond quickly to support Medway Council’s emergency response. “We needed 30 desks with phones for an anti-viral dispensing centre, and we had only four days to get the centre up and running,” said O’Connor. “Installing a PBX and phones would have been unfeasible. But with IP telephony, it’s possible in situations like this to setup wireless networking or run a cable from the nearest point of presence on the network and quickly have the phones up and running.”

Through working with Redstone Converged Solutions, Medway Council is now a leading example of a mature IPT system and the many benefits that it brings. But in addition to reducing costs, improving efficiency and allowing for greater business agility, it also brings a sense of inclusion. “When sites join this system they feel part of this larger corporate organisation,” said O’Connor. “Senior managers who are trying to build a corporate culture believe that to be really quite valuable.”

For more information