e-TQM goes for Cisco IP phones

In a bid to save money and modernise its communications, e-TQM College has invested in a range of Cisco IP telephony solutions.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  September 23, 2004

|~|ARAB-MAN-5_m.jpg|~|e-TQM’s Sameer Khoory maintains that internet telephony allows the firm to save money on calls to staff working out of the country. Calls are charged as if calling an extension in the company’s office.|~|e-TQM College has carried out the first phase of an internet telephony implementation designed to boost its internal communications. The installation was carried out by Emirates computers, and comprised 24 Cisco 7940 and 7960 IP phones, with CallManager 3.3 as the call processing engine and Unity as a unified communications solution. The college has also bought Ipsoft’s software dialler, so staff can make IP calls from notebooks when traveling. The first phase of e-TQM’s internet telephony implementation was completed in January of this year. The infrastructure comprises Cisco 4500 Catalyst switches at the core with Cisco 2500 models used as access routers. In terms of security, the 4500 switches come with integrated firewall, IDS and VPN capability. e-TQM also claims to be the first government organisation in the UAE to use Cisco Security Agent (CSA) on all of its servers. The company is moving staff to notebooks so they can work at home and CSA is designed to ensure that corporate policy will be imposed on the notebooks so an infected machine can’t log in to the network. “We moved from Dubai Internet City (DIC) and this gave us the opportunity to have our own system. At DIC we rented a network and telephony system. At the new site, we had a choice between PBX and IP and we decided to go for IP as it was only 20% more expensive and offered the better way forward. If we had to rip up a PBX to install the IP network it would have been different,” says Sameer Khoory, IT manager, e-TQM College. The e-learning college, which provides training to public servants in the UAE as well as members of the public, sees the installation as a key resource in catering to overseas students. “We plan to introduce a help desk where prospective international students can make calls over the internet when they have a query. We want them to be able to do this directly from our website,” says Khoory. “It will help students to manage costs on the international calls,” he adds. As well as helping students contact the college less expensively, the new implementation has provided a shot in the arm for internal communications. “We have had conference calls using internet telephony with a director in Jeddah, a member of staff in Dubai and myself in Malayasia and the call quality was great with no echo. It also allows us to save money on calls to staff working out of the country. You get charged as if calling an extension in the office” says Khoory. “There is still a grey area regards the legality of internet telephony. Many companies are using it to call company branches around the globe, which is not permitted by Etisalat. We are calling from extension to extension within the business, which is permitted,” he adds. For international calls to other companies, e-TQM staff use IP phones but the calls go out over a line rented from Etisalat, so the company is charged the normal rate. “The system saves money but flexibility is the key,” says Khoory. “The technology is one for the future with more features than the traditional PBX. For example, we can use the phones to book meeting rooms and change information on a display outside the meeting room which shows who has booked the room and at what time,” he adds. The internet telephony system also lays the groundwork for e-TQM’s plan to integrate human resources tools into the phones. “We will implement Microsoft Great Plains next year, which allows users to book holidays from their phone. CallManager acts as middleware between the end user with his IP phone and the Great Plains application on the back-end, with XML the common language,” says Khoory. The company also intends to acquire five of Cisco’s new 7970 IP phones, for directors and management.||**||

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