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Going for VoIP


One of the cost cutting ideas my colleague and I had is to replace our school’s rather old PABX system with a new system that uses VoIP. By using such a system, we can save the school thousands of rands each month due to cutting away the cellular phone least cost routing devices, as well as sending voice traffic over the internet and not out over the expensive Telkom land lines.

We’ve been suggesting to management to look into such a solution for months now, but now the wheels are finally starting to move, with my colleague and I being placed in the position of doing the initial research and contacting companies. After getting our photocopiers replaced with better devices that are saving the school money and time, this is our next big project. Over the last 2 days, we’ve seen sales people from 5 different companies, with 2 more tomorrow. We’ve quizzed each person, shown them our existing infrastructure and heard lots of promises, as well as excuses in some cases. Our first salesman spent about half his time on a VoIP solution before trying to sell us data projectors and yet more copiers. Suffice to say, I was not impressed by that, as it has been made clear to the guy that we were not interested in anything else except a VoIP system.

Neither my colleague or I are too terribly clued up about large VoIP systems, though I do have quite a bit of experience with an Alcatel PABX system from my previous job. That being said, we have done our homework and have been asking a lot of pointed questions. I think the next step is to try and find a school somewhere around us that has gone down the VoIP route themselves, to see what their experiences have been. Using Skype doesn’t count however, which is more than likely the product most schools are familiar with.

One of the companies coming to see us tomorrow base their product on the open source Asterisk product, which should be interesting. I’ve seen a lot of praise for Asterisk, but I’ve never played around with it. Still, I think it will be pretty interesting to see what products the company has on offer.

All in all, I’m quite excited about this project. Although the spade work is tiresome, it will be rewarding to have a new system go in place that meets our needs and helps reduce costs. Perhaps we can even get to the point where we can trace which staff spend hours on the phone, and then help them cut down a bit.

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