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Feature Article
June 2003


North Dakota Community Saves Big With Internet Telephony

In recent years, an interesting phenomenon has arisen in that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are leading the VoIP charge. The key factors influencing this trend have been scalability limitations with respect to Internet telephony deployment, reliability concerns over placing mission-critical voice traffic over IP-based networks and intra-company coordination issues between telecommunications and IT organizations. For the most part, these factors have manifested themselves in large organizations. SMEs, with from two to 400 employees, have not been as significantly hampered by VoIP scalability limitations and their telecommunications and IT departments are one and the same, thus alleviating intra-company departmental turf battles. On the other hand, the primary concerns facing SMEs looking to deploy Internet telephony are cost constraints and technological expertise. The City of Dickinson and Stark County, ND struggled with these two concerns.

Like all municipalities, the City of Dickinson and Stark County face the ongoing challenge of improving public services in the midst of looming budget cuts. Finding their telecommunication costs too expensive, Tim Riegel, City Finance Director and Gary Kostelecky, Stark County 911 Emergency Manager set out on a mission to implement a more cost-effective and technologically innovative solution. In addition, Riegel and Kostelecky identified four more project success factors. They wanted to avoid the dreaded �forklift upgrade,� having to rip out and replace their installed equipment completely. They wanted a modular system that could expand at a pace consistent with their increasing connectivity requirements. They wanted a solution that would support emerging Internet Protocol (IP) applications, meeting the evolving public service needs of their constituents. And, given the life and death nature of their public safety applications, a fault-tolerant solution was an absolute requirement. �Regardless of cost-savings public safety could not be compromised,� stated Gary Kostelecky.

For technical expertise, Riegel and Kostelecky turned to Consolidated Telcom, the local telephone cooperative. A forward-thinking service provider, Consolidated learned early in the Internet telephony game that if they did not supplement their traditional telephone service offerings with VoIP, their competitors would fill this requirement. Based on a series of meetings and demonstrations with Consolidated, Riegel and Kostelecky concluded that VoIP was a viable alternative in allowing the City of Dickinson and Stark County to combine their disparate telephone networks and share the subsequent cost of operations. By layering their inter-office voice traffic on top of their existing IP data network infrastructure, both governments could drastically reduce PSTN connection and long-distance charges.

Having settled on the technological answer, Riegel and Kostelecky then set out to find a vendor. After looking at a number of solutions, Comdial was selected because its FX II Converged Telephony Platform offered a more practical and cost-conscious alternative to pure-IP PBXs. With pure-IP PBXs, enterprises are forced to adopt Internet telephony all at once, having to completely dispose of their existing telecom equipment in the process. Because it simultaneously supports IP and traditional voice technology, Comdial�s FX II Converged Telephony Platform provides enterprises with the benefit of deploying VoIP at a pace consistent with operation and budget requirements. A significant benefit for the City of Dickinson and Stark County was that the FX II Platform supports the implementation of Internet telephony using less expensive digital telephones instead of higher cost IP phones. In addition to Internet telephony and traditional voice technology, Comdial�s FX II Platform supports unified voice and e-mail messaging, auto-attendant, voice mail, and call center applications.

Today, City of Dickinson and Stark County employees transfer calls from one office location to another as if they are in the same building. Inter-office intercom announcements and pages are also possible. �In addition to application benefits, we�re able to save 30 percent per month by utilizing VoIP,� says Tim Riegel, Dickinson�s Finance Director, �As such, our Internet telephony implementation pays for itself.�

For more information, please visit www.comdial.com.

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