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Gimme Shelter: Cox Business Offers More than Just Savings to O’Sullivan Creel

By: Paula Bernier

When you’re a company with operations on the Gulf Coast, it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in place so staff can communicate with one another and with customers, as well as access necessary data, in the event that they have to work remotely due to a storm. That was a driving force behind O’Sullivan Creel LLP’s decision to move to Cox (News - Alert) Communications’ carrier Ethernet service and put its voice and data systems in a special, secure Cox data center.

O’Sullivan Creel is a CPA and consulting firm with nearly 140 employees and four offices in the Florida panhandle and Alabama. That includes headquarters in Pensacola, Fla., and remote branches in Destin and Forth Walton Beach, Fla., as well as in Foley, Ala. A fifth location, in Fairhope, Ala., is expected to open shortly.

Before O’Sullivan Creel came on board with Cox, it was just starting to use VoIP, which it was running over point-to-point T1 lines, says Paul Winters, senior manager of information technology at the firm. However, because the T1s also were loaded up with data, the bandwidth for VoIP was limited, so O’Sullivan Creel likewise limited its use of VoIP, he says.

Today, however, O’Sullivan Creel uses 100mbps Cox metro Ethernet services at its Florida offices to support a wide range of voice, data and video applications, he says.

Bandwidth is now so plentiful, in fact, that O’Sullivan Creel also runs videoconferences using its Polycom (News - Alert) room-based systems over the Ethernet connection. Winters says although the O’Sullivan Creel offices aren’t all that far apart, traffic can be heavy in the area due to beach visitors, so videoconferencing is a very useful communications tool for the firm.

In addition to the added bandwidth O’Sullivan Creel gets through the Cox metro Ethernet service, the firm also now has a business continuity plan and is realizing larger savings with Cox for its telephone service, Winters says.

As noted, the firm has elected to locate some of its communications gear at a Cox data center in Pensacola through a collocation deal with the service provider. The data center is Cox’s Category 3 hurricane resistant colocation facility and includes generator and battery back-up in the event of commercial power failure. O’Sullivan Creel’s servers are backed up in real-time via a 100mbps fiber Cox Metro Ethernet connection, and the accounting firm can offer clients 24/7 access to personal account information through a secure client portal.

“Natural disasters are part of life in many parts of the country, including the Gulf Coast, and Cox Business data back-up solution gives us peace of mind the next time one occurs,” says Winters. “The Cox Business solution perfectly complements the internal paperless initiatives we’ve implemented and ensures that we can more effectively serve our clients.”

Located at the Cox data center are file services, which support tax return processing, email and other applications, as well as the accounting firm’s main PBX (News - Alert) with integrated voicemail, email and fax, says Winters. And although each of O’Sullivan Creel’s remote offices has its own on-premises PBX, the firm has configured its distributed phone system in a way that enables it to be managed as a single system and operate like one in terms of DID and other functionality, he adds.

Winters says it’s a huge advantage to locate the firm’s most critical resources at the data center. If the company had to secure these resources through an on-premises solution, he adds, it would’ve been much more expensive. In addition to the secure aspects of the Cox data center, Winters notes that the fiber-based metro Ethernet connectivity from Cox offers fiber reroute capabilities in the case of a fiber cut or other outage.

As for the cost savings on voice, O’Sullivan Creel sees a benefit on that front because Cox has an extended calling footprint that covers all of the firm’s offices, so a call from the O’Sullivan Creel office in Pensacola to a client in Destin, Fla., for example, is not billed as a long-distance call, Winters says. And because the firm’s telephone system from Iwatsu (News - Alert) Adix, which O’Sullivan Creel manages itself, is configured as a single unit, the company also can do smart routing to save money, Winters explains.

O’Sullivan Creel is just one of several Cox Business customers in the financial space, which along with education, government and healthcare are among the carrier’s key vertical targets.

“Financial institutions process millions of transactions daily and the accuracy, reliability and security of the information impacts the market at large and the spending power of consumers,” says Kristine Faulkner, vice president of product development and management at Cox Business. “Cox voice, data and video products are designed with carrier-class reliability to create a high level of trust with our finance customers, something they can confidently pass on to their clients.” IT

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