Installing a voice over IP (VoIP) communications system is not the easiest undertaking at the best of times, but VAR Actimax had 12ft-thick walls, 50-year-old protected technology and even the odd ghost to contend with.
Telecommunications reseller Actimax faced the challenge of a lifetime when it was charged with bringing the Tower of London and four Historic Royal Palaces’ (HRPs’) communications system into the 21st century.
Actimax has been in business for over 10 years, specialising in networking technology and boasts a wide range of vendor accreditations including Microsoft, Aastra, Alcatel, Callview, Mitel and Cisco. The firm also has the largest demonstration facility in its area to showcase technology to potential customers.
HRP, an independent charity which is responsible for the upkeep of the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, The Banqueting House, Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, was running on an outdated communications system, which was causing many problems.
The system had eight different telephone systems across the six locations, which were run as separate sites. This caused a significant problem when the sheer number of visitors called for a smooth running system that simplified the booking and general enquiry process.
However, with thousands of visitors trying to book tickets or check opening times, the system often lost many of the calls before they could be answered.
In addition, HRP wanted a solution that reduced the environmental impact of
handling millions of visitors, something William the Conqueror did not have to
consider when he started building the Tower of London in 1070.
John Massey, managing director of Essex-based Actimax, explained the complexity of the installation.
“Given the modern technology that is in most telephone systems the HRP system was comprised of multiple small, different systems and it was really very messy,” Massey said. “There was a real need for VoIP, which could link the sites together. What HRP wanted was one point of contact where someone phoning the operation could be put through to any of the other palaces, enabling a more integrated customer experience.”
However, diagnosing the problem, and coming up with the solution an Alcatel-based VoIP and telephony system was one of the easier parts of the problem, Massey told CRN.
“The cabling in Hampton Court Palace for example was very old, and because of a law brought in recently, anything that was installed 50 years ago needed special permission to be removed,” he said. “Neither could we set up the system in normal office hours due to the need to cater for the millions of visitors. We had to work between 9pm and 2am or 3am every morning, so the system was always up and running in time for the staff to start working.”
Massey said the VAR had eight teams of people working to get the installation completed in time and on some occasions they were not alone during the long night shifts.
“Our teams definitely felt there was a ghostly presence in some of the locations, particularly in the Tower,” he said. “Also on a more tangible issue there was a lot of legacy infrastructure but the staff there were unaware of the challenges we faced, all they wanted was for their phones to work.”
Massey added: “We managed to link one site a month starting with Hampton Court. The whole job took us three months to complete. As a result we have managed to give HRP cheaper call charges and non-geographical phone numbers. Staff can now also carry out hotdesking activities and set up in the Tower of London or one of the palaces, depending on where their work takes them.”
However, he said it was important that the technology was not so ultra modern
that employees were unable to use it.
“We did not want to confuse the HRP staff. It is not an IT-based company their employees just wanted to be able to answer their phones in an efficient manner.”
As a result, HRP now operates a state-of-the-art communications system that successfully accommodates its future plans for improvement and expansion.
Barbara Crow, IT projects manager at HRP, said that the installation had
ticked all the boxes.
“HRP asked Actimax to help update our systems and make working at multiple sites easier for our team,” she said. “Our staff are now happily ‘freeseating’ with their new telephone numbers from site to site.
“This means that our employees have just one office telephone number and one voicemail to manage.”
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