Keeping in touch from a distance

VoIP keeps a new off-campus facility in touch with the rest of Swansea Institute at a reasonable cost.

Swansea Institute is using voice over IP to ensure that staff working in the new music technology and drama facilities will be able to answer the telephone and use their PCs, writes Ross Bentley.

The new department has been housed in a converted BBC building, whose sound studios have been renovated for use by students.

The site is perfect for the new facilities, but its position away from both of the main campuses raised the problem of connecting its voice and data networks to the main systems without incurring huge costs and setting the unit up as a separate campus.

Peter Rhodes, head of the computing and information services department, said, "The new facilities are very valuable to the Institute so it was vital they were made part of the main systems. But because they were away from the main sites we couldn't connect them to the voice and data networks in the same way that we have connected new facilities in the past.

"Our two main campuses use Realitis DX switches from Siemens and we have a very good relationship with them, so our first step was to contact Siemens and ask for advice and they suggested we try a voice over IP solution."

The Siemens solution directs voice and data down one connection to the new facility and has solved the problem without the institute having to invest in a new telephony switch.

This initial use of VoIP will provide the institute with a functioning example of what can be achieved using convergence technologies and, if successful, the computer services team will be looking to employ the same solution elsewhere.

"Voice over IP has proved very cost effective, and of course it helped that we were still dealing with Siemens because we didn't have to invest in lots of new equipment," said Rhodes.

"If all goes well, our next step will be to link the stained glass department to the main network and adopt it to connect further new facilities. Even if we make further developments on the main campuses we will consider connecting them via IP rather than run two sets of cables into new buildings."

John McAdams, Siemens Communications' account manager for the Swansea Institute, said, "The institute adopted VoIP this time because it solved a business problem, but next time it will be because it is a successful, efficient and cost-effective way of connecting different sites.

"Because the institute upgraded its Realitis DX to 7.1 New World four months ago, which is IP-enabled software, it can now adopt IP whenever and wherever. The team can benefit from using it when necessary and continue with the existing systems elsewhere and everyone will be able to talk to each other as usual. And of course if they decide to roll out VoIP for the whole institute, they can."

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