The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has begun a major upgrade of its communications infrastructure, deploying a unified communications (UC) solution from comms software and services supplier Unify to better support its 100 full-time staff and various volunteer groups.
The Brecon Beacons National Park was set up in 1957 and covers 519 square miles (332,100 acres) of uplands and mountainous terrain in south Wales. An International Dark Sky Reserve and Unesco Geopark, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife and the second-highest peak in Wales, Pen y Fan.
Given its sheer size, the park's networking requirements differ from those of enterprise buyers, with access to its office spaces often highly limited due to treacherous and changeable weather conditions, especially in winter. Remote working is the norm, and is often essential.
The park authority had been running an increasingly elderly ISDN telephony system that allowed just 16 concurrent connections. Also, the system was on-premise, with each phone requiring its own port.
This meant it was hard to track incoming calls, not to mention communicating effectively with remote workers and teams in the field.
A key requirement for the new system was therefore the ability to offer staff more flexibility in how they worked, bringing in more collaborative, reliable and, above all, up-to-date technology.
The park authority settled on Unify’s carrier-grade OpenScape Voice technology, delivered to its Brecon base via the Unify Wales portfolio, which is a suite of SIP gateway, hosted telephony and hosted contact centre services that the supplier has made available to all public sector organisations in Wales.
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This is backed up by the Public Sector Broadband Aggregation (PSBA) network, a secure managed network service, run by BT, which connects all public sector services in Wales.
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority IT systems officer Kevin Booker described the switchover as a “bold approach” to communications, enabling staff and volunteers to work together better, regardless of location or call volumes. In fact, the system can take and make calls with virtually no limit on the number of connections.
“Unify’s OpenScape Voice has helped us deliver flexibility and the ability to work more effectively with remote teams, while maintaining the reliability of our communication systems within the park, which is directly related to staff safety,” he said.
Nia Morgan, Unify’s alliance director, Wales, said: “The National Park Authority needed a solution that was both scalable and affordable. We have been able to meet these requirements, as well as guide and train the team in how to use OpenScape Voice to unlock the benefits of remote working.”
Booker added: “We now have a much clearer view of our costs, which makes budgeting more accurate, as well as the ability to remotely manage and handle inquiries, which is a huge benefit to team efficiency.”
By eliminating fixed-line telephony in favour of a cloud-hosted solution, the park authority can also now switch phones from one location in an office to another, and allow staff members to make changes, such as changing log-in details or display names, without going to the IT team for help.
The introduction of the UC solution has also helped the authority better align with Welsh government objectives to drive more efficiency, collaboration and innovation via the PSBA, said Booker. Delivering the service over existing PSBA WAN connections has enabled the authority to sweat at least some of its previous investment.
The authority already plans to roll out the solution – which, in this case, can scale to up to 100,000 users per node, a figure it is presumably unlikely to touch any time soon – to the rest of its local branch offices in the near future.