Care charity Avante enhances unified communications capabilities with 3CX

Kent-based residential care charity Avante Care and Support installed an IP PBX to manage telephony across multiple sites and a mobile workforce

Avante Care and Support, a provider of residential care services in Bexley, Greenwich, Kent and Medway, has made substantial cost savings and improved its day-to-day efficiency after ditching a legacy private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system in favour of a software-based IP PBX from 3CX.

Avante was formed 25 years ago by Kent County Council as a charity to manage residential care facilities and provide in-home support. In that time it has grown into a major local non-profit organisation, and branched out into support services for vulnerable children and young people. It now runs nine dementia care facilities alongside a team of mobile care workers.

Until recently, the charity had been using a mix of various telephone systems installed at its care homes as they were built, backed by an Avaya PBX. IT manager Carl Vivash said this mish-mash of communications had become an increasing challenge for his three-strong IT team.

Among other things, he told Computer Weekly, they were hard to configure and maintain, and several systems became unusable if there was, for example, a power cut, or even just a need to reboot, with days and sometimes weeks wasted recovering the phone systems.

Furthermore, the Avaya PBX was so old that it could only handle voice traffic, and a combination of cost pressures and more mobile and remote workers at Avante meant Vivash wanted to exploit the benefits of free internet telephony by moving to an IP PBX system.

At first Vivash looked at simply upgrading Avante’s telephony systems, but on discovering that a basic PBX to IP PBX replacement would cost around £18,000, while a fully equipped system would cost closer to £30,000, he started looking for alternatives.

“We had used Microsoft Lync [Skype for Business] at charity pricing as a messaging system so I originally looked at finding some way of moving to that, and while researching that option I came across 3CX’s software phone system,” Vivash said.

“The main thing that attracted me to 3CX was that it is software running on a server,” he said. “That’s my bread and butter. I have servers. I have software. I can do that. If a server goes out I can get another one, I can even run it on an old PC if I have to. There is no mysticism to it.”

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The licensing terms and conditions attached to comms systems from larger suppliers were another black mark against a straightforward rip-and-replace, Vivash added. “With 3CX you buy a package and it’s all-inclusive, at one price,” he said. This means that Avante can expand the number of user connections without incurring additional fees.

Avante managed the roll-out in two phases, first at its head office and later across its care home facilities. According to Vivash, the deployment took his team just a couple of hours using 3CX’s internal configuration tools, which enabled Avante to keep using its Yealink phones and Patton gateways.

For Vivash, the cost-savings of enabling staff to call one another using voice over IP (VoIP) speak for themselves, as do lower running costs and, for his team, less time spent on maintenance.

Users of Avante’s care services should also have noticed a difference, said Vivash, in terms of staff response and effectiveness.

“More reliable phones improves the client experience,” said Vivash. “Our home care teams, for example, get a lot of calls from friends and relatives. It’s now easier to direct them to the right person at the right home, which results in better standards of care.”

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