Cisco Network and Unified Communications Delivers Big Business Features for SMB Chamber of SW Florida
A SMB-sized regional business organization struggles with typical SMB pain points: with just a half dozen PCs and nine phones, they want the powerful features offered by new technology in a way that is suitable and affordable for them.
Cisco Gold and SMB Partner Kent Technology designs and deploys Cisco Unified Communications saving the organization money in communications costs while boosting productivity.
January 1, 2007
The Chamber of Southwest Florida is a regional business organization with offices in Ft. Myers, Florida. Its delivery of quality information, services and value to its members provides a positive contribution to their business, which in turn make a strategic contribution to the community.
Kent Technologies, a Cisco Gold Certified Partner and SMB Select Partner, is headquartered in nearby Bonita Springs. Since it is also Microsoft Gold Partner, Kent Technologies has for several years worked with the Chamber on special networking projects and desktop concerns.
"It was definitely time to refresh the Chamber's network and take a look at some phone system alternatives," says Marc Farron, Vice President for Kent Technologies. "They were running out of storage space on server hard drives, and backups were getting complex as multiple tapes were needed." Not only was the Chamber trying to operate efficiently on old network technology, it was paying a lot for phone service in a bundled solution with structured architecture, and suffering typical SMB pain points - with just a half dozen PCs and nine phones, how do they get the powerful features offered by new technology in a way that is suitable and affordable for them?
Farron and Kent Technologies have been successfully answering that question both with Cisco technology, and with Kent's focus on offering its clients a one-stop solution. After discussing the Chamber's networking and communications issues with Steve, Marc and the Kent Technologies team came back with a solution that included upgrading the LAN and then layering in hosted Cisco Unified Communications and a bandwidth management solution.
"Kent Technologies offered an integrated solution that would improve our network and provide an IP telephony approach to communications," says Steve Tirey, president of Chamber of Southwest Florida. "Our old network solution was very rigid and inflexible. With a new Cisco solution we would be able to manage our access and bandwidth. I felt this was a tremendous solution for small organization such as ours."
ROI in Cisco Converged Solution Makes Dollars and Sense for SMB
Marc not only has served as a technology provider for the Chamber, but Kent Technologies has been Chamber of Southwest Florida member for a number of years. He understood well the technology and business goals of the Chamber, and Tirey considered him a trusted partner.
The two worked through several stages of pre-deployment so Marc could identify and recommend the very best solution for the Chamber, and plan out the phased deployment. In the first phase, they focused on the immediate issue of diminished storage backup and hard drive space. When Marc stepped back and looked at the Chamber's entire technology picture, he saw the functional limitations of the phone system, and the expense of paying for ISDN which was expensive and offered low bandwidth.
"The ISDN didn't come close to meeting our needs anymore," agrees Tirey. "Marc could have just sold us more bandwidth and put in a new phone system with voicemail that ran independent of our data network. But that kind of solution would not have provided us with the economies of scale that an integrated solution provides. We still would have had the bills for phone calls, Internet access plus the cost of all the new equipment."
Investing in technology is an important decision for any company, and can be especially critical for an SMB. As a Microsoft Gold Partner as well as a Cisco Gold Partner, Farron put together a managed service offering and thought the savings would make a lot of sense for the Chamber. Tirey did cost checking at each step of the solution and found savings in lowered costs, improved productivity and increased security.
"The hosted Cisco Unified Communications system will save us 15 percent annually in phones and on paying for bandwidth," he says. "But improved productivity is a solid bottom line result as well. We can now set up conference calls without using an outside service. Our network is faster and provides more reliable updates. A new phone system means no more missed calls, and the flexibility of the system means it can be programmed to meet our needs." Tirey and Farron had discussed the Chamber's call traffic and how the phones were used in daily business. This enabled Farron to tailor the Cisco Unified Communications system for the Chamber's specific needs, such as directing incoming calls to an email box or cell phone number. Tirey and the Chamber staff also wanted a call-logging feature so that potential and current customers are identified even if the call can't be answered.
"If a caller hung up and didn't leave a voicemail, we can still see who called and get back to them," says Tirey. "And it's very nice to see who is calling before we answer the phone so we can immediately greet the caller by name. That kind of close contact is very valuable in our service business."
Farron says small businesses with their cautious budgets used to have to choose between upgrading their network or improving their phone system. With Cisco technology and the expertise and assistance of Kent Technologies, The Chamber of Southwest Florida has replaced two networks with one converged network that provides flexibility, scalability and increased security. And since Southwest Florida is in hurricane country, the hosted Cisco solution also provides business continuity. If bad weather forces the Chamber to close its doors, staff can still take calls whether they're home, or in a hotel or staying with friends or family.
"That kind of seamlessness was a fundamental need of ours," says Tirey. "Whether I'm sitting in my office, in my car or at home, it's all very transparent to our members. It was important to us that we deliver the level of customer service and contact our members want and deserve, regardless of whether we're at our desks."
Cisco Partner and Cisco Technology Enable Small Businesses to Change As They Grow
The depth of discovery and pre-planning conducted by Farron and Kent Technologies meant that from the day the equipment arrived, the Chamber was up and running with a new integrated network and Cisco Unified Communications system over a weekend. Kent Technologies deployed nine Cisco Unified IP 7960 Phones and a Cisco 2800 Series router with Cisco VPN, and a Power-over-Ethernet blade integrated into the router. And now that the Chamber has adopted the Cisco converged technology approach to his data networking and communications needs, Tirey sees another major benefit:
"I'm convinced that in two years we'll be using this technology differently than we're using it now, but with Kent Technologies and Cisco I have partners in that process," he says. "If growth or changes in process mean we need to do things differently, our old vendor would have either said we couldn't do it or we would have to buy something else. With Cisco Unified Communications it's merely a programming issue and I can work on it with Kent Technologies."
The Chamber is an excellent example of the kinds of SMB trends Farron sees every day.
"Mobility is big, as is having access to everything all the time," he says. "The office or the desk isn't the center of the universe anymore. For a small organization to understand the benefits of this kind of solution can take a little bit of education, but misconceptions are being overcome and people are understanding better every day that a business class technology solution is affordable for them and can add to their bottom line."
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