Outservice Your VoIP Competition
A VAR wins a $1 million VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) project with a university by providing better service and a longer warranty than its competitors.
When Voice Data Systems, LLC (VDS) won a 200-phone deal with Davenport University a couple of years ago, the Nortel Elite Advantage VAR knew it had a shot at a much bigger project coming down the road. "I knew that win would enable us to compete for the university's next big VoIP project, which was a complete upgrade across its other 18 campuses," says Pete Rose, senior VP at VDS.
Earning the first install at the branch campus was far from a guarantee that the VAR would land the larger project. In fact, the VAR still had one strike against it: The university had standardized its network on another vendor's products and preferred to use the same vendor for its phone system across all of its campuses.
When the time came to respond to Davenport University's RFP, Rose knew he was going to be competing with the top two VoIP market share leaders, and it was very unlikely that he could compete solely on price. VDS staged a live demonstration at the customer's site that allowed various IT and administrative personnel from the university to try the Nortel IP phones and experience the quality of service (QoS). VDS demonstrated features like virtual office where users can log in to any IP phone and use its feature sets and directory number appearances anywhere on the university's state-wide network. This was one of several features that the customer recognized as valuable. Also, the phone system's failover capability was attractive to Davenport University. What sealed the deal, however, ultimately came down to a better warranty and service contract. "Nortel offers a one-year warranty on its products," says Rose. "Because of our confidence in the reliability of the Nortel products, we added an extra year to the warranty, giving the customer zero support fees for the first two years after the implementation." According to Rose, his competitors only offered 90-day warranties. Plus, just to qualify for the warranty, the customer had to sign a one-year maintenance contract. "One other factor that gave us an advantage over our competitors was Nortel's investment protection philosophy, which it calls 'Evergreen,'" he says. "This means that instead of requiring complete hardware replacements every two to four years, like our competitors do, our solution is scalable [e.g. can add more memory, faster processors] and has a longer life cycle, which translates to a lower TCO [total cost of ownership]."
Prove Your Worth Through VoIP Implementation Flexibility
VDS implemented two Nortel CS1000 Call Servers, one on the east side of the state of Michigan and one on the west side in Grand Rapids. Each Call Server supports multiple remote gateways at each campus. The VAR also installed two CallPilot Unified Messaging Servers and two Nortel Application 1000 Gateways. The gateways provide both a local trunking (a voice communication channel) presence along with survivability in the event of a WAN failure. The unified messaging application was provided at both hubs and served all 1,100 IP phone sets (which included Nortel IP Phone 1140E, IP Phone 1120E, IP Phone 2002, and IP Phone 2004 sets) throughout the network. Additionally, application gateways were used to provide functionality such as desktop paging through the IP telephones. The customer also purchased a Nortel/VDS Software Release Subscription (SRS), which enables the university to stay current as new software releases become available.
The implementation took approximately nine months. Meeting the customer's project timeline while working with the customer's internal staff was one of the biggest challenges. An even bigger challenge resulted from the customer upgrading its WAN as part of the VoIP project, which required VDS to conduct additional network assessments. In some cases, the VAR was doing the final network assessment just before the IP sets were installed. Typically, this is performed long before the actual phone install.
One thing that helped VDS adjust to changes in its customer's plans was the VAR's value-added distributor (VAD) partner Westcon, which was VDS' source for all of the VoIP hardware and software. "They were flexible with all of our order changes, they handled much of the product staging and configuring prior to shipping, and they kept us up-to-date with each order," says Rose. "Westcon's service enabled VDS to double its product volume last year without adding any material management staff."