Essentially, our business is like being in the hotel business—if all your hotels were at the north pole. PTI provides temporary and permanent workforce accommodations—including food services and facility management—for industries, such as oil & gas, working in Canada’s most remote regions. This means we have all the issues a hotel has to deal with, plus we manage accommodation in some very rugged, remote areas. Keeping that chain of supply and service running smoothly requires first-rate telecommunications, and we came to realize that doing a lot more on that front would deliver benefits throughout the organization.
It wasn’t hard to build a business case for revamping our network. We of course talked about budgets and were able to justify costs based on the risks involved in sticking with the old system, such as minimal redundancy and no disaster recovery option. But when our current vendor notified us they could no longer support our phone system at three of our six facilities, it was an easy decision to go with a Mitel phone system—which our parent company already used—with Allstream as the most qualified vendor for implementation and management.
We’re currently upgrading all our Edmonton sites, covering 650 users, with a virtual Mitel solution with SIP trunking. The solution is hosted at our data centre and phones are deployed from there over our WAN. The value of this investment was quickly tested by a rainstorm which flooded our main office in Edmonton. Because everyone was on IP, they could simply move to different buildings or floors and keep working, which provided great justification for our original business case. We also have a backup Mitel system connected by MPLS to our main office in case of data centre failure or catastrophe. This creates a virtual backup environment with VMWare servers, so if something happens to the data centre, everything fails over and continues as normal.
Implementing the system and getting our people on board was quite a smooth process as well. Allstream engaged a professional to come in and do one-to-one training with our staff. It was a complete hardware change, so we also sent emails out to everyone affected, explaining the new features. The system is very user-friendly and most people picked it up in just a few hours. How user-friendly? With over 600 users now onboard, we’ve had zero push back.
It’s that simplicity combined with functionality that makes the solution so good. For any company with a business model similar to ours, I would say centralize and virtualize your network as soon as possible. It allows so much freedom. With all our isolated lodge locations, the remote management aspect is a big deal going forward. Right now, the system is just in one lodge, but we’re hoping to migrate into more. Currently, almost every call made from a lodge is long distance, but when we have SIP trunking in place, we’ll be able to route all calls through the data centre and eliminate those long distance charges as well. For any company whose key locations are far away from each other, virtualization can really change the business equation for the better.
Learn more about PTI’s IT transformation by downloading the complete case study.