When Mac Station, a Vancouver-based independent Apple reseller retail store, discovered its customer calls were being dropped mid-conversation and employee mailboxes were being corrupted, its IT director, Aaron Attwaters realised the company needed a more reliable and efficient phone and communications system. With help from Boardwalk Communications, a local value-added reseller and also Cisco Premier Certified Partner, Mac Station was able to quickly remedy these issues. Mac Station has three locations in the Vancouver, Burnaby and Abbotsford areas, so the ability to make, receive, transfer and retrieve phone calls and messages was important for business across all locations, Attwaters added. Attwaters said the company was initially using an Asterisk, open-source PBX telephone engine and toolkit solution before it switched to its current Cisco-based unified communications solution from Boardwalk. During this time, calls were being lost, there was lag on the network, customers weren't able to leave messages, nor could employees even access their voice mailboxes. "There were a lot of problems with user mailboxes that would randomly corrupt," says Attwaters. "Asterisk was hard to work with and a lot of users couldn't access their voicemails and people couldn't leave voicemails. We were looking for a flexible solution that worked reliably that would also have a minimal amount of network usage." Mac Station eventually enlisted the help of Vancouver-based Boardwalk to deploy and implement a complete communications solution, based on Cisco technology. Kelly Irvin, a senior account manager at Boardwalk, said Mac Station was looking for a solution that would also be expandable, as employees move around and new satellite store locations open. "We proposed Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition that allowed (Mac Station) to have people potentially move from branch to branch," says Irvin. "It's a single unified dial plan that has the ability to tie these branches together." Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition is a voice, messaging, mobility and video solution that's integrated into an all-in-one system, using a single server. The solution that Boardwalk deployed for Mac Station is a combination of Cisco-based hardware and software, which includes routers, gateways and hard phones. The solution was implemented last October and took about a month. Attwaters says during the implementation process, there was no downtime since Mac Station had its previous communications system and the new one running simultaneously. Employees and customers were therefore able to easily make and receive calls, and stores could also transfer calls as well, without risking any downtime, he added. "The new solution has been very reliable and we're using about four times less bandwidth across all three locations," he explained. "There was no need to rip anything out of our infrastructures because we were replacing one VoIP solution with another and were replacing old phones with the new ones." The new solution has an easy-to-use interface and Attwaters says the offering is working out so well that the company has plans to do additional work with it and Boardwalk. "The system also supports a feature called single number reach," he says. "This allows for a single point of contact because the system will push out a call to a mobile phone or any other device the employee is using. We'll also be using a built-in feature that allows the system to save and record voicemails so it can be e-mailed to users." Irvin says Boardwalk is in the process of working with Mac Station right now and notes that the capabilities that the company will soon be using are features the system already had. "There will be a tighter integration with e-mail and voicemail and single number reach," he says. "This provides a significant amount of flexibility because they can now manage everything on a single system. These benefits help (Mac Station) keep their communications infrastructure simple and also lets them focus on getting their employees out on the floor to help their customers."
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