VoIP VAR Unlocks New Markets With Toshiba Play


CTI has been a Toshiba dealer for the last decade and the vendor didn't make a VoIP system big enough to aim at higher education or larger rollouts. But with the recent release of the Strata CIX1200 system, a Toshiba VoIP system capable of bigger deployments, CTI was able to win a deal at Westminster College, beating out other VoIP heavyweights, subsequently opening up new, larger market opportunities that CTI deemed unattainable in the past.

"Our salespeople didn't really approach colleges," said CTI President Bob Hymes. "Toshiba was a niche we just didn't have the size."

Last August, Toshiba released the Strata CIX1200 VoIP Business Communication System, a voice system aimed at companies with roughly 200 to 1,000 users and with the ability to handle up to 1,152 ports. The CIX1200 also can be networked with other CIX systems for distributed deployments. The Strata CIX1200 gives Toshiba and CTI a VoIP solution that can compete with the likes of Avaya, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and ShoreTel for bigger deals.

Before the Strata CIX1200, Hymes said CTI missed out on a lot of larger VoIP deployments, losing deals because it couldn't offer a higher-capacity system.

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"We were discouraged because of the size," he said.

But the ability to offer a bigger system broke down those barriers. In fact, Hymes said, Westminster College approached CTI about a phone system upgrade. The 160-year-old Fulton, Mo.-based school wanted to upgrade from its old TDM system, which was costing a bundle in annual maintenance and would require even more to upgrade.

The Westminster system had to service more than 1,000 users, handle more than 20,000 incoming calls per month and connect across 28 on-campus buildings and 10 remote locations.

The phone system had to be reliable, but also affordable.

"We wanted an ultrareliable system with little to no maintenance costs and up-to-date telephony capabilities such as caller ID and call accounting," Westminster College CIO Scott Lowe said in a statement.

CTI installed the Strata CIX1200 system with a remote fiber cabinet. The system mixes Toshiba IP, digital and analog desk telephones, along with Toshiba SoftITP softphones for mobile and remote workers. Operators have Toshiba attendant consoles. The system also includes Toshiba's Strata ACD Call Center Solution with two ACD groups, one for fund-raising and the other for admissions. Calls are monitored using Ultimate Call Accounting to track calls, agent status and to ensure smooth call handling.

CTI also installed the Toshiba Strata Media Application Server (MAS), which lets multiple applications reside on a single server to save costs and reduce maintenance requirements. On the Strata MAS, the college runs Strata ACD Call Center Solution, Network eManager remote administration and Stratagy Voice Processing solutions.

The final pieces of the system were SIP trunking solutions from Twist Networks that replace traditional long-distance services at a lower cost. Westminster College now has 20 unlimited SIP trunking channels for outbound calls covering all of the U.S. and Canada.

According to Hymes, the seven-year warranty offered by Toshiba, the longest manufacturer's warranty available on VoIP gear, made a big difference during the sales process for CTI. Additionally, bundling the warranty, lease and service agreements together lets Westminster pay one monthly bill for the new VoIP system's life span, which is expected to be seven years.

"In the end, it was the lack of annual maintenance costs that won it for Toshiba," Hymes said.

All told, the VoIP system installed by CTI is expected to save Westminster College $170,000 over seven years.

But along with the savings, the Westminster College deal helped CTI find a new market opportunity in schools and larger deployments, Hymes said. In the past, CTI had sold to branch offices and not the headquarters. That has since changed.

"It's going to be a new paradigm shift," he said. "We can sell to larger customers today, where in the past we avoided it."