RFP Showdown: November 1, 2001

The Problem

A 50-person sales organization with an office on each coast needs a new telephone system that integrates with Ethernet networks running Windows NT Server 4.0 and Windows 98 desktops. Please recommend a TAPI-compliant CTI solution that manages voicemail, routes all incoming calls between the two offices, bypasses toll charges between the two offices and automatically displays customer records on PCs located in the companys call center.

Lee Owens
Sales Director
National Data Group

Clients: 50 Cisco AVVID IP Phones, model 7960
Infrastructure: Two Cisco CallManager 3.1 solutions; two Cisco Inline Power Patch Panel for existing network switch; Cisco SmartNET Maintenance for Cisco IP telephony system; two 18.2-GB hard drives to run Cisco Call Manager 3.1; two NetReality WiseWan switches; two NetReality WanTel modules; two WiseWorks Gold Maintenance agreements; two Dell PowerEdge PIII 1-GHz servers with 512-MB of RAM.
Services: Three days consulting; 7 days integration; two days training.
Project Cost: $108,000

My Solution: Lee Owens

Quality of service (QOS) is the critical ingredient for this solution.

Lets start with the handsets, where we have had great success with Ciscos AVVID product line.

Admittedly, the initial AVVID solutions were technically advanced and cost prohibitive. Now, however, prices have fallen (see Shopping Cart, left) and Cisco has solutions for companies of all sizes.

In this case, we would recommend the 7960 IP phone and CallManager 3.1, which will handle the companys voice mail and various call-routing needs. The Cisco solution supports TAPI, which is required under this RFP.

We would have to develop a custom solution to display customer records on the companys PCs. However, we cant estimate the scope of the engineering work required, since the RFP did not provide ample information about the call center.

For QoS, we recommend two of NetRealitys WiseWan network application priority switches (NAPS) with the WanTel module. One switch would go in the East Coast office; the other in the West Coast office. This solution allows the enterprise to monitor network traffic and then set priorities to proactively control bandwidth usage.

To ensure voice QoS across the WAN, we would configure WiseWan to assign highest priority to the companys voice calls—thereby preventing e-mail from harming phone service. WiseWan can sense when no voice traffic is present and allows data applications to use the entire link when appropriate.

Together, the NetReality products will address the two major issues the company must consider in making the move to voice over IP: poor quality on internal calls, and poor quality on customer calls transferred from one office to another. A customer should not be able to discern the difference between PBX-based and IP-based phone conversations.

WiseWan, coupled with Ciscos IP telephony system, provides a rock-solid voice-over-IP solution that would support this customer for years to come.

Of course, there could be some cultural deployment challenges. Most enterprises want to see how the solution plays in their own office before committing to a voice-over-IP system.

(Other voice-over-IP solutions providers have had a similar experience; see SP, Oct. p. 10, www. smartpartnermag.com/issues/index).

To offset these concerns, we offer 20- to 30-day evaluation periods on CTI installations, with certain restrictions. Im pleased to say that we have a 100 percent close rate in organizations that participate in the "try before you buy" program.

Jon Salva
Imprint Systems Inc.
Salva is a network solutions provider.

Desktops: 50 IP phones from Cisco (models 7960, 7940 and/or 7910)
Systems Software: Cisco CallManager 3.0
Infrastructure: Cisco Catalyst 3524 switches
Call Center Software: ContactPro from CellIT
Project Cost: $51,520 (plus software development work, if necessary)

My Solution: Jon Salva

I recommend a Cisco Platform running call-center software from CellIT Technologies (www.cellit.com).

Lets start with the basic network infrastructure. I recommend T-1 circuits to each location, along with related voicemail services and an auto-attendant. This service also would include 20 call-center agents or "seats" and Internet connectivity (1 Mbps) at each site. The total cost for these packaged services is roughly $7,550 per month.

Next, lets look at the equipment youll need to purchase (or lease) and related installation fees. For roughly $51,520 (or $1,700 per month for a three-year lease), we can install all of the required IP phones, data switches that power the phones and guarantee quality of service (QoS) for the voice-over-IP system.

The fee also includes all necessary routers, voice-over-IP gateways and one year of on-site maintenance.

The infrastructure for the solution includes Ciscos CallManager, Cisco IP phones (7960, 7940 and or 7910), and the Cisco Catalyst 3524 switch.

CallManager is a software-based call-processing component within Ciscos IP telephony solution. The software activates telephony features in IP phones, media processing devices, voice-over-IP (VoIP) gateways, and multimedia applications.

Separately, the call center software is from CellIT of Miami, Fla. The companys flagship product, ContactPro, manages customer interactions across voice systems, fax, e-mail and the Web. It includes voicemail, call forwarding and other applications typically found in a call-center system.

CellIT in January vowed to integrate ContactPro with Ciscos AVVID architecture, which means the companys software should work well in a Cisco network environment.

The fees mentioned above cover installation of hardware, software and circuits but potential travel and living expenses are not included in my estimate.

Nor, does my estimate include any development work, which is required to tie the companys existing customer database with dips and call-center screen pops.

The solution offers free calling between offices and $.0198 cents (that is, under two cents) per minute domestic long-distance calls, and 3.5 centers per minute cents for inbound toll-free calls. Youll also receive excellent international rates, at roughly 2.2 cents/minute to Singapore and 3.3 cents/minute to Australia.

All of the costs assume a worst- case scenario. In other words, my estimates are biased toward the high-end and actual costs could come in a bit lower.