Case Study: Underwriter Undertakes Open Source UC

1st Guard had to replace its aging IP phone system and needed one with unified communications features.

Channel Partners

August 12, 2011

4 Min Read
Case Study: Underwriter Undertakes Open Source UC

1st Guard Corp. is an insurance underwriter and agency specializing in the lease-owner-operator trucking sector. The company, headquartered in Venice, Fla., serves clients throughout the country from three locations, including Venice, and satellite offices in Orlando, Fla., and Dallas, Texas. It employs just 18 full-time workers but posts annual profits in the $25 million range.

The Challenge. 1st Guard was running on an aging, propriety IP office system that didn’t come with unified communications (UC) features. The platform also didn’t work with 1st Guard’s cutting-edge IT infrastructure, nor did it offer disaster recovery capabilities. In addition, the existing phone system only worked with the Windows operating system, and 1st Guard wanted to be able to integrate its communications platform with Microsoft and Unix.

But finding the right phone system didn’t prove easy. Dan Ribar, 1st Guard’s CIO, spent two years researching the company’s options. He specifically sought UC and disaster recovery options that would be well-suited to 1st Guard’s modern network and exclusive software. Our old telecom system was the only piece that did not fit,” said Ribar. “It wasnt compatible with the expansion and growth of our infrastructure. Our phone equipment was also moving down the food chain in terms of age, and we were locked into replacing them with proprietary equipment, which is not only more expensive, but based on an incompatible system with our long-term IT growth strategy.”

The Solution. 1st Guard explored a number of vendors’ products but didn’t find one right away that fit its specifications. For one thing, 1st Guard wanted a cloud-based system that still allowed IT staff to maintain control. I wanted to be sure we wouldnt need to sacrifice more customization than we were willing to give up,” said Ribar.

Ribar was fairly sure he had found the system he wanted after reading about Digium’s Switchvox. He became convinced after he talked with Tim Halleran, president of Secure Datacom, a Digium preferred partner in nearby Sunrise, Fla. From there, Secure Datacom offered to provide 1st Guard with a demo model of Switchvox. “We discussed coming out and setting up the system for them as part of our service,” Halleran said. “But Dan assured us that in order to understand the system, they needed to do the installation themselves. They were fearless about the system and wanted to make sure they could handle anything thrown at them. All we did was order the equipment, answer some questions, offer some advice and deliver it to them.”

Ribar said he expected to experience “all kinds of glitches” once 1st Guard began integrating Digium with its proprietary software. “We ran that demo for several weeks, expecting to find areas where wed be forced to change or lose a capability,” said Ribar. “We honestly tested every nuance of the Digium system and within two weeks, we were sold.”

The Results. 1st Guard installed the SMB 5.0 version of the Switchvox platform, which features UC. In addition, 1st Guard put the Switchvox AA305 Cold Spare VoIP PBX in its Dallas office, linking the appliance to its Venice headquarters. This provided the backup and disaster recovery protection the insurer needed so operations could continue in case of a fire, natural disaster or other catastrophic event. The Switchvox system allows 1st Guard to make one call that would, in essence, flip a switch, moving operations from the Venice office to Dallas.

The deployment further allowed 1st Guard to end its contract for remote office services, “saving us a bundle,” said Ribar. 1st Guard experienced other ROI benefits. Within the first week, the company eliminated its call recording software because Switchvox contains its own. The old software took up too much space in the server room, sucked electrical power and required contract maintenance. Then, 1st Guard soon got rid of another expensive feature its software-as-a-service auto-dialer. Switchvox includes an auto-dialer that, in addition to saving 1st Guard money, also does updates automatically rather than requiring complex manual updates.

Above all, 1st Guard achieved its UC goals through Digium’s Switchvox 5.0. This is where 1st Guard says it saw the most benefit. That’s because Switchvox integrates with Macs and PCs, can reach people after hours, during bad weather, through a video or voice call, and send voice mail as text to mobile phones. Switchvox 5.0 also lets 1st Guard take advantage of converged calling, where all calls ring to each of a person’s phone numbers.

UC encompasses all the different methods in which we communicate,” Ribar said. “For instance, we can extend our administration of calls from our Bria softphones to our iPhones and our iPads, which is really how most of our team communicates.”

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