Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | May 28, 2012 |


Time: Fritter Away by Too Much Ringing?

Time: Fritter Away by Too Much Ringing? Network call accounting can tell you if you're letting fax machines ring for too long, needlessly consuming bandwidth.

Network call accounting can tell you if you're letting fax machines ring for too long, needlessly consuming bandwidth.

Pink Floyd nailed it in Time, "Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day...."

A cool tool that Panasonic provides is Network Call Accounting. Now, before you dismiss this as just another call accounting pitch that may lull you to sleep, remember: the details of what’s going on in your IP- or not-so-IP-centric network should garner your attention.

Several weeks ago we deployed the Network Call Accounting on an old PC turned into a poor man’s web server. The purpose is to collect inter-office call statistics to see a "before" and "after" picture of traffic and the changes in traffic once the customer implements Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Fax traffic is being redirected centrally to capture external patient records electronically to reduce fax traffic across the network and externally (i.e., using the PSTN). Still, the customer expects that fax machines will continue to be in place because not all faxing is patient-related and patient records are still delivered via fax outside the practice. While less fax traffic may hit either the network or the PSTN, faxing may be wasting bandwidth in your network.

The inbound calls are tagged with "ring time" in seconds and the average ring time for the fax machines was pegged at 10 seconds. That's about 3-rings in the telephone world, maybe two, but it really depends upon those electrons flowing down the wire. Most fax machines have a setting enabling 0, 1, 2, 3 or more rings before "auto answering."

The other thing we looked for is fax traffic eligible for riding the internal network, and then we looked for the reason why calls went out via the PSTN at intra-LATA toll rates. The service company replaced several older machines, but the "presets" or "autodial" buttons storing the 3-digit extension numbers of the fax machines at the other offices were not reprogrammed.

The traffic data we are collecting enables the customer to begin to look at integrating optional fax solutions with their desktops that have the potential of saving even more time and effort (trips to the fax machines) along with reductions in cost and time by using FoIP instead of dialup machines. Call accounting (CDR or SMDR) is still relative even on IP networks. The technology latency is evident with TDM based fax solutions. The human latency is making that trip to the fax machine via the coffee pot or break room to catch up on office gossip, while the real challenge is having the right tools in place to keep from ever having to send that fax and instead share a data file, or at least just fax from the desktop.

One thing I would like see developed, if it hasn't been already, is the ability to associate call detail records with the codec used and the bandwidth used for the duration of the call, including ring time and other traditional metrics already used. Bandwidth isn't free and neither are PSTN calls. This same customer location didn't realize their volume of inter-office calls--and those calls have an alternative cost, meaning without the MPLS network the calls would route via the PSTN; and based upon the customer traffic those costs would run $15,000-$21,000 annually via the public network. That’s about $57 a day just for inter-office calls if the network is down. In addition to knowing a cost of operations, knowing the volume of traffic in order to safely address alternative routing comes into play too. Then, examining the fax traffic, a huge weakness at least in this case (health care) shows that faxing records between offices isn't necessarily the best way, and adding an extra 10 seconds just for ringing is inefficient use of bandwidth.


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