Don't Get Caught in a Straightjacket of Costs

A recent situation I encountered while working in a campus environment points to the challenges that can crop up when dealing with aging infrastructure with no an eye on ROI.

In this case, a hybrid PBX at one location, "Building-1," is capable of IP and SIP but the organization has no licenses in place for either. The clock on this old system is glitchy, too -- after each power loss, such as when a UPS shuts down, it loses all sense of time, reverting back to an old date/time by months and years. The other PBX, in Building-2, serves a handful of IP phones that are connected by internal fiber to another building. Even so, the organization has no licenses in place for it, either.

This campus scenario is not atypical. Many campuses will use multiple voice and Internet services simply because they lack adequate interconnection or are too dependent on outside cable plant that has limitations. Rather than using a single network, they end up with disparate systems for alarm, security camera, and monitoring -- a situation that results in higher costs than necessary.

My example involves a school campus, but worth noting is that campuses for learning and campus environments for business do have commonalities in topology and obstacles in deploying services.

So let's assume this campus establishes interconnectivity and wants to reduce expenses by combining redundant services:

  • Building-1 - eliminate underutilized T1 for voice; drop $420 per month
  • Building-1 - eliminate redundant broadband service; drop $118 per month
  • Building-2 - eliminate underutilized PRI for voice; drop $325 per month

The cost of connectivity is approximately $600 per month, and this brings in a fiber service capable of supporting bandwidth requirements and VoIP services. There are 31 desk telephones, one conference room device, and three fax machines.

Whatever the solution, it must be cost-effective, not cost-prohibitive -- meaning, the customer doesn't want added expenditures. It is willing to breakeven, but won't take on more costs.

  • -$420 (T1)
  • -$118 (redundant broadband)
  • -$325 (PRI)
  • +$600 (adequate bandwidth --fiber)

    -$263

As you can see, this cost breakdown does not include a voice system. A hosted PBX solution, which would include rental, is not likely due to the number of phones required in this installation as well as the challenge in installing the system with no capital outlay for equipment or for a price equal to or less than $263 per month.

The existing broadband (copper) service is not resilient, and has proven over time to suffer outages due to storms and other weather-related conditions. In addition, the bandwidth is limited.

More likely is adding licenses and purchasing desk phones for the Building-2 system, but doing so would involve capital outlay, too.

These options each come with pros and cons, and system age has to factor into the decision. How many more years of service will either system deliver? Still doing nothing only prolongs the need to resolve the situation unless something dramatic happens -- like technology comes along that dramatically lowers costs or the number of required stations drops significantly.

Changing services doesn't always guarantee a cost benefit. While the hosted PBX quotations I reviewed for this application provided more than adequate features and service, in the end the campus decided to maintain its position until there's a significant change or one of the systems completely fails or becomes too costly to repair.

Forced to make cost-based decisions such as this one, many organizations miss out on opportunities afforded by modern technology. Cost, if you're not careful can become a straightjacket that some organizations just can't seem to wiggle out of when the time is right.

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