Healthwise takes a thoughtful approach to rolling out Microsoft Lync — with help from Cerium Networks.
There was no question that Healthwise needed a new phone system. The organization’s 10-year-old PBX was likely to fail at any time, and replacement parts were difficult to impossible to find.
So the Boise, Idaho-based educational nonprofit developed a strategic plan to migrate its voice communications to Microsoft Lync. The organization installed Microsoft Lync and rolled it out as an instant messaging tool for internal collaboration. As users became accustomed to the platform, the IT team slowly migrated groups onto Lync for voice as well. This phased approach required that the old and new phone systems operate in tandem.
- After rolling out Microsoft® Lync® instant messaging, Healthwise® needed to slowly migrate its employees over to Lync for voice as well
- Healthwise was referred to Cerium’s Lync expert, Rob Husted, who demonstrated the possibilities for their new system
- Cerium implemented an AudioCodes® gateway that integrated Healthwise’s legacy system with its new Lync system
- Cerium played a crucial role in the success of Healthwise’s transition to Microsoft Lync
“We didn’t want to do a big bang, overnight migration—we wanted to slowly roll it out,” said Shaun Titus, Network and Systems Engineer at Healthwise. “The problem was that we didn’t have a Lync-certified SIP trunking service in our area. We needed to implement that capability in-house.”
Healthwise had been looking for a Lync expert and was referred to Rob Husted of Cerium Networks. Titus spoke with Husted at length and was impressed with his knowledge of the platform. When the SIP trunking issue came up, he naturally turned to Cerium for help.
“I was looking for someone who could tell me more about Lync, but I kept getting folks who knew less than I did,” he said. “Then, one of them put me in touch with Rob from Cerium. Rob spent an hour and a half on the phone with me discussing what this system could look like. It was fantastic!”
“We brought Cerium in to implement an AudioCodes gateway, integrate our old platform with the new platform, certify it for best practices, and configure it for external dialing. The Cerium team played a critical role in the success of this project.”
Even though we were focused on getting the Lync platform certified and optimized, we were able to count on Cerium for immediate help whenever we came up against an obstacle with our legacy system. They brought a lot of depth to this project, and without them it would have taken a lot longer.
Making the Connection
SIP trunking is a service that enables organizations to make full use of their IP phone systems outside the enterprise. Based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), it enables the delivery of IP phone services and unified communications over the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Typically, SIP trunks are used to connect IP-PBX’s to the outside world, but they can also connect any digital or analog PBX that has an interface for SIP trunking.
Typically, SIP trunking is a feature offered by a telecom service provider. In this instance, however, Healthwise needed to implement an AudioCodes gateway to provide that functionality.
“When you convert from an old analog or even digital telephone system to something like Lync, you need a SIP gateway device at the perimeter so that the SIP-based system can communicate with a traditional phone system,” said Mark Studer, Network and Systems Engineer at Healthwise.
“Rob informed us about the alternatives, one of which was to install a device that would emulate a SIP trunk. That was significantly helpful because it not only eliminated the need for a SIP trunk, but also helped us integrate our old phone system with our Lync system.”
That was an important step as Healthwise systematically migrated 250 users from the old system to the new system. Cerium configured the AudioCodes gateway to properly route calls based upon which phone system a particular staff member was using.
“If someone’s still on the old phone system, calls will get routed to that system, and if they’re on the new system, calls will get routed to our new system,” Titus said. “It does the handoff between the telecom provider on one end and Lync or the old phone system on the other.”
Focus on People
Healthwise is dedicated to providing people with the information they need to make better health decisions. The organization partners with hospitals, electronic medical record providers, health plans, disease management companies, and health websites to provide up-to-date, evidence-based information to the people they serve.
Healthwise is also focused on the wellbeing of its staff and has won awards for its unique culture and its support of employee involvement, onsite health and safety programs, and work-life balance. That commitment played a role in the Lync rollout.
“As we started the Lync project, members of our executive team said we need better tools to support our offsite staff,” Studer said. “They didn’t feel like they had the tools to be part of the culture and to work with teammates who are onsite, so we started pushing out Lync as a collaboration tool and that has been well-received. We have people who come from different environments where they’ve worked with other collaboration tools and say that, hands down, Lync is the best they’d ever seen.”
That enthusiasm extends to the Lync phone system.
“It really speaks for itself,” said Titus. “We’ve been careful to roll this out slowly so that we could deal with any pushback. We’ve actually gotten such positive feedback from the users who already have it that we’re getting immense pressure to speed up implementation because everyone wants it so badly.”
“Before this, we didn’t have visual voicemail. We didn’t have an easy way for people to look up other people in the directory. A lot of the things that are common on today’s systems weren’t available or were dif cult to get to on our legacy system. As soon as people start seeing how powerful Lync is, they’re chomping at the bit to get on it.”
Staying on Track
In addition to improved communication and collaboration and a more stable platform, the Lync rollout is bringing Healthwise increased IT efficiency. The organization has standardized on Microsoft products, and Lync fits nicely into that homogenous environment. Replacing the legacy system will also eliminate significant maintenance and hardware costs.
“One of our goals for this project was to get off the service contract we have for our legacy system,” said Titus. “We were having issues with devices but the system is so old we couldn’t purchase new phones to connect to without paying for an upgrade license and buying new hardware. That cost was around six figures. Now we have a modern system with greater functionality that’s going to be easier and less expensive to maintain.”
Cerium provided engineering and project management expertise to help keep the implementation on track and ensure that the Lync platform was properly integrated with the network and configured according to best practices.
Cerium’s experience with legacy phone systems was also a plus.
“That was one of the strengths Cerium brought to the table,” Studer said. “Even though we were focused on getting the Lync platform certified and optimized, we were able to count on Cerium for immediate help whenever we came up against an obstacle with our legacy system. They brought a lot of depth to this project, and without them it would have taken a lot longer.”
With Cerium, Healthwise found one partner that could provide a wealth of expertise across Microsoft solutions, the network infrastructure, and legacy hardware. The Cerium team helped the organization overcome obstacles and ensured the success of the phased rollout of Microsoft Lync.
“They definitely know their stuff,” Titus said. “It’s impressive.”