Case study Energy

Providing highly resilient cross site communication

A new highly resilient VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) cross site communication tool improves site safety, collaboration and customer service whilst reducing the overall cost of service.

For Vopak, a 24x7x365 business, communication is a critical part of their business. Not only do their customers rely on it but in a potentially highly explosive environment, a reliable and resilient network is essential. Their existing service was nearing end of life and becoming increasingly expensive to support and repair. In addition, they needed a solution that could be scalable to meet future business changes. They asked us to investigate what their options were for replacing it and implement a new solution that required no disruption to their business as usual activities.

The Challenge

Telephony services are critical to operations at Vopak, not just for back office administration but also for operational movements and safety. Reliable communications are critical for communication with customers and other 3rd parties ensuring on-time delivery and providing excellent customer service. Communication between teams around the site is of principal importance, with staff and visitors working in hazardous chemical environments with high explosive potential. As a 24x7x365 business, Vopak must be protected against unplanned outages whilst planned downtime can be difficult and costly to arrange.

Traditional analogue and digital telephone systems at the different terminals had been in place for many years and were nearing their end of life. Support costs were high with spare parts difficult to source and the age of the systems, coupled with the demand for safety, posed a significant risk for the business. Specialist administration skills were also required in order to make simple changes to the configuration of the system thereby increasing the total cost of ownership.

As the business has grown and changed, collaboration between the three UK sites has increased significantly. The legacy systems made collaboration complex and costly with users changing telephone number whenever they were working from a different site.

The Solution

As a long standing trusted partner to Vopak, Waterstons have a comprehensive understanding of the safety critical nature of Vopak’s business and the complex processes involved. Using this knowledge, Waterstons carried out an assessment of Vopak’s requirements and used this to propose a solution which would best fit their needs. A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system based around Mitel’s unified communications and voice platform was selected owing to its high levels of resiliency and scalability, and integration possibilities with other key line of business applications.

A transition plan was defined which would minimise the disruption to the business, whilst maximising short term benefits. To achieve this, the project was approached in three phases:

Phase One – Initial piecemeal deployment To mitigate the immediate hardware risks, and to reduce the costs associated with supporting three disparate systems, an initial implementation was undertaken to deploy standalone VoIP telephone systems and new handsets to each site. Each system was assessed and risks recorded and rated, and those with the highest risk addressed first.

To minimise the impact of transition from the old system to the new, both systems were run in parallel for a period allowing user training and familiarisation to take place. Following ‘go-live’, users immediately had access to new features such as voicemail to email, caller display and direct dial numbers.

Phase two – Inter-site calling

Once the new systems were deployed to all three sites, Waterstons began configuring inter-site calling which allows users to make telephone calls between the three sites, free of charge via the Wide Area Network (WAN). Quality of Service (QoS) was used to ensure that voice traffic traversing the WAN was given priority over less time sensitive services such as web browsing or email.

The systems were configured so that this change was transparent to end users who could dial either short internal extension numbers or the longer national number.

Phase Three – Full cross site resilience and hot-desking

The final phase was planned once users at all sites were familiar with the new features available in the new system. This phase was designed to provide greater flexibility for users in an ever increasing collaborative workforce, whilst also reducing business risk through downtime.

Waterstons continually review advances in technologies and how these can be applied within customers to provide business advantage, reduce risk, improve service or reduce cost. Through this process Waterstons identified a change in the vendor’s license model which allowed Vopak to take advantage of this functionality at reduced capital expense.

The three systems were configured in a cluster to allow failover and hot-desk capability. This allows handsets to migrate from their “home” system to another system on a site elsewhere. This ensures users continue to make and receive telephone calls even if their telephone system is down or if they need to work from another site. Following the necessary configuration, Waterstons consultants attended each site to test the configuration and ensure the system resilience any failover worked as expected.

The Future

Vopak’s selection of a VoIP telephone system, provides a number of additional benefits which can be realised in the future when budget and business case permit. Such benefits include:

  • Softphones and Unified Communications software for remote and mobile workers providing flexibility in working method and better means of communication
  • WAN based cross site calling with international and corporate offices reducing operating expenditure
  • Replacement of traditional fixed telephone lines with Internet and cloud based SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) lines which deliver significant cost savings and also provide geographical independence facilitating an improved and transparent disaster recovery provision

The fully integrated Voice over IP solution implemented by Waterstons has provided us with significant flexibility, allowing our staff to work from any UK location seamlessly, whilst free cross-site calls have reduced our fixed line costs.

The Benefits

  • The new system is up and running at all 3 sites – replacing 3 separate support contracts into one contract thereby significantly reducing the total cost of ownership (of the new telephony system).
  • The new system has enabled improved collaboration and flexibility allowing users to take their telephone number with them no matter which site they are working from.
  • Voicemail to Email provides significant advantages for those working out of the office
  • Business risk is reduced and safety improved as all three systems offer high levels of resilience, and are equipped with High Availability to ensure that the failure of a system does not severely impact terminal operations.
  • Reliance on fixed line services was removed reducing costs and further improving availability in the event of a fixed line fault.
Waterstons thoroughly assessed our requirements and their wealth of knowledge about our business helped ensure that the system which was implemented met all our current and anticipated future needs
Richard Betts UK IT Manager, Vopak Terminals UK