Interface VOIP — the Right Prescription

Interface VOIP — the Right Prescription

for the School of Pharmacy, University of London
Part of the University of London, the School of Pharmacy was founded in 1842 by the Pharmaceutical Society to “elevate the profession of pharmacy by furnishing the means of proper instruction”.

Project at a glance


Our First Hosted Voice

Listed Building

The Brief

150 years on and it has become recognised as an international centre of excellence attracting students from over 50 countries and with strong links to many world renowned London hospitals.

Naturally such a respected organisation demands efficient, high quality communications and the school historically used telephone services and equipment from several major suppliers to meet its needs. However, sourcing traditional services for its newly refurbished grade1 listed building in Russell Square presented some interesting challenges.

Firstly, future staffing levels at the new site were uncertain making it tricky to size a traditional PBX solution. As John Newbury, Facilities Manager explains: “We knew from experience that even minor upgrades to installed systems can be expensive and complex, but the scope of our internal projects mean we could not be certain of our needs in six months time, let alone three or five years.”

Secondly, previous attempts to install even basic services had resulted in months of frustrating delay due, in part, to the stringent planning controls relating to the building’s listed status. The school simply could not afford further delays.

Lastly, John was keen that any solution should be cost effective, future-proofed, flexible and require a minimum of support from his busy facilities team.

What We Did

Despite the demanding criteria, Interface Advantage quickly analysed the requirement, completed site surveys and consulted with the school on the issues and options.

It was soon agreed that the best approach would be to implement a business grade hosted Voice Over IP (VOIP) Solution. Unlike many early VOIP services, Interface’s solution benefits from having the exact look and feel of a high quality traditional PBX and operates completely independently of the user’s PC. Users have a fully featured, but traditional-looking, phone. Use of the main functions (answer, hold & transfer, short code dialling, voicemail etc.) is straightforward for anyone used to a conventional telephone system.

But it’s beneath the surface where the differences really lay. Perhaps most noticeable is the lack of a PBX control unit on site. The sophisticated IP telephony switch resides elsewhere in a secure, dedicated hosting centre where the resilient core systems are managed and maintained by the specialists always on hand.

Next, there are no phone lines as the solution utilises the school’s existing data cabling infrastructure as well as their extremely high capacity JANET IP network connection. Employing the existing infrastructure in this way significantly reduced implementation and ongoing costs but crucially meant there was no need for exchange lines, cabling, drilling or building entry work that would require planning consent and result in delays. Indeed, the whole solution was deployed in a single day within three weeks of order.

Finally, the school has on-line access to control many of the sophisticated user facilities. This allows them to instantly complete many adds, moves and configuration changes, on-line and free of charge. Even apparently significant upgrades such as adding auto-attendant, IVR, new users, DDIs and voicemail boxes may be ordered with a telephone call and are usually activated within minutes.

“We have avoided the significant administration and maintenance costs of supporting an in-house PBX but are still able to very efficiently manage our users’ daily requirements.”


Our Summary

For John, this hosted approach combined with on-line access, provides the best of both worlds. “We have avoided the significant administration and maintenance costs of supporting an in-house PBX but are still able to very efficiently manage our users’ daily requirements.”

The system is cost-effective and incredibly flexible. For example, calls between networked sites are free; the system can be expanded almost infinitely without new hardware or capital expenditure; and telephone numbers are now available for life irrespective of any future office move. There’s even the option to allow users to plug their office phone into their home broadband connection and retain full access to all facilities exactly as if they were in the office.

As the hosted service is rented and is charged per user depending on the individual facilities required, it is always sized exactly to the school’s requirements at any point in time. Furthermore there is no need for exchange lines to be rented or any maintenance contracts. Highly competitive call charges add further savings.

As a welcome bonus, John was pleased to discover that Interface could take over both Cable and Wireless and BT exchange lines at the school’s other locations, so providing welcome savings of around 20% and consolidating all services onto a single bill to simplify administration. John finishes by saying “I have been truly impressed with Interface and at how fast, efficient & cost effective that this has all turned out to be.”

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