Serving over 40,000 people living in and around Mission, BC the District of Mission (www.mission.ca) is a picturesque municipality located in the Fraser Valley, about an hour east of Vancouver, on the north side of the mighty Fraser River. Historically, a resource-based town with many a lumber mill, the modern Mission is a flourishing business and cultural centre. Thanks to its enviable lifestyle surrounded by spectacular mountain vistas, the district is growing fast—attracting new residents, tourists, businesses, and industries year after year.
As the District of Mission has grown, so too have the demands on the people responsible for making it work. In addition to equipping approximately 280 employees, Mission’s internal IT team manages the network of the local RCMP detachment, who provides the municipality with policing, an essential service. With such a vital mandate to meet, the District of Mission’s IT operations team continually explores and invests in new technology to improve reliability, quality, and their return on investment.
“The world is changing fast and government, just like a business, needs to keep up by looking at the trends and embracing new technologies. Change is good. You have to be willing to get out there, learn, and adapt.”
- Chris Knowles
To stay on top of trends, Mission’s IT team typically attends the Municipal Information Systems Association (MISA) Conference. This event gives municipalities in the province an opportunity to share ideas and to discover innovative new ways of delivering services and provisioning IT services more efficiently. At one such conference, the District of Mission team discovered how the City of Langford—a sister city with a similar population size—used ThinkTel SIP Trunking to cut costs, ensure greater continuity/disaster recovery, and improve service.
“Over the years, our roles have evolved. Today, we’re becoming more service-oriented and committed to finding newer, more modern ways of servicing our constituents while making our processes more efficient and effective.”
Mission’s IT team recognized an upgrade opportunity that dovetailed neatly with the district’s values and operating principles. Years prior, the municipality made the commitment to be more personable and reachable to constituents. They did not want to force people into phone trees. Instead, they wanted a “warm body” on the other end of the line to provide customer service, answer pressing questions and demands, and route calls appropriately.
“At the end of the day, picking up the phone and having a direct conversation with someone, there is really no substituting that. So, voice for us is still an important part of our business.”
Behind the scenes, the Mission IT team identified a pressing need to improve their disaster recovery, including georedundancy measures. Like all traditional telephony product, their legacy PRI system provided no disaster recovery capacity or georedundancy. In the event of a catastrophic weather event such as flooding, the municipality’s phone system might go down when people absolutely needed help the most!
“We had a situation where one of our PRIs might go down. Suddenly those calls coming inbound would ring fast busy and go nowhere. We were subject to a single point of failure.”
Mission was ready for change. As they neared the end of their unfavourable carrier contract, they called in ThinkTel, a division of Distributel, Canada’s fastest growing voice network. Because of the mission critical nature of their responsibilities, the district chose to start slowly, configuring their routers with two channels to avoid disruption and provide proof of concept. Gradually, they transitioned all their telephony to ThinkTel.
“ThinkTel delivered a smooth transition. We've had zero quality complaints whatsoever in making the transition from big provider to cloud-based service which is really impressive.”
The ThinkTel aggregate model of SIP Trunking helped the municipality consolidate telephone capacity requirements across multiple locations and add layers of redundancy. Mission went from a limit of 23 channels, busy signals, and paying for extra capacity—to sharing a limitless pool of capacity and achieving dramatic savings.
“Now we have channel bursting capability so that if our number of committed channels is saturated, it'll burst and dynamically allocate new channels. That way, we never cut off service to people trying to reach us.”
Mission now empowers their employees with an end-to-end Cisco collaboration solution. Employees use Cisco desktop phones as well as Cisco Jabber, which enables instant messaging, voice, video, desktop sharing, conferencing, and presence. District employees can use Jabber to route phone calls to their cell phones, without pushing that traffic to the cellular network or giving out their cell phone number.
The District of Mission IT team relies on Cisco’s call manager and internal voice system as well as ThinkTel uControl, which allows them to monitor and administer their service plus provision numbers themselves, 7/24/365, at no additional cost. Cisco Cube routers provide for a robust disaster recovery configuration. Because SIP trunking uses a data network connection, the municipality is no longer at the mercy of local power outages. Their trunks can reroute and keep functioning.
“Our long-distance costs alone have dropped between 50 and 60% per month, so that's a huge saving. We have saved thousands of dollars a year for sure, probably over $1,500 per month on average.”
As a ThinkTel SIP Trunking customer, Mission only pays for their average capacity. When busy days and seasons occur, they access extra capacity with channel bursting. Customers can view their historical usage through the uControl portal and adjust their subscription based on an educated decision. Additionally, the ThinkTel solution allows for multiple layers of redundancy at no extra cost.
All told, the District of Mission went from spending $8,530 per month to $4,400 per month - reducing their monthly costs by 49% percent!
Instead of getting locked into rigid, one-sided service contracts, Mission can now dynamically adjust their subscription based on their capacity. Their service agreement does not lock them into a set number of channels. They can monitor and adjust volumes. And they can provision new local numbers in real time, without submitting tickets or paying MACD fees.
“Moving from PRI to SIP Trunking definitely improved our business continuity and reliability. Because of georedundancy, our service is more agile and able to withstand disruption and disaster.”
The municipality has more upgrades in mind. The IT team is considering if standalone wireline commitments (B1 type phone lines) of any kind makes sense, including for 911 services. B1 lines are very expensive, so converting those lines to the same network as their other calls holds a lot of appeal. In other words, they expect to realize even more savings as they integrate all of their telephony into one VOIP solution from ThinkTel.
“We're in the process of continuing this roadmap with other systems and look to keep delivering more efficiency for staff. This was just one piece of the technology roadmap, but it's certainly a foundational one.”
The District of Mission story offers some invaluable insights for other municipalities and public sector agencies in search of savings and better security:
The team ThinkTel planning and deployment included subject matter experts from various teams—from pre-sales to post:
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