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Say goodbye to desktop phones

John Cox | July 16, 2014
Insurer leverages VoIP client software, 11ac Wi-Fi for "complete mobility".

Second is the 11ac WLAN, with a design to support its new role as a mission critical network. "We built out the WLAN as if it were cable," says Henderson. "We emphasized redundancy, performance and operational measurements, and a big investment in the [RF] site survey." (AFA worked with an Aruba systems integration partner, Sigma Solutions, headquartered in San Antonio, with two offices in Oklahoma.)

This type of network adds access points liberally. "We added access points so we'd have overlapping coverage," says Henderson. Each Aruba AP 225 access point — dual-radio, three spatial streams, maximum data rate of 1.3Gbps - has two gigabit Ethernet ports, each cabled to a separate distribution switch, which in turn are each homed to a separate network core. The gigabit backhaul anticipates video conferencing traffic but also bandwidth-intensive applications such as re-imaging a laptop over the air. There are multiple, redundant Aruba WLAN controllers.

The WLAN environment is complicated by the fact that part of the building is occupied by another corporate tenant for several more years. Access point power levels and channel planning, and authentication and security, had to take into account that company's separate WLAN.

Aruba's AirWave WLAN management application provides a wealth of real-time data about the network's performance and health, including interference sources. The AP 225 can monitor the RF environment, feeding data to AirWave. Aruba's ClearPass handles network access control, security, guest access and other authentication services. For mobile device management, AFA uses software from AirWatch, a mobility management applications vendor.

The third key technology is VoIP, enabled over wireless, via an upgrade to AFA's Microsoft Lync server, which had been an instant messaging, chat and video conferencing platform. The IT group worked closely with the various departments and business units to identify their full range of communications needs, Henderson says. Adding VoIP brought a range of PBX-like features to the Lync clients, whether Windows laptops or company-issued iPads running a Lync app. Lync also tied together Exchange Server contacts and calendaring with both voice and video conferencing. Because AFA already had a Lync enterprise license, "it was very cost effective to add voice," says Henderson.

The VoIP transformation is deceptively simple, from the end user viewpoint. "Your laptop is now your phone," says Henderson. An incoming voice call opens a window on your laptop or tablet screen, along with photo of the caller (if the caller is listed in your contacts). Users have wired or wireless headsets. Lync also shows "presence" — it can show the online status of someone you're trying to reach. It also supports, via the WLAN, location tracking for 911 calls (AFA also has some hardwired phones in the new HQ for 911 emergency calls), according to Henderson.


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