Networking

Choosing the Toshiba CIX1200 phone system

Choosing a new phone system is an important consideration for any organization. The telephony market is changing considerably with new players entering the market all the time. TechRepublic readers helped Scott Lowe with his decision to choose a Toshiba CIX1200 system and avoid systems that may not have been the best options.
In my May 30th post in the Servers and Storage blog, I asked the TechRepublic community for feedback regarding Asterisk's ability to meet the communications needs for a relatively large installation that would consist of about 200 IP phones and another 350 to 400 analog devices. You guys didn't let me down! There were 23 comments left with all kinds of great information. I'm going to focus on one particular comment in this post by reader jgreaves, but before I do that, I wanted to address some of the other points that came up in the discussions.

The most common piece of advice that came up in the comments was to stay away from the Avaya IP Office solution. Prior to my query regarding Asterisk, I had come down to the IP Office as a finalist based on the recommendation of our current Nortel reseller, but had not yet done the full due diligence on the solution. Since that time, I have, and concur with the fact that IP Office may be fine for very, very small organizations, but moving into a larger space with this product would not yield positive results.

Next up, it was suggested that I simply drop the maintenance contract I currently have on my Meridian PBX and move to a break/fix model paying just time and materials. The reasoning is sound; there are a lot of Meridian technicians out there and used parts for the Meridian are easy to come by. However, even though I'm looking for an inexpensive solution to support voice, I understand that voice is, and probably always will be, a critical application. I'm reluctant to simply drop the contract and have absolutely no SLA on this critical application. It would solve the money side of the equation, but I think this approach could be viewed as throwing the baby out with the bath water.

One reader, delb, asked what kind of data network I run (Cisco/equivalent or DLink/equivalent) and, if Cisco, if I have SmartNet on all of my equipment. He was pretty adamant about an answer, and I think I see where he was going with his question. Basically, do I "cheap out" at the risk of stability or do I run tried and true solutions that are adequately supported? The answer: On the data network side of the house, I've settled on HP Procurve. I don't believe in the "best of breed" approach whereby an organization automatically chooses the solution based on the vendor's place in the market. I realize that Cisco equipment works extremely well and that their support is excellent. However, years ago, I discovered that HP's Procurve division also manufactures great equipment at a much lower price and they provide a lifetime warranty on the equipment with next-day replacement. This kind of thinking frames pretty much every decision I make. I'm looking for the best solution available for the best price I can get. I sometimes spend months searching for the best fit for my environment and at some point, something comes along that just...works.

Which brings me to the comment by jgreaves. He provided me with a number of thoughtful insights into my dilemma, but it was this tidbit near the end of his comment that caught my eye:

"Toshiba has been a little slow in coming to the table with feature rich IP and large systems, but I think they have arrived. I ran some quick numbers on your configuration and came up with $82K in matl and 40K in labor. You might give them a quick look."

To be honest, before I read this comment, I had no idea that Toshiba even made phone systems. After reading the comment, I did give Toshiba a quick look...and then another look followed by yet another look. I liked what I saw. I researched their Strata line of PBXs and, from a technical perspective, it fits the bill perfectly. As I searched the product selection, the Toshiba CTX 670 had the expansion and capability necessary to meet the needs of Westminster College.

Once I decided that the Toshiba system was a viable solution, at least on a first pass, I needed to get a little more professional help. I located two Toshiba resellers in my area. After contacting one of them, the following happened:

  1. The reseller turned around a quote in record time. They quoted me a CIX 1200 system, which is the successor to the CTX 670 and will be released in a couple of weeks. The CIX 1200 does not have major architectural differences from the CTX 670, but does have much greater scalability.
  2. After some tweaking, the pricing is well within budget. Even better, the total seven year cost of ownership is well within budget. I'll provide more details later on this.
  3. I started the due diligence part of the project and contacted references and did my own research on the Toshiba system. The only negative information I located had to do with Toshiba's market share. On the upside, the references that I spoke with on the phone indicated that they are extremely pleased with Toshiba as a system as well as with the reseller that I'm working with. One reference went so far as to say that, although they really like the Toshiba, if the reseller were to ever drop Toshiba, they would move to whatever the reseller sold.

Based on the recommendation of this reseller, I've moved away from IP as a major part of this project. The new system will be a hybrid system supporting digital, analog and IP devices. Faculty and staff will, for the most part, be provided with digital phones but some will receive IP sets, depending on their location on campus. Students will receive analog connectivity and we'll use analog in some common areas as well.

The new system will also provide us with campus-wide paging capability, which will add to our emergency communications capability. Toshiba's quote also includes unlimited seats for unified communications, including fax serving. We also have a need for a number of soft phones for remote workers and to set up a mini-call center in a computer lab for admissions and fund raising calls.

On the price side, the Toshiba is outstanding. The upfront costs, including installation, works in our budget. Better yet, the upfront price includes a seven-year warranty. The result: almost no maintenance costs for seven years. I say "almost" because, after a couple of years, the warranty includes parts, not labor. After that, I just pay for someone's time to come in and replace any parts that we're not able to replace ourselves. According to the references I spoke with, however, this has been a non-issue for them.

I also considered the Avaya S8300, which, from a technical perspective, also met our needs very well. The upfront pricing was excellent; the Avaya partner I worked with went seriously to bat for us on that front and got us pricing that, quite frankly, blew me away. However, over a seven year period, maintenance took the overall cost of ownership significantly beyond that of the Toshiba system. In fact, the cost of ownership difference is well into the tens of thousands of dollars.

So, this coming week, I'll be signing a purchase agreement for a Toshiba CIX 1200 PBX, thanks to feedback I received from the TechRepublic community. Thanks, folks!

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

10 comments
Poggle
Poggle

Hi there, I would just add that it's worth looking at the Mitel offering: I had a similar though smaller (100 user) solution to look at a few years back and looked at offerings from Avaya, Cisco and Seimens as well as the Mitel 3300 option. Having been to a number of seminars it appears that most of the above, together with Nortel, use the Mitel chipsets as a core part of their solutions. It has analogue service units, paging, and all the usual bells and whistles but with more "out of the box" functionality than most of the competition. Anyway just thought I'd mention it. Alistair

jason.wienert
jason.wienert

I don't know why you were even considering the Avaya IP Office it doesn't even meet your size requirements and is actually designed to meet the 20-100 endpoint market.

steve
steve

Vertical Televantage is a fantastic solution for an IP-enable PBX. It is extremely powerful, can epxand to 550 enpoints in one server. It runs on windows 2003 server and using justa bout any SIP compatible telephone or softphone. If you grow beyond 550 phones, you cna begin networking system together using their "Enterprise manager " software. Matter of fact, Toshiba, use to use televantage software in their CBX100 ( i think that was the name) until they parted ways. Televantage is a complete CALL-center solution also and allows for programmers to development applications through their SDK , which is given free wiht every TV system- email sales@aptech1.com for more information

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

It would be interesting to hear how well your choice selecting this phone system works out. I have no experience doing this and would love to learn. Thanks for posting.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

I saw in your summary that you recently "Settled" on ProCurve... I disagree with the implication! I'm thrilled with our ProCurve gear! It is powerful while being easy to support and diagnose and also, simultaneously, less expensive to buy and maintain than equivalent Cisco gear. In the mid-range, for our purposes, it outperforms Cisco everywhere. I have direct, personal experience with a ProCurve implementation with a Cisco CME solution and are quite pleased with performance. It works quite well. But I think your point speaks to something that is worth mentioning... Using poor-gear will kill you. D-Link/Linksys are fine for at home when you're not doing anything critical besides surfing the web... But at the office, where its business critical data flowing through, well-configured, professional grade gear will make the difference in your satisfaction with ANY solution. Especially something as environment-dependent as an IP Telephone solution. By purchasing professional grade gear like the ProCurve or Cisco Catalyst, and having it well configured by a competent network engineer or admin, you're positioning yourself to provide the environment these types of high-demand applications need to be deployed successfully. Congratulations on your selection, and good-luck with your implementation. Please update us when you are successfully dialling from the system and tell us about your lessons-learned! I'm preparing for a large-scale (~300 phones at 10+ regional locations) implementation myself and want to be prepared for everything.

djohnson
djohnson

We went through the RFQ and purchase process two years ago and ended up replacing our aging Nortel system with the Toshiba 670 CBX. We have mixed digital and IP phones. The IP phones are used mostly by teleworkers. We have about 12 remote workers and that is working out pretty well. The system is very reliable but I was disappointed with the Strategy Voice mail system. It is reliable but the end users experience using voice mail is sub par. The features in voice mail are difficult to navigate and the options are presented to the user in a non-standard fashion. For example after listening to a voice mail you should get the options used most frequently first: To delete press X, to reply press X. But instead after listening to a message the options are presented as: To play the next message 1, To replay this message press *1, To save this message press 2, To play the previous message press *2 To Delete this message press 3 To Forward this message press 5 To Reply to this message press 6. So as you can see you have to wait a long time to finally hear the options unless you have the options memorized. Just seems like it should be a bit more user friendly. We are satisfied with the system overall though. We looked at CISCO, Avaya, 3Com, NEC and Toshiba.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

The company that provides support for our existing Nortel system quoted us a pair of IF Office units networked together that would have met the size requirement.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I wholeheartedly agree with you on Procurve and didn't intend to imply that it was a negative. I LOVE the stuff. It's inexpensive, and simply WORKS and their support has been excellent. I've "ripped and replaced" two 100% Cisco networks with Procurve and, if given the opportunity, will do it again.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I'm very happy to hear that, overall, you're pleased with the system. We're actually trying to decide if we're going to use Toshiba's voicemail or go with our original plan to use our Exchange 2007 system for UM. We have a few people on Exchange 2007's unified messaging and they LOVE it. I'm trying to decide if it's worth having two separate points of administration, and your experience helps a lot in that regard. Scott

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Can it be reprogrammed to do it like your old phone system to ease your users burden ( the menu choices I mean ), LOL!

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