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A New Extension

Safeway implements ShoreTel's Enterprise IP Phone System, reducing maintenance costs and improving disaster recovery capabilities.

While moving its Monrovia, Calif., office to a new building, auto insurer Safeway Insurance (Westmont, Ill.; 250,000 policyholders) decided to replace the office's telecom system. The existing Tadiran (Petah Tikva, Israel) system required a third party to make any changes, according to Mike Leather, network services manager for the insurer. "Whenever we had a new employee or an extension change, we would have to phone a vendor to make adjustments to the system," he says.

Safeway began examining Voice Over IP solutions in March 2005, narrowing the choices to Cisco's (San Jose, Calif.) VOIP system, Avaya's (Basking Ridge, N.J.) VOIP IP Telephony Solution and ShoreTel's (Sunnyvale, Calif.) Enterprise IP Phone System, relates Leather, who contends, "ShoreTel was a much-less-complex system that didn't require a lot of components or a third-party administrator to make changes." The carrier worked with ShoreTel reseller AmeriNet (Ann Arbor, Mich.). "AmeriNet's onsite demonstration was instrumental in our decision, and they were also able to do on-site implementation and training," Leather says.

Safeway purchased ShoreTel's VOIP solution in April 2005, with plans to implement the system in the insurer's Monrovia office as a pilot and possibly expand the deployment throughout the company. To support the implementation, which began in May 2005, the carrier upgraded its wide area network to add up to 700 percent more bandwidth, Leather relates. Safeway's IT department and AmeriNet technicians deployed the software on the carrier's Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Windows 2003 servers and installed Cisco Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switches, which were purchased for the implementation, to allow technicians to run one Ethernet cable to the access point for supplying both power and data. "We had the system up and running in our California office in a week," says Leather.

Following the success of the initial implementation, Safeway began deploying ShoreTel's solution in all of its nine offices, Leather relates. However, the carrier did have some problems connecting the VOIP equipment with existing analog phone lines, he notes. "We weren't completely informed [as] to how our phone lines were coming into the building -- they were coming in on old analog lines instead of one Primary Rate Interface (PRI), so we temporarily redirected our phone lines through other offices," Leather explains.

Enterprisewide implementation of VOIP was completed by June 2006. Already, Leather relates, the carrier has lowered its maintenance and administrative costs. "There has been cost saving in maintenance contracts, and it eliminates complications when employees switch locations because they can take their phone line with them," he explains.

The VOIP system also has improved Safeway's business continuity capabilities, Leather points out. During Hurricane Katrina, for example, the carrier was able to reroute phone traffic from affected offices to help policyholders with claims.

Safeway also is utilizing desktop faxing enabled by VOIP to reduce paper. In addition, over the next six months or so, IT will integrate ShoreTel's system with the insurer's policy admin system to create call center screen pop-ups. "Customer representatives will already have a caller's information when they answer a call, minimizing hold time and creating better service," says Leather.

Voice Over IP


Safeway Insurance (Westmont, Ill.; 250,000 policyholders).

lines of business

Automobile insurance.


ShoreTel's (Sunnyvale, Calif.) Enterprise IP Phone System.


Reduce telephone system maintenance costs and improve disaster recovery capabilities.

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