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Zoom Phone system users share their success stories and setbacks

Tech leaders at Zoomtopia explained how migrating to the Zoom Phone system provides their employees with an integrated communications experience and improved business continuity.

Mass media conglomerates Viacom and CBS merged at the end of 2019. At that time, Meng Li, director of systems engineering at ViacomCBS, had to evaluate the merged company's infrastructure and communications tools.

Then, COVID-19 gripped the world and changed the priorities at ViacomCBS as the pandemic shut down offices and television studios. Li and his team then provisioned more than 7,000 Zoom Pro accounts within a week, and employees were able to work remotely on live content, including CBS News and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

While most employees relied on Zoom video meetings to conduct daily business, some users relied on phones. As Li realized on-premises phone systems are less relevant when employees are not in the office, he rolled out phone features for Zoom Phone users.

"The Zoom platform integrates with most technology we already use," he said. "So, it makes sense for us to choose Zoom Phone."

Currently, fewer than 1,000 Zoom Phone accounts have been rolled out at ViacomCBS with a mix of the native Zoom Phone system and a bring-your-own-carrier bridge for legacy phone systems. But Li plans for the number of Zoom Phone users to grow as the New York-based company's infrastructure is consolidated.

Li and other IT leaders spoke recently at Zoom's user conference, Zoomtopia, about the decision to migrate to the Zoom Phone system and the need for integrated, cloud-based phone capabilities to support remote work.

Getting the full Zoom stack

Quinnipiac University, based in Hamden, Conn., originally planned on a traditional replacement for its existing on-premises system. But the university realized that on premises wasn't the right direction. Quinnipiac began evaluating cloud telephony options, including the Zoom Phone system.

The Zoom platform integrates with most technology we already use, so it makes sense for us to choose Zoom Phone.
Meng LiDirector of systems engineering, ViacomCBS

The university included Zoom on its list of candidates as it had adopted the meetings platform in 2018. It was appealing to have a single client to access both calling and video conferencing, said John Scott, executive director of technology infrastructure at Quinnipiac. The university rolled out the new system to users in June.

Similarly, the National Wildlife Federation deployed Zoom Phone to take advantage of the full Zoom stack. The conservation organization, based in Reston, Va., had deployed Zoom webinar and meeting platforms in early 2020 with plans to move to the phone system in May, said Keith Ward, director of technology solutions.

With the pandemic forcing employees to work from home, Ward wanted to keep staff connected and completed the full Zoom rollout with the Zoom Phone system.

The transition gave staff a "single pane of glass to have their chat, meetings, webinars, as well as their phone all right there," he said.

Cloud-based phone supports business continuity

Christopher Harvey, assistant vice president of IT and CISO at Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, knew the company's phone system was a gap in its business continuity plan. When the pandemic hit, employees were able to take their laptops home to work remotely but not their work phones. Most employees were using their personal cellphones to make business calls, he said.

At the same time, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance, based in Fort Wayne, Ind., was just piloting Zoom Phone but then decided quickly to do a complete rollout. Within two days, the company deployed outbound calling capabilities to all employees and had inbound call routing within a few months.

Implementation challenges

But migrating to the Zoom Phone system does have its challenges. For eBay, the biggest challenge was porting phone numbers. EBay's headquarters in San Jose, Calif., was the company's first location to move to Zoom Phone, which required migrating a large amount of direct inward dial numbers from an aging, legacy PBX.

"Porting a large block can be very frustrating, and the incumbent carrier doesn't have much incentive to make it easy," said Susan Delaney, IT director of global connectivity and mergers and acquisitions at eBay. As a result, Delaney plans to cherry-pick which numbers will be ported over to Zoom Phone to avoid porting numbers when possible.

At Quinnipiac, advanced Enhanced 911 (E911) capabilities were paramount because of the large student population on campus. The university already had an extensive E911 and alerting system in place, and the public safety department relied heavily on it, Scott said.

The Zoom Phone system didn't have all the E911 and alerting features the university and public safety department required. The university worked directly with Zoom's engineering team to build the safety and alerting capabilities that weren't already in the phone system.

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