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Users wield pc-based billback tool.


The main reason for installing a call-accounting system is to have a better idea of how to bill back the various departments within an organization or corporation.

Although the ability to collar telephone abusers is an interesting sidelight, it's hardly the top priority on the minds of most systems supervisors recently interviewed by Communications News.

Whether the user is a church, or a distributor, or a university--PC-based systems are providing some cost-effective solutions.

Lorinda Long, communications analyst for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Salt Lake City, explains that a switch that was purchased five years ago created the concomitant need for the church to be able to bill back its various entities for their phone usage, primarily long distance.

"This enables us to bill, by the month, each department and each user, which helps recoup the cost of the switch. We chose the Xtend because it ran on a PC, and we didn't know what we were going to be doing later on.

"We have more than 5000 extensions--people are amazed we run this on a PC system. The cost difference between PC- and mainframe-based is enormous."

Though loath to share cost details, Long admits: "Two years ago, we thought maybe we needed something that would 'do us better.' But a MicroVAX mainframe system runs $300,000 plus. We decided to stay with Xtend."

The updated scheme has more networking, which has been achieved through the addition of software.

Mainframe Printouts

"We kept what we had and sort of improved it," Long says. "It's constantly upgrading. We can pull information we need off it at any time. At the end of the month, after we run the month-end and actually cost everything out and get it ready to print, we send it to a mainframe printer, which prints a lot more rapidly than would a PC printer."

Uploading to the mainframe in order to print out documents is a common strategy among users of call-accounting systems that are based on personal computers.

"We get a monthly toll tape from Mountain Bell. It has credit cards, third-party billings, etc. Our call-accounting system accepts that information and bills it back. We don't have to have anything different to handle that."

Growth pains can be assuaged by strategic placement of call-accounting capability, agrees Susan Smith, control-center supervisor at Malone & Hyde, a food-distribution company based in Memphis.

"I guess the reason we got call accounting is that we are so large," Smith says.

"We bill back the departments per extension. It's very easy to implement. It shows you the calls you made--it's cut and dried."

Smith runs her Tadpoll program from Account-A-Call on two personal computers in the Memphis office.

"We put the reports on the diskettes, and they're published at 98% of our locations," she says.

"Then we hook them up directly to a mainframe and they're printed off-site."

She says the reports are being used more and more these days.

Though they could help department heads ferret out phone abusers ("personal calls or whatever"), Smith says she is not aware of resentment felt by employees.

"I supply the department heads with the reports; what they do with them from there on is not really my concern," she observes.

Malone & Hyde has hundreds and hundreds of locations across a sprawling distribution network throughout North America.

The call-accounting system now includes 25 sites.

"We'll need to buy a new Tadpoll to add more, which we will. We have 600 meg; we can handle it."

PBX And Centrex

Kenneth White, communication-systems manager at Howard University in Washington D.C., recently participated in a network overhaul.

"We have our own exchange, which consists of 10,000 number banks from a new 5ESS switch. We have about 2000 centrex users and about 2000 PBX users. We have seven System 75s and two System 85s."

Being served out of three different COs meant billing was all over the map.

Fifteen different international bills was one headache.

Another was wondering, and having no proof one way or another, if certain parts of the bill were justified.

"So we negotiated with the phone company for our own exchange, and we cut over in June," White explains.

"No matter if you want a centrex or a PBX telephone system, you can now speed-dial anyone on campus with four digits. PC-based call accounting tracks all our long-distance calls.

"And we use it at our work-control center; it controls all our work orders."

As well as using the software to bill back departments, the school is using it to make other procedures more efficient. It's implementing a new local-area network into which trouble tickets (service orders) will be logged. Someone in the work-control center will log the call in, using a particular control number.

"We can track, from start to finish, what's happening with that order. By the end of the month, we want to know how many troubles we've received, how many hours our technicians spent. We'll have a good, manageable report."

The Office of Telecommunications Services handles all voice and data communications for the university.

Call accounting helps White reallocate resources on the basis of call volume reports. It also gives him traffic analysis tools. "We have a Microcom pipe--a T1 link. The raw data we get shows us we need another pipe. The CDR (call detail recording) package helps us do that."

In this era of distributed processing supplanting mainframe solutions, call accounting is no exception.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gitlin, Bob
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1990
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