PBX systems face Y2K threat

Telephone PBX systems in New Zealand will 'more likely than not' have problems with year 2000 compatibility, according to the largest supplier of voice switching systems, Telecom. 'Any company with a digital PBX system should definitely be addressing the issue,' says Telecom spokesperson Glenn Sowry, who believes there are more than 35,000 systems in New Zealand.

Telephone PBX systems in New Zealand will "more likely than not" have problems with year 2000 compatibility, according to the largest supplier of voice switching systems, Telecom.

"Any company with a digital PBX system should definitely be addressing the issue," says Telecom spokesperson Glenn Sowry, who believes there are more than 35,000 systems in New Zealand.

"Every company from medium-size up seems to have one. There are a significant number of businesses around the country that use PBX systems."

The problem, as with most Y2K issues, is two-fold — the hardware may contain embedded chips, and the applications may not roll over smoothly, if at all.

"It depends on the individual PBX, how it's programmed and how sophisticated it is."

But Sowry says help is at hand.

"A lot of the information needed is accessible from the various manufacturers' Web sites." New Zealand's leading brand, Nortel, has an extensive list of which components are and are not compliant and what users can do about upgrading them (www.nortel.com).

"In some cases it is as simple as a software patch, but in other cases it may be more complicated than that."

Customers that have an account mana-ger at Telecom should contact them about how to assess their PBX systems, says Sowry. Larger, more complex systems may need to be assessed individually, and Telecom offers TelCheck 2000 as a service to larger corporate customers.

"We would provide a full year 2000 audit for customers with large, complex phone systems that they can't just check by cross-referencing against a chart."

Other PBX system providers are also fielding calls about their systems. Steve Inglis, corporate marketing manager for Ericsson, believes all Ericsson PABX systems are Y2K-compliant. "Dates on the phone aren't really critical. It gets critical where you are passing dates via phone through to application systems for things such as call records or call centre data." Ericsson is also working with customers to ensure their compliance.

But Siemens Communications' business manager Kieron Gilpin thinks the issue may be overstated. "In most cases it will not be a big issue. The fundamental issue is, will the PBX work after the year 2000? In most cases the answer is yes." Gilpin believes a greater problem lies in what is attached to the core PBX system.

"Some systems might have call detail processing systems which can be affected. You can still make the call, you just can't track it." Another area to watch out for is voicemail, which can be stored on a PC.

"If your PC isn't compliant, then you won't be able to save messages." Gilpin believes users must adopt a two-pronged approach: first, identify how much of a problem you have and, second, work out what that will mean for your business.

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