Nortel Support Ending: If it Ain’t Broke Now, It Will Fail Soon

Nortel Systems Were Great, But…

One of the old pillars of the business communications industry was Nortel. At its peak, Nortel had over 1 million installations and was considered one of the best quality business telephony systems of its day. 

But after Nortel went out of business in 2009, many of their customers were left with a kind of “now what” kind of feeling. Sure there are many quality Nortel support companies out there that will keep your old system going but they won’t be able to stop the inevitable decline of your old reliable system. 

Bottom line: End of life has come for your old Nortel system. Are you prepared?

Mmmm… Dial Tone

Everyone is used to picking up the phone and hearing a working dial tone. It’s become so automatic, we never think about it. 

As some old telecom hand once told me, “Customers believe that dial tone is a God-given right.”

And it is.

It’s something that should never fail. At the end of the day, voice is mission critical to your business. 

So the question really becomes, “Do you wait until your old Nortel system fails spectacularly or do you proactively look for a more modern system now?

Top 3 Causes of PBX System Failure

Old PBXs fail for many reasons, but here are the Top 3:

PBX Power Supply Failure

The number one reason why Nortel’s fail is the power supply. The power supply has an important role as it converts regular AC electrical current from the wall to a lower voltage DC current. That conversion process creates a lot of heat and eventually that heat “burns out” the power supply. Obviously if you power supply component goes down and you haven’t any redundancy (the Nortel system doesn’t), your whole telephone system goes down.

TeleDynamic gets over a dozen emergency calls per year to replace old PBX power supplies.

Line Card Failure

The T1 card or one of the station modules can often fail. If the T1 card fails, there are no inbound or outbound calls. This means any customers trying to call you, will hear the ring but no answer! Not exactly a good way to treat customers. If a station module fails, 32 telephones stop working, just like that.

System Programming Failure

The Nortel Norstar system utilizes a super capacitor (super cap) for maintaining the programming data in memory.  The problem is that the supercapacitor has a high incidence of failure as it ages. There are no outwards sign of failure (nor any way to test, other than unplugging the system) as it’s only there as a data “backup” system.

In the event of a power failure, you’ll then lose all of your programming (extension numbers and names, line settings, call handling, etc.). The system will require complete reprogramming to restore service. It can take hours and it will never get programmed exactly the same way as it was before. Plus, you’ve got the costs and downtime for replacing the super capacitor.

You’re Safe…For Now

On January 19, 2010, Avaya (they acquired Nortel assets in 2009) laid out a comprehensive roadmap for legacy Nortel customers that ensured six years of support following any end-of-sale product announcement.

But depending on the product, end of life may come at different times. So doing your homework and planning ahead, seems like the right thing to do.

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