The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School Case Study
ShoreTel Sky cloud-based phone system takes the management burden off IT at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School
Old, unreliable 3Com system was disrupting communications
The 3Com system was at the end-of-life, unreliable, and had no upgrade path. With E-Rate covering a portion of a hosted telephony system, the committee looked at the systems available and chose the ShoreTel Sky cloud phone system based on feature set and reputation.
A new cloud-based telephony system that offered the most robust safety, reporting, and communication features
The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School offers online education for K-12 students, who are homebased and connect with the teachers through their computers. Teachers have the option of working on-site at one of the school’s 13 locations or at home. Either way, a reliable phone connection was critical to ensure classroom continuity among these multiple remote locations.
The equipment tasked to do the job was an onpremises 3Com system that was at the end-of-life. The school could no longer obtain licenses or the equipment needed for repairs, and was buying used phones and used processors from the secondary market. It was time to make a change.
An evaluation committee led the charge and was tasked with leveraging E-Rate funding that was available for telephony and Internet services. The group received nine proposals and eliminated all but the four lowest bids. Next, vendors, including Infradapt, Stage 2 Networks, RoData/ShoreTel, and AT&T were asked to provide demonstrations. Most vendors brought in proprietary solutions. RoData introduced the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School to ShoreTel’s hosted cloud-based VoIP phone system, which qualified for E-Rate funding.
“Based on the committee’s impression of the demos, the ShoreTel Sky cloud-based system was recommended. Pricing was good. The reporting features also met our needs. We really needed reporting capabilities to determine call volume, call quality, how many callers were in a queue, and how many calls were being answered,” says Margie-Jo Miller, director of telecommunications, network, and infrastructure for the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. “It was also easier to not have to worry about managing the system.”
When it comes to education needs, ShoreTel had the highest degree of understanding
Several circumstances determined which features were first on the school’s action plan. In the beginning, on site staff received a physical phone. Then it became apparent that softphones were an ideal option for off site staff. “We didn’t implement softphones for a year. The softphone software looks like a regular phone and works like a regular phone and our staff loved having the ability to get their calls wherever they were. They don’t have to use their personal phone and they feel more connected to the school with an extension and direct dial number,” says Miller.
The committee also had some safety concerns. “We did have some members of that wanted a good notification and paging system so, if there was a situation in the building, there was a fast and efficient way to contact staff,” explains Miller. “With our redundancy system, if there is an emergency, a number of staff members are always reachable on school cell phones. We also can plug into one of our analog lines if needed.”
“WE REALLY NEEDED REPORTING CAPABILITIES TO DETERMINE CALL VOLUME, CALL QUALITY, HOW MANY CALLERS WERE IN A QUEUE, AND HOW MANY CALLS WERE BEING ANSWERED. IT WAS ALSO EASIER TO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT MANAGING THE SYSTEM.”
Margie-Jo Miller, Director of Telecommunications, Network, and Infrastructure
The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School
The deployment went quickly, smoothly, and according to Miller’s timeline. “The transition was completed in a day. We had technical staff at each building to help swap out the phones. That was the biggest task—getting new phones plugged in without any downtime. Everything lined up as planned,” explains Miller.
ShoreTel Sky’s reliability and the flexibility to handle high seasonal call volumes get high marks
Call volumes at all schools vary with the season. Typically, the month before and after school starts there are a lot more calls from parents and prospective students who would like information about enrollment. The ShoreTel cloud-based hosted system has been able to easily handle the spike in volume.
“From day one, we’ve really enjoyed our hosted ShoreTel system. It is very reliable and has all of the features we needed. I would recommend ShoreTel to anybody and everyone looking for a managed system. It’s a very dependable system,” concludes Miller.
“THE TRANSITION WAS COMPLETED IN A DAY. WE HAD TECHNICAL STAFF AT EACH BUILDING TO HELP SWAP OUT THE PHONES. THAT WAS THE BIGGEST TASK—GETTING NEW PHONES PLUGGED IN WITHOUT ANY DOWNTIME. EVERYTHING LINED UP AS PLANNED.”
- Responsible for nearly 9,000 K-12 students and 13 locations across the state, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School had an aging 3Com system that experienced frequent equipment outages. Licensing, support, and parts were no longer available, which also presented a problem.
The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School replaced its old on-premises solution with a ShoreTel Sky hosted VoIP business phone system, which included ShoreTel Unified Communications, 670 licenses, and ShoreTel Contact Center.
- 99.999% reliability
- Extensive reporting features
- ShoreTel hosted and managed
- Qualified for E-Rate funding