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Elgin Community College Case Study

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Case Studies

Elgin Community College switches to ShoreTel IP UC for its simplicity, reliability, and robust feature set

Elgin Community College

Avaya PBX too old and unreliable

Elgin Community College determined that its 20-year-old Avaya PBX-based telephone system was too unreliable and insufficient to support the college’s growth.

Simplified administration

With a system upgrade necessary due to growth, Michael Chahino, the college’s director of network operations and information security, issued a request for proposal from Avaya, Cisco, and ShoreTel® on each vendor’s Unified Communications offering.

“We did a lot of research on our own and then invited the industry leaders to provide proposals and present product demonstrations,” says Chahino. “I have a lot of experience with Cisco and I was very impressed with the simplicity of ShoreTel. We have Cisco equipment at the College, but we still liked ShoreTel.”

Bud Miedema, telecom specialist for the college, agreed. “ShoreTel gave us a demo and we liked the system’s simplicity. It looked like it would work well in our environment,” explains Miedema. “I was an Avaya technician for many years, but when Avaya did their presentation, the system couldn’t match ShoreTel’s ease of administration.” Based on the priorities set by the college, including reliability, simplicity, and a robust feature set, ShoreTel’s UC system was chosen.

ShoreTel meets Elgin College’s graduation requirements

With the help of its integration partner, Oak Park, Illinois-based WanCom, ShoreTel provided the college with ShoreTel Voice Switches and two voicemail servers. The college has now deployed more than 1,000 ShoreTel IP Phones throughout its two locations.

“Department by department, employees are trained and then moved from Avaya to ShoreTel. There’s no downtime in between, so people are ready to hit the ground running,” says Chahino.

ShoreTel’s call control software is distributed to every voice switch, which eliminates any single point of failure. In the highly unlikely event a ShoreTel Voice Switch fails, the other switches on the network automatically take on the call processing load (N+1 redundancy).

One of the reasons Elgin Community College chose ShoreTel was that its uniquely distributed architecture allows for the use of N+1 redundancy. ShoreTel’s N+1 redundancy improves reliability since it does not double the hardware. Essentially, using N+1 redundancy creates a multi-unit system with no single point of failure, and eliminates the need for 1:1 redundancy, saving power, cost, and possible failure to power up if a standby unit in “cold” (or un-powered) mode is faulty and not detected as defective until it’s needed.

“The reliability of the ShoreTel UC system was especially attractive,” explains Chahino. “We like the distributed architecture, specifically the N+1 idea. If something happens to the T1 on our main campus, we can route the traffic to our remote campus using the network.”

ShoreTel eases system management

Elgin Community College uses ShoreTel Director, a browser-based management interface, for end-to-end management of the ShoreTel UC system. This provides easy access to management of the system from anywhere on the network. An administrator can manage everything, including voicemail, automated attendant, and desktop applications within seconds. Adding a new user simply entails clicking a button, and the system automatically updates the centralized database and every voice switch. At the time the new user is added, a mailbox is automatically created, the automated attendant dial-by-name and number feature is updated, and online directories are revised. Changes are made just as quickly.

“WE LIKE THE DISTRIBUTED ARCHITECTURE, SPECIFICALLY THE N+1 IDEA. IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO THE T1 ON OUR MAIN CAMPUS, WE CAN ROUTE THE TRAFFIC TO OUR REMOTE CAMPUS USING THE NETWORK.”

Michael Chahino, Director of Network
Operations and Information Security
Elgin Community College

With the ShoreTel UC system in place and ShoreTel Personal Call Manager integrated with Microsoft Outlook®, all Elgin Community College employees are now on the same phone and voicemail system, using four-digit dialing to reach co-workers and the ability to dial them by name. Calls can be transferred the same way.

The ShoreTel system provides employees with integrated messaging, such as contact screen pop and calendar integration. Personal Call Manager enables employees to quickly type in a name, bring up a number, and make their calls from local online directories—all with the click of a mouse and right from the desktop.

“After people have come back from training and have learned about Personal Call Manager, they’re asking, ‘When can we get that?’ they like it so much,” says Miedema. “We’ve had so many comments from various people about how the ShoreTel system helps them do their jobs better.”

Elgin Community College is also using ShoreTel’s hunt group capability to ensure that calls are answered by a person, rather than go to voicemail. Calls ring multiple extensions in a specified sequence or all facilities’ maintenance department can be picked up at any phone in the shop building. This feature enables each caller to reach someone they need quickly (especially important during a snow storm when an area needs plowing), enhancing the college’s overall responsiveness and communications.

Finally, the college has also established several workgroups—for such things as registration, records, and student accounts. ShoreTel’s workgroups feature allows the college to consolidate all its inquiry calls to these groups into one number each, and calls are routed to the next available agent. Productivity is enhanced, and callers get faster response times. Workgroups also provide basic reporting capabilities to help the college measure call volume and make work schedule changes as necessary.

“Supervisors can see calls that are queued up so they can forecast necessary staff changes to run the department more effectively,” states Chahino. “Before we had the ShoreTel system, it was much less scientific – now we’re planning much more in advance and tracking processes and progress very closely.”

ShoreTel satisfies IT and users alike

Elgin Community College is satisfied with its experience with ShoreTel. “Not only are we happy here in Information Technology, but campus-wide, the ShoreTel system has been received very positively,” concludes Chahino. “Everybody who’s attended training has given positive feedback about the ShoreTel UC system, and as people begin working with the phones, we’re hearing more and more great things.”

“SUPERVISORS CAN SEE CALLS THAT ARE QUEUED UP SO THEY CAN FORECAST NECESSARY STAFF CHANGES TO RUN THE DEPARTMENT MORE EFFECTIVELY. BEFORE WE HAD THE SHORETEL SYSTEM, IT WAS MUCH LESS SCIENTIFIC – NOW WE’RE PLANNING MUCH MORE IN ADVANCE AND TRACKING PROCESSES AND PROGRESS VERY CLOSELY.”

CHALLENGE:

  • Elgin Community College needed to replace a 20-year-old Avaya PBX-based system that was unreliable and outdated.

SOLUTION:

  • ShoreTel’s IP UC included ShoreTel Voice Switches for its main campus and downtown satellite location, as well as more than 1,000 ShoreTel IP telephones.

BENEFITS:

  • N+1 redundancy
  • Web-based system management
  • Adds, moves, and changes in minutes
  • Improved employee productivity and responsiveness