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Idyllwild Arts Academy Case Study

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ShoreTel reliability and cost savings paint a new picture for Idyllwild Arts Academy

Idyllwild Arts Academy

Remote campus needs reliable communications

Idyllwild Arts Academy offers a disciplined college preparatory program for grades 9-12 and postgraduates, together with world-class training in many creative fields. The campus covers more than 207 acres of forest, and houses about 70 buildings.

Replace end-of-life system with more advanced technology

Idyllwild Arts Academy is in a fairly remote location more than two hours from Los Angeles and San Diego. As the school’s previous phone system reached its end of life and became increasingly expensive to run and maintain, IT Director Buck Little decided to investigate options in IP telephony.

“Since we’re in an area that is susceptible to earthquakes, fires, and even mudslides, we take emergency preparedness very seriously,” says Little. “Our old phone system didn’t offer 911 and campus-friendly features, such as four-digit dialing and automated call distribution, that we need to stay connected across campus.”

This popular residential high school needed a reliable, feature-rich communications system to help ensure safety in its remote location, and keep the students’ focus on creativity and learning.

ShoreTel selected from a cast of leading telephony providers

As part of the decision-making process, Little requested proposals from Avaya, 3Com, and Cisco. After receiving a cold call from Ken Dever at Global CTI introducing him to the ShoreTel system, he was impressed with its pure IP-based architecture and ease of management, and included the ShoreTel UC system in his evaluation.

“We’re an IT department of two people, so the fact that the ShoreTel UC system did not require special skills or certifications for performing routine tasks was very attractive,” explains Little. “We wanted to be able to manage the system ourselves, but the others we looked at seemed too complex. Support and service capabilities also were important considerations—we need fast and responsive service, and felt confident that Global CTI and ShoreTel would be there when we need them.”

After carefully analyzing ShoreTel’s low cost of ownership, Idyllwild’s CFO supported Little’s recommendation, and the president and school board approved. The school purchased two ShoreGear® 90 voice switches, 18 ShoreGear 24 voice switches, and two ShoreGear T1 switches to support 64 ShorePhone® IP Telephones, and more than 408 analog phones throughout the dormitories and other buildings. The school has fiberoptic cabling to most of the buildings, and installed power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switches in each building with IP telephones.

Custom applications spotlight safety and discipline

At Idyllwild’s request, the ShoreTel Professional Services team designed a custom application that enables the school to turn off the students’ dorm room phones at predefined times.

“ShoreTel Professional Services delivered a solution that means calls can be placed to certain numbers, such as 911 in the event of an emergency, but are not available for general use during restricted hours,” explains Little. “This helps reduce late-night distractions in the dorm rooms, while still ensuring everyone’s safety.”

In addition to this custom application, Idyllwild also deployed the ShoreTel E911 Integration Application that allows first responders and other allocated emergency and security personnel to see exactly where on campus the 911 call was initiated. Idyllwild also is using the ShoreTel Paging Extensions application, which allows the headmaster to instantly broadcast security announcements to key administrative staff by dialing an extension. The page is heard through the speakers on the ShorePhone IP telephones.

“WE’RE AN IT DEPARTMENT OF TWO PEOPLE, SO THE FACT THAT THE SHORETEL UC SYSTEM DID NOT REQUIRE SPECIAL SKILLS OR CERTIFICATIONS FOR PERFORMING ROUTINE TASKS WAS VERY ATTRACTIVE.”

Buck Little, IT Director
Idyllwild Arts Academy

ShoreTel reliability steals the show

ShoreTel’s distributed architecture provides Idyllwild with N+1 redundancy, which means that if a ShoreTel Voice Switch fails or is isolated by a network fault, the phones supported by that switch automatically fail over to another voice switch at the site. This provides industry-leading high availability, and the modular approach also enables Little to scale the system easily and quickly as new phones are added, and campus facilities are remodeled.

Management simplicity also provides Little with peace of mind. “My assistant was spending more than two-thirds of his time on repairs and issues with the old system,” says Little. “Now it’s only the old analog wiring that takes up about 25 percent of his time. If he needs to make moves, adds, and changes, he can do so quickly, and without having to rely on an outside vendor.”

ShoreTel cost savings get top billing

As a direct result of ShoreTel’s ease of management, Idyllwild is now realizing a cost savings of almost 75 percent. “We were paying $6,700 every quarter for priority service with the old system,” comments Little. “Now we’re paying about $5,000 a year for a system that is so much richer in features and capabilities.”

Little has also implemented WiFi through the school’s network, and uses his iPhone to access voicemail. This mobility feature is important for other staff, too, and helps support campus safety.

In addition to the anticipated four-digit dialing and automated call distribution features, teachers and staff are using ShoreWare® Personal Call Manager to listen to voicemail messages in their email boxes, and to quickly prioritize calls. The flexibility to use the directory button on the phone, or the directory tab on the user interface to find numbers and place calls, also helps staff communicate more efficiently. As a result, teachers and staff have more time to focus on students and other important educational objectives.

“The integrated directory with ShoreWare Personal Call Manager has been a huge timesaving feature,” concludes Little. “Everyone has found the ShoreTel system easy to use because it adapts to the way we work, not the other way around. Without doubt, selecting ShoreTel was absolutely the right decision. We wanted a solid basic phone system, but got so much more with ShoreTel—it’s been the star of the show.”

“EVERYONE HAS FOUND THE SHORETEL SYSTEM EASY TO USE BECAUSE IT ADAPTS TO THE WAY WE WORK, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. WITHOUT A DOUBT, SELECTING SHORETEL WAS ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT DECISION.”

CHALLENGE:

  • Idyllwild Arts Academy was throwing good money after bad trying to keep its aging phone system alive. To ensure effective communications among parents, teachers, students, and staff, the school needed a highly available, modern IP telephony system.

SOLUTION:

  • The Idyllwild Arts Academy chose the ShoreTel Unified Communications (UC) system, deploying ShoreTel Voice Switches throughout its 70-building campus, almost 70 ShorePhone IP Telephones, and more than 400 analog phones for student dormitories.

BENEFITS:

  • Estimated savings of 75 percent
  • Customized applications for emergency response
  • Ease of management, eliminating many IT hours
  • Streamlined communications among all parties