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Poquoson City Public Schools Case Study

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Case Studies

Virginia school district implements ShoreTel UC to achieve lower TCO and improve communications

Trade up to modern telephony

Poquoson City Public Schools decided to investigate the use of Voice over IP (VoIP) to bring its phone systems into the 21st century. Deploy a unified platform across multiple locations

The Poquoson City Public Schools District includes four schools that serve more than 2,400 students. Each of the four schools employed a different phone system, some of which were upwards of 20 years old. The phones lacked basic features, which hampered the district’s ability to improve business communications with technology.

“Trying to dial out from a classroom was hit or miss — we had only a couple of phone lines available. About all you could do was dial room to room. They had jerry-rigged answering machines into the phone system to take messages when no one was there to answer the phones. We couldn’t do any administration internally. We had to find someone who had experience with a phone system that was rolled out 20-some-odd years ago,” explains Joshua Montalvo, IT director for Poquoson City Public Schools.

The school district worked with IPC Technologies and ShoreTel to construct a modern communications strategy. IPC is a leading IT solutions provider of consultancy, managed services, and training for organizations ranging from startup enterprises to Fortune 50 clients.

“At that time we were constructing a new elementary school, and selected IPC and ShoreTel to implement the phone system in that facility. I came on board with the school system that summer and worked with the IPC engineer in setting up the ShoreTel system. It was a quick and painless install — the engineer really knew what he was doing,” says Montalvo.

The district gives ShoreTel high marks

The school district selected a ShoreTel Unified Communications (UC) Solution because its unique distributed voice architecture and premises-based VoIP platform integrates voice, video, and data across any device to streamline collaboration and enhance productivity.

The ShoreTel platform delivers high reliability and lowest total cost of ownership, with a single communication system that is easily scalable. The system uses a solid-state switching technology and N+1 redundancy rather than typical servers to ensure rapid failover and 99.999% availability even during a wide-area network outage. This means that reliability is inherently built into the system.

To keep growing, the administrators can simply add more switches without the need for forklift upgrades. A single web-based interface, known as ShoreTel Director, manages voice applications and provides complete visibility across the entire system. Director can be accessed from anywhere on the network, displaying single-screen views with customizable alerts and graphics.

Instead of using separate systems for multiple PBX, voicemail, and automated attendant, ShoreTel enables an intuitive all-in-one approach that is easy to learn and manage. IT administrators can quickly handle moves, adds, and changes to the system, to free up resources and reduce cost. Director automatically recognizes and configures all ShoreTel IP Phones on the network, there by eliminating the need for manual setup or modification.

ShoreTel voice routing, automated attendant, unified messaging, workgroups, call accounting and reporting, and other advanced telephone features all come standard. Now when teachers need to call out from classrooms or parents are trying to reach a particular teacher, the ShoreTel system promptly routes calls based on customizable call-handling options. The days of ad hoc answering machines and spotty phone service at Poquoson have given way to collaborative in-house manageability and call consistency regardless of location.

“TRYING TO DIAL OUT FROM A CLASSROOM WAS HIT OR MISS — WE HAD ONLY A COUPLE OF PHONE LINES AVAILABLE. ABOUT ALL YOU COULD DO WAS DIAL ROOM TO ROOM. THEY HAD JERRY-RIGGED ANSWERING MACHINES INTO THE PHONE SYSTEM TO TAKE MESSAGES WHEN NO ONE WAS THERE TO ANSWER THE PHONES.”

Joshua Montalvo, IT Director
Poquoson City Public Schools

Putting technology at the head of the class

In addition to ShoreTel UC, the school system implemented a fiber-optic connection between two of the schools along with upgrading the whole network infrastructure. Poquoson City Public Schools also wanted to deploy a wireless network for Wi-Fi access at the schools. Again teaming with IPC to evaluate several wireless options, the district wanted to ensure ample coverage with no dead zones on school campuses.

IPC recommended Ruckus Wireless. Ruckus Wireless works with ShoreTel to extend the VoIP reach beyond the wired environments. The Ruckus appliance infrastructure connects via Ethernet switch to the ShoreTel platform, and uses the network’s Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol to activate access points and allocate wireless traffic.

“The Ruckus access points are amazing little devices. We have just 67 access points to cover our four schools and I have yet to come to a dead spot. That’s just amazing. Every other solution we looked at required closer to 100 access points to get what we wanted,” Montalvo mentions.

ShoreTel earns an easy A for advanced communications

Today, the Poquoson City Public School District has a highly reliable VoIP platform from ShoreTel with ample capacity to easily scale at a lower TCO than other solutions. No longer beholden to old and disparate phone systems, the school district has been able to reduce the cost of managing and maintaining communications, as well as improve staff productivity.

Schools are now equipped with modern call features for safer classrooms and better reachability. “IPC has been instrumental in helping us through this transition. They provided end-user training at our elementary and middle schools, and we used a ‘train the trainer’ program for our other two schools. Before we went live with the high school, we were able to roll out a working phone system so the teachers could become familiar with it,” Montalvo says.

“I CAME ON BOARD WITH THE SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT SUMMER AND WORKED WITH THE IPC ENGINEER IN SETTING UP THE SHORETEL SYSTEM. IT WAS A QUICK AND PAINLESS INSTALL — THE ENGINEER REALLY KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING.”

The ShoreTel UC Solution is easy to use and administer, and is always available. Montalvo credits the intuitive ShoreTel Web interface and the architecture’s distributed intelligence. Thanks to ShoreTel, Ruckus, and IPC, Poquoson City Public Schools now has a state-of-the-art communications system and wireless network to support its mission and vision.

CHALLENGE:

  • Poquoson City Public Schools had a different phone system for each of its four school sites, some of which were decades old and lacked 21st-century communications features. The district wanted to eliminate answering machines and spotty dial-out capabilities.

SOLUTION:

  • The school system chose a highly reliable VoIP platform from ShoreTel that would easily scale with growth and reduce telecommunications costs.

BENEFITS:

  • State-of-the-art communications system
  • More effective communications with parents and teachers
  • Faster and easier communications
  • Lower TCO