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October 21, 2009

Idyllwild Arts Academy Cuts Phone Costs, Boosts Safety with ShoreTel UC Solutions

By Amy Tierney, TMCnet Web Editor

As businesses and consumers, alike, wait for signs of an economic recovery to appear, cost cutting measures still remain a priority for many. And that’s no exception for educational institutions.
In a move to lower infrastructure and administrative costs, school districts are turning to ShoreTel, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based provider of unified communications solutions, to retain their current levels of service without impacting programs.

For example, ShoreTel’s (News - Alert) UC system can help schools reduce the number of phone lines and eliminate expensive charges to have consultants move, add, or change lines. Beyond cost savings, schools can also gain improved reliability and new communications capabilities to help teachers and staff work more efficiently.
Idyllwild Arts Academy, a boarding high school for 265 students based in Idyllwild, Calif., sought ShoreTel’s help when it wanted to upgrade its aging phone system. The school, which is located in the remote San Bernadino National Forest, deployed ShoreTel’s ShoreGear Voice Switches throughout its 70-building campus. That included nearly 70 ShorePhone IP Telephones and more than 400 analog phones for student dorms.
“The school’s previous traditional phone system cost a lot to maintain and spare parts were becoming increasingly difficult to find,” Troy Parish, director of government and education programs for ShoreTel, told TMCnet in an interview. “The decision to move to voice over IP not only enabled [school officials] to reduce costs, but meant they could take advantage of new communications technologies.”
ShoreTel, a provider of pure IP unified communications solutions, has reported an uptick in the number of education institutions that have adopted its UC communications solutions in recent months. Schools nationwide are switching to ShoreTel to improve parent/teacher communication and to enhancesecurity and safety for faculty and students. But most importantly educational facilities are deploying ShoreTel’s UC solutions to achieve economic efficiency “by doing more with less” and leverage inherent benefits of next generation, IP based technology, Parish said.
Buck Little, IT director at Idyllwild Arts Academy, said communications is a key part of the school’s emergency preparedness. Since the school is in an area susceptible to earthquakes, fires and even mudslides, officials needed a solution that offered 911 and other campus-friendly features, such as four-digit dialing and automated call distribution, to stay connected across campus.”
As part of the project, ShoreTel designed a custom application that lets school officials turn off students’ dorm room phones at predefined times. The previous phone system had electronic switches that disconnected the phones so they could not be used in an emergency. But with the ShoreTel’s application, a recording alerts students when the phones will be turned off during restricted hours, but keeps them operational if an emergency arises.
“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,” Little said. “This helps reduce late night distractions in the dorm rooms, while still ensuring everyone’s safety.”
“This level of flexibility is a huge benefit in an educational environment where both communication and discipline are important,” Parish said.
In addition, Idyllwild also deployed the ShoreTel E911 Integration Application, which lets first responders and other emergency personnel see exactly where on campus a 911 call originates.
The school is also using ShoreTel Paging Extensions application, which lets the headmaster to broadcast security announcements to administrative staff by dialing an extension. The page can be heard through the speakers on the ShorePhone IP Telephones, ShoreTel officials said.
Idyllwild is also powered with N+1 redundancy. That means if a ShoreGear Voice Switch fails or is isolated by a network fault, phones supported by that switch automatically port over to another voice switch at the site.
As a result of ShoreTel’s UC deployment, Idyllwild is spending close to 75 percent less than compared to their previous vendor, Little said.
 “We were paying $6,700 every quarter for priority service with the old system,” Little said. “Now we’re paying about $5,000 a year for a system that is so much richer in features and capabilities.”

Amy Tierney is a Web editor for TMCnet, covering unified communications, telepresence, IP communications industry trends and mobile technologies. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney

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