After 22 years, the William & Mary campus is getting a new phone system. The aging PBX system had long been outdated, as service and parts were discontinued 15 years ago. We needed a phone system to handle the advanced communication needs of a modern college campus. The ShoreTel phone system answered this need, providing state-of-the-art technology to expand communication services and enhance functionality.
The fundamental change between the new and old phone system is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP means phone calls are transmitted via the network instead of an analog phone line; however, the new ShoreTel system goes well beyond basic phone calls. It leverages VoIP technology to provide a multitude of phone services. Incorporating a web-based platform called Communicator, it also integrates the phone service with your computer desktop, email, and calendar.
Check-out the 2011 Tech Review for stats related to the VoIP Phone project.
So what's new?
Notable features of the ShoreTel phone system include:
- Call notifications on your computer screen
- Conference calling for up to 3 outside lines
- FindMe mode to forward calls to your cell or home phone when you are away from your desk
- Features to manage a central office phone line
- Records retained of calls and messages (you can even export the list)
- Integrated voice and email services
- Location pinpointing technology for 911 emergency calls
Recovery time after a disaster is also minimized. Courtney Carpenter, IT's Chief Information Officer, referring to flood damage after Hurricane Irene in one of the campus residence halls, recently credited the network-based phone system for a quick recuperation. "We would not have recovered the old phone system. It would have been a nightmare to replace all the wiring," he said. "But all we had to do was connect the dorm to a network gateway and phones were up and running in a couple of hours."
Behind the scenes
The phone project was initiated in the summer of 2010, with work beginning in January of 2011. "We recognized the need to replace our aging PBX system several years ago" states Pete Kellogg, IT Director of Information Security and Project Management. "In part we were waiting for the technology to mature and for the cost to go down." Furthermore, before the new VoIP system could be implemented another large-scale project had to be completed: the campus network had to be upgraded.
The phone project is large, indeed. There are 11 IT staff members, an on-site ShoreTel representative, and a small army of student technicians actively involved in executing the project. Once the installation is complete, however, the support needed to maintain the VoIP system will be minimal. Kellogg explains, "VoIP is easier to support from an engineering perspective. The previous system required support from two on-site techs from a third party vendor. The new system will be supported by one engineer internal to William & Mary." This will result in significant year after year savings for the College from reduced operating costs.
The word on the street
The feedback we have received thus far about the new phone system has been quite positive. Here is what people are saying:
"I absolutely love the new phone system! I have only had it one full day and I just love it, love it, love it. I am impressed with what little I have done so far and I can't wait to see all the other features it can do! Thank you so much!" - Julie Hunt, Human Resources
"What I like most about the new phone system is the software package which allows us to program and manipulate data related to the phone. All the functions which can be done by touch on the phone can be done by mouse on my computer, except actually pick up the receiver to answer a call." - Bill Boyd, Admissions
"The new ShoreTel system has significantly improved my quality of life. Thank you!" - Kiersten Boyce, Office of Compliance and Policy
"I love the flexible features, but my fav so far is that I can be working on a spreadsheet and a little window pops up letting me know I have a call, giving me the option to answer or put to voicemail." - Lynne Mills, Financial Reporting
When do I get my new phone?
Almost all academic departments and administrative offices now have the new phones installed. There is a bit more work planned for January 2012 in residence halls and public areas around campus