VoIP goes to school, gets mobile

Convergence is spreading beyond distributed enterprises and into education and mobile environments as organisations seek more efficient ways of communication.

This month Ivanhoe Grammar school in Melbourne will start using a new VoIP system between its Ridgeway and Plenty campuses as a result of an upgrade to its ageing infrastructure.

Ivanhoe Grammar systems administrator, Winston Mattson, said the school moved to a converged infrastructure to increase efficiency.

“Implementing voice over IP has enabled us to provide many more features to all our telephony users in a more cost-effective way than traditional PABX systems,” Mattson said. “The advantages are that our IT service department can manage adds, moves and changes without having to wait for contractors to come on site and make the changes, and inter-campus calls can be routed to run over our existing campus data link and infrastructure eliminating the cost of local calls.”

As well as the cost benefits, the school has reduced the number of incoming lines by centralising them at one site; the system has the functionality to centralise the answering point of the school’s main directory number, Mattson said.

“As the campuses expand, by providing staff with an IP phone [hardware or software phone] that will work over data cabling we reduce the cabling and infrastructure costs required in giving a staff member telephone access,” he said.

The school’s existing infrastructure consists HP ProCurve switches, a Nortel Option 11E PABX at the Ridgeway campus, and an Ericsson BCS150 PABX at the Plenty campus which Mattson described as more than 12 years old and not worth upgrading.

“After evaluating a number of traditional PABX and ‘IP-enabled’ PABX systems, we decided to replace the Ericsson with a Nortel Succession at the Plenty campus and install a Nortel Success CSE 1000 IP-PABX at the Ridgeway campus and to network all three systems,” he said.

“Many of our staff often work from common workspaces and don't have access to a conventional phone. Therefore, giving staff access to a soft phone with unified messaging makes sense. Also, with the nature of school, staff located in their own offices regularly change offices so providing them with an IP phone means that they can take their phone with them.”

With an existing Cisco converged infrastructure in place, Glass and aluminium manufacturer G. James is discovering the benefits of VoIP, on both cost-cutting and mobile phone fronts.

Technical services manager, David Moy, said cordless handsets lend themselves to a large plant environment.

“Our mobile phone bill is more than $50,000 a month so by communicating with 802.11b handsets we can reduce this,” Moy said.

“Through bypassing STD rates between interstate branches we have reduced the bill from around $190,000 a month to around $80,000. Voice does not require a high transfer rate and our Cisco switches can apply quality of service to wireless.”

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