School gets lesson in unified communications

Melbourne Grammar School has flicked the switch on a new IP-based phone system and wireless network.

The school is spread over four geographically diverse campuses, so maintaining a distributed legacy PABX system for 350 staff was a daunting task.

Sue Lines, director of information technology at Melbourne Grammar, said the school's new Cisco Unified Communications for IP telephony system allows the IT team to monitor and administrate the IP phone system and wireless networking from a single location.

Now, teachers at the school can move between staffrooms and classrooms, plugging their phone into powered Ethernet ports provided by Cisco power-over-Ethernet switches. "It's made a tremendous difference to us that once someone is given an extension number, they keep it. They simply move their phone with them," she said.

Lines said the conversion from the previous PABX and 3Com wired and 802.11b Ethernet systems started in December 2003. The Cisco IP core replaced four ageing PABX machines and replication of the service and integration of the voicemail-to-e-mail system took 18 months.

IP telephony benefits were immediate, Lines said. Previously, local call costs were incurred when calls were made to another campus. "Now it costs nothing." Additionally, all calls placed to the school are now routed through a single phone number, where previously there had been several.

About 1300 students and 200 staff regularly access the school network via wireless networking adapters. As the IP telephony was rolled out, work began simultaneously on transitioning from 3Com wireless to Cisco wireless technology and installing a Cisco Wireless LAN Solution Engine server server, allowing central management.

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