modernizing campus communications

Modernizing Campus Communications From the Middle: It’s Complicated

IT organizations can begin shifting users to more collaborative communications environments that are less expensive to operate and maintain

College and university IT directors are increasingly finding themselves in a dilemma. They are trying to balance the high-tech aspirations of their students and staff without eclipsing the pace of change that the rest of the organization can assimilate. IT directors find themselves in that dreaded “middle-ground”, trying to make everyone happy with the real risk of everyone being unhappy instead. How do they create a cohesive strategy for campus communications, that pleases everyone, using a mix of new and legacy equipment that’s often strung together in piecemeal fashion? Plus, how do they do it in a manner that doesn’t require massive budget increases at a time when campus revenues have decreased?  

The COVID-19 pandemic forced every constituency, on and off campus, to adapt to new models of collaboration and communications. This dramatically reduced the friction that normally accompanies a campus-wide technology shift. It is the right time for IT organizations to harness that momentum to begin shifting users to more collaborative communications environments that are less expensive to operate and maintain.  

Nuts and bolts 

Today, most campuses are running large call control platforms, such as the Nortel SL-100 and CS2100, Avaya Aura, and Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM). These platforms often connect thousands of legacy devices that are interwoven into every piece of campus life—campus security, research laboratories, stadiums, medical facilities, and more. These systems deliver mission-critical communications across campus. At the same time, these call control systems are aging, both physically and technologically, and much of their value is being usurped by cloud-based solutions. 

The majority of call control platforms can easily migrate to a computer or mobile app with services from the cloud. However, there’s no way to place one of these legacy solutions in an elevator, on a pole in a parking lot, or in the operating room of campus hospital. The idea of simply turning these legacy systems off isn’t always viable from a business process or financial perspective. This leaves the IT director stuck in the middle, trying to get to the cloud to keep up with students and faculty that can hop on a video call in seconds.

Campuses need a “voice core” to move forward

If these scenarios sound familiar, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there is a solution. IT directors can deploy a vendor-neutral voice core that acts as a communications superhighway with a separate off-ramp for every system, old or new. This allows all the systems—whether on premises or in the cloud to plug in to the core system and communicate with each other, making it easier to integrate a variety of heterogeneous platforms. It also creates a common set of policies that applies to all systems, making it easier to move users from one system to another.  

The voice core gives IT directors a rational way to move users and systems as rapidly as possible to Teams, Zoom, or similar cloud collaboration platforms. As technology continues to progress and universities advance their digital transformation efforts, the ability to tie the old with the new becomes more important for IT managers looking to bridge the gap between technology generations. Voice core solutions are in the same precarious situation as IT managers: the middle. However, if IT managers unleash the full power that voice core technologies offer them to tie together old infrastructure with new technology, there is common ground to be found.  

To find out more about campus communications and technology solutions that meet the mission-critical demands of campus technology leaders, download our latest eBook, Communications Network Transformation in Education, or visit our website.

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