Hold the phone: A better technology for communication

Why now is the time to convert legacy phone systems to VoIP.

VoIP-phone-campusAs legacy phone systems reach their end-of-life stage, colleges and universities across the country continue to make the switch to VoIP. However, while the driving force for VoIP adoption is often based on the need to get rid of an old system, additional incentives for adopting VoIP include cost savings, better communication, and added security measures.

For example, many institutions have implemented networks that host a growing number of communications services for faculty and students, such as email integration, web conferencing, instant messaging and more.

Of course, the need to continually maintain and upgrade this infrastructure is taken into consideration when adding new technology. Making the switch to VoIP is becoming necessary, especially as older systems are no longer being supported. As time passes, obtaining replacement parts becomes more difficult, if not impossible.

“Our legacy system had the typical problem of parts only being available aftermarket,” said a representative from Casper College. “Also, we were running two systems simultaneously that did not allow for us to move forward without a longer-than-we-desired roll out. The whole system conversion was a financial decision, but we knew that [VoIP] offered more functionality.”

Not Just Because It’s Old

Additional incentives for adopting VoIP include cost savings and access to advanced feature sets. A survey by ACUTA found that the most frequently cited benefits of the VoIP network included: improved end-user features (46 percent), cost savings (31 percent) and overall network efficiency (23 percent).

For instance, VoIP systems provide an opportunity for campuses to eliminate outdated PBX systems, in part or altogether. This allows them to advance into full-featured phone services on existing network infrastructures, which streamlines maintenance and reduces operational costs.

By migrating phone service to the data networks that colleges and universities already maintain, institutions can take better advantage of that infrastructure while ensuring the reliability of those networks. This, in turn, benefits all of the IP services. Although traditional phone networks provide a level of reliability that IP networks have been hard-pressed to equal, the rich feature sets, along with affordability, present a more compelling argument for VoIP on campuses.

Campuses can benefit from free nationwide long-distance calls (a must-have for college students and faculty), as well as additional features such as mobility, email integration, call queues, conferencing and more.

Being on the Safe Side

VoIP also allows an institution to integrate phone service into its emergency notification plan, along with other network resources such as e-mail, text messaging, networked signs and alarms.

Also worth noting is that cell networks are often overloaded in emergency situations, and a VoIP phone system provides an institution with additional capacity (or bandwidth) to make and receive calls even if cell service is disrupted–a must-have for campus-wide emergency situations.

“Both the cost of wiring and maintaining a traditional PABX has historically been cost prohibitive for schools,” said a representative from Bialik College. “With heightened security risks, increasing demands from parents to communicate with teachers and the need to improve productivity, the model of limited voice capability in schools is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. As most schools adopt local area network (LAN) networks, the opportunity arises for schools to address these demands with VoIP.”

Future of VoIP

As data networks become increasingly reliable and high-speed networks approach ubiquity, the move toward VoIP will continue, with more institutions finding that the switch makes sense financially and technologically.

VoIP will likely see greater integration with student relationship management software, and voice calling within apps will become mainstream. VoIP is part of the much larger trend of Unified Communications (UC), which promises expanded feature sets and increased effectiveness of business communications in the coming years.

Whether it’s an international student needing to call home or faculty members with a campus-wide emergency on their hands, instant communication among staff, students and parents on campuses is vital. VoIP technology has quickly become the most flexible, affordable and integrative option for guaranteeing effective communication for educational institutions across the country.

Brian Ferguson is the Switchvox Product Marketing Manager for Digium, Inc.

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