Bristnall Hall Technology College deploys a cost-effective, easy-to-use telecommunications platform with Cisco Business Edition 3000.
Formed in 1929, Bristnall Hall Technology College is now a technology-based school primarily for children ages 11 through 16, with additional programs for children ages 16 through 19 and adults. The school specializes in design, information and communication technology (ICT), music, art, performing arts, and science. In 2006, Bristnall Hall became a member of the Cisco Networking Academy, offering IT training for network design, building, troubleshooting, and security.
Since its inception, Bristnall Hall has grown to have a staff of 174 and more than 1,000 students. Yet one thing that had not kept pace with this growth was the school's telephony system. Only about 25 percent of employees had phones in offices or classrooms, leaving the majority without convenient phone access or voicemail. The staff, therefore, relied on students for verbally communicating messages across the school grounds during classes. Needless to say, it was a less than ideal situation for teachers, students, and administrative staff.
As the only person on the college's five-member IT staff that focuses on telecommunications, Phillip Wakeman, ICT and network support manager at Bristnall Hall, would have gladly added more phones. However, handsets were no longer made for the school's previous analog system. Another detriment was the fact that licensing was done in blocks of 20, so it was costly to add individual lines. Plus, the handsets themselves were expensive. "The most basic handsets were over ₤200 or more," says Wakeman. "And they weren't very user friendly, so it seemed a bit of a waste."
Wakeman had looked for a new solution, but most were cost-prohibitive or difficult to install and manage. "We knew we needed an upgrade, but there wasn't any way to stretch our budget," says Wakeman. And, he adds, "None of the systems I looked at seemed easy to implement."
When Cisco partner, ConvergeOne, proposed a trial for Cisco Business Edition 3000, Wakeman immediately seized the opportunity to upgrade the school's aging phone system. Designed for growing medium-sized organizations, Cisco Business Edition 3000 offers a cost-effective communications platform that is quick to set up and easy to use. And as promised, Wakeman and team got the new system up and running in no time. "The set up and deployment of Business Edition 3000 was far easier and quicker than anything I've done before," he says. "It was literally just plug and play."
With Cisco Business Edition 3000, today all of Bristnall Hall's staff has a phone to use, not just a select portion. The college rolled out Cisco Unified IP Phones 8941and 8945, as well as the soft-phone application for employees who want deskphone functionality on their PCs. "The softphones have been very useful not only for our staff but for myself in IT," says Wakeman. "For instance, if I haven't got the cabling down to the point where I can provide a device, all I need to do is just install the software and a user has all the functionality of an IP phone right there on their desktop."
In addition to features such as extension mobility and an easily searchable phone directory, the Cisco Auto-Attendant is another useful feature for the Bristnall Hall team. Says Wakeman, "We have multiple people who work on our switchboard, and previously we had to pass around a digital handset. Now, everyone has the Cisco software on their machines and that's all they need to find a co-worker without having to call the receptionist."
No longer having to rely on students to relay messages across campus, the Bristnall Hall staff has significantly improved communications with Cisco Business Edition 3000. "For the 75 percent of our staff who did not have a phone previously, this has made a huge difference in how they perform their day-to-day jobs," says Wakeman. "They find the solution very easy to use and the best part is that anybody who needs phone and voicemail capabilities can now have them."
The new Cisco communication system also supports the school's energy conservation policies. "Our old analogue system would be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Wakeman. "But now, we can power off the devices when the school day is finished and save tremendous amounts of energy, and in turn cost."
These cost savings are further extended using Cisco Unified Border Element (CUBE) with Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking. "By migrating to SIP from our ISDN lines, we've been able to reduce our phone bills, as well as my administration time," says Wakeman. But perhaps the greatest value that Cisco Business Edition 3000 brings Wakeman is time for him to focus on more strategic IT directives. "With our new Cisco phone system, I probably save about five hours a week in what was previously spent on maintenance," he says. "I can now easily manage everything and still have time for tasks outside of telecommunications. Cisco Business Edition 3000 has made both my life and the lives of our staff easier."
Bristnall Hall is currently in the process of becoming an academy, which will allow it to offer free education with public funding. This process will require an upgrade of the school's systems, from firewalls and switching to everything on the network. "I'm looking at a full-swing upgrade, so I will definitely look to Cisco for help," says Wakeman. He is also exploring the use of video within Cisco Business Edition 3000 as a means for staff to deliver lessons remotely in the future.