Why you should move to a cloud-based school telephone system.

November 9, 2016
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best phone systems for schools - cloud telphony

Many schools across the UK have outgrown their on premise telephony systems and are running piecemeal infrastructures that have become antiquated and outdated. At the same time, many schools do not consider an upgrade because of cost concerns and lack of awareness regarding the advantages of migrating to a cloud telephony solution.

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Are you struggling with any of the following telephony issues?

  • Maintenance problems due to an ailing communications system.
  • Difficulty finding the skills and funding the expertise necessary to maintain legacy systems.
  • Costly repairs and extended downtimes.
  • Problems with locating replacement parts as necessary.
  • Complexities associated with adding new users to the system.
  • Fear of system failure caused by an outdated on premise PBX system.
  • Difficulty with on premise system modifications as school productivity needs fluctuate.
  • Communication problems that result from multiple on premise PBX systems spread across several school building locations.
  • Rising costs of maintaining on premise PBX telephony systems.

If any of the above issues sound familiar, then this article aims to assist teachers, Business Managers and ICT managers with learning more about the advantages of switching to a cloud-based telephony solution.

We will also discuss the different ways that cloud telephony can help you overcome a few or all of the above named issues and create unified communications across the board. This is accomplished using a solution that is both cost-effective and future proof.

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Some interesting school telephony stats.

According to recent industry statistics published by Vonage UK:

  1. “There are 7.5 million children in full time state education, with over a million more in the private sector.”
  2. “There are three million adults in higher education and around 400,000 staff, who all need to stay in touch.”
  3. “One call per student and staff member per year means around ten million phone calls that need to be answered or dealt with.”

These industry statistics point towards technology trends that require modern capabilities such as mobile productivity, office and classroom application integration, video conferencing, the need for 24/7 support, unified communications, advanced productivity features, and access to the latest upgrades that help to future proof your telephony solution.

New requirements for daily school operations demand new technologies and services that an obsolete on-premise telephony system is not designed to handle. This places limitations on your school in terms of what you can do when it comes to acquiring new technologies that meet increasing school productivity demands while keeping implementation costs within the budget.

The good news is, there are many advantages for moving telephony to the cloud for education.

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8 reasons to move your school telephone system to the cloud.

1. Unified Communications.

Most schools that continue to run an on premise PBX telephony system typically have a piecemeal infrastructure made up of multiple hardware and communication devices. The devices may include third party fax machines, conferencing systems, hardware configurations, IT resources, and more. As a result, your school most likely has to deal with multiple vendors and separate payments for each feature.

By using cloud-based telephony, you can integrate all facets of school communications into one system. The end result provides you with access to all of the advanced features such as videoconferencing, voice and voicemail, faxing, online meetings and SMS, in addition to a host of many other features such as school office applications that can be customized to meet your specific educational requirements.

2. Reduced ISDN Costs.

 BT, a major broadband provider in the UK says:

“We have set a target date to phase out ISDN by 2025. With the rise of broadband and superfast fibre connections ISDN is now no longer required to route multiple phone calls. The majority of schools we speak to already have ISDN with some schools paying in excess of £200 per month for ISDN channels alone.

Additionally schools will typically be paying for at least one additional physical analogue which is utilized for fax. With school VoIP none of this is required, representing an immediate opportunity to cut costs as well as migrate away from ISDN before the deadline.”

The fact that your school telephony is routed over an Internet connection means that you can eliminate the excessive costs associated with ISDN lines.

3. Lower Total Cost of Ownership.

If your school is trying to maintain and support an outdated on premise PBX system across multiple buildings or even a single building, this can prove to be quite costly. Legacy PBX systems tend to be a piecemeal of different parts.  When it is spread across multiple locations, this represents a management and maintenance nightmare that can really add up in cost.

By moving telephony communications to the cloud, the entire solution can be managed from any location with the ability to easily scale up or down as needed.  The service is delivered and maintained on a subscription basis which means you only pay for what you use.  In some cases the subscription costs can be as low as £12 per month.

The entire telephony infrastructure is housed in a secure compliant datacenter where the cloud provider employs a staff of qualified professionals that provide 24/7 support. The telephony platform provides carrier-grade communication services that are future proof. The hosted cloud provider automatically implements the upgrades as they become available at no additional cost to your subscription.

4. Improved Access to Readily Available IT Support.

When you move your school telephony to the cloud, the cloud services provider is fully responsible for overseeing all management and administration. Plus, if you require any changes to the configuration, this is included in your subscription price and can be performed at a moment’s notice.

5. Flexibility and Scalability.

It is really hard to predict what your school needs will be a few years down the road. As a result, many schools with outdated on premise PBX systems have unused technology and IT resources in preparation for future educational requirements and expansion.  This typically ties up budget money that can otherwise be used for important education initiatives.

When you use a cloud-based solution, you can add or subtract staff, features, and tools as your needs change and accommodate mobility and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Plus, you do not have to wait forever for the changes to be completed. Instead, the hosted provider simply performs the changes using a unified dashboard.

6. Lower Calling Costs.

Many of the cloud telephony providers offer free telephone calling for schools.  If there is a charge for premium numbers, this is typically quite reasonable at approximately 1.0p per minute for landline calls and a little more for mobile calls.  Additionally, most cloud telephony providers offer free internal calling as well as free calls from one site to another. This represents a great opportunity for schools to significantly reduce their monthly telephone bills.

7. High Availability.

If you are using an on premise legacy PBX system, you are probably dreading the day something breaks and the whole system goes down.  This is a significant worry to have when running critical daily school operations. By moving your school telephony to the cloud, service continuity is the vendor’s responsibility.  A 99.9% uptime guarantee typically is included in your Service Level Agreement (SLA).

8. Improved Disaster Recovery and System Failover.

If you have an on premise legacy PBX system spread across one or several locations, then you know this can be a recipe for a catastrophe when it comes to disaster recovery. It can even cause significant damage to school operations if the outage lasts for several days. When you use cloud-based telephony, the vendor is responsible for business continuity and deploys redundant IT resources to ensure effective system failover and rapid recovery. The strategy they use for disaster recovery is part of their ISO compliance certification which results from regular datacenter audits.

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Cloud Telephony features and technologies.

Outdated on premise PBX systems offer a selection of features but, they are also limited when it comes to integrating additional features and capabilities required to meet the needs of today’s schools. By moving school communications to the cloud, you have access to a large selection of features and enhancements without the excessive costs to upgrade.

Some of the features include:

Continuity of existing phone numbers.

Although you are moving your existing telephony infrastructure to the cloud, you can still use your existing phone numbers.  This saves time and money when it comes to phone directories, school business stationery, assigning new phone numbers, and more.

Call Transfer and Caller ID.

Cloud telephony systems provide advanced call transfer and forwarding features that allow you to send and receive calls from anywhere using any type of device. Additionally, you can enjoy convenience features such as caller ID, call blocking, conference calling, and more.

Call reporting and recording.

Cloud-based telephony systems are capable of delivering call reporting and recording.  This ensures you never miss a call and provides you with a useful reference for reviewing previous messages.

Call reporting enables you to easily generate reports using customized templates, add custom information to data elements, drill down for additional report specifics, and more. Plus, call recording allows all calls to be recorded, retrieved, and then downloaded. This is particularly useful if your school is required to maintain records and documentation for specific reasons.

Detailed call search.

You can access a broad range of call handling features including detailed call search using the web based software portal. The dashboard provides you with tools that allow you to easily search voicemail messages, call recordings, and call history. This saves time searching through hundreds of phone records to locate the information you need. The settings can also be customized to allow you to handle calls according to your preferences providing more flexibility and personalization.

Shared voicemail.

Cloud-based VoIP telephony provides you with advanced features such as shared voicemail.  This feature allows you to easily share voicemail messages with other team members simply by configuring the dashboard tools to automatically designate the recipients.  This prevents any headaches with miscommunication and makes collaboration easier and more productive.

Quick calling.

Quick calling allows you to rapidly dial someone using their name by configuring the central calling directory on the dashboard.  This includes using extension dialing to place a call to a colleague simply by using their extension number. Quick calling also provides a way to contact a large group of people simultaneously. This provides improved efficiency and communication during school emergencies and other events.

Live stats wallboard.

Access statistics that summarize all daily and weekly call activity, monthly activity, or across an entire year. You can also easily filter the results by configuring dashboard variables that allow you to view only the specific statistics you want to see.  The variables can be dynamically modified or set within the configuration tool.

School address books.

Cloud-based telephony provides you with shared access to school address books.  This feature allows everyone to easily communicate regardless of location. It also saves time when searching for a specific contact thanks to the unification of school addresses stored in one central location.

Holding music.

Cloud-based telephony systems can provide your school with a professional touch.  Using the dashboard, each user can set call waiting with holding music or school announcements while the caller waits for a response.

Call queuing.

Cloud-based telephony systems offer call queuing which allows you to receive multiple calls and answer them in the order they are received.  The calls are automatically distributed to the appropriate department and next available staff member after they complete a current call.  Call queuing also makes it easier for your callers to access the telephone services they need before being automatically forwarded to the appropriate department.

Hunt and reporting groups.

Cloud-based telephony services offer a hunt and reporting group feature that allows for the distribution of phone calls from one destination number to multiple groups or phone lines. This feature automatically routes incoming calls as soon as they are answered by an IP telephony system. When an incoming phone call is received on the extension number for the hunt group, the cloud-telephony platform automatically rings all extension numbers included in the group.

Fax to email.

Cloud telephony services provide a feature known as fax to email.  Whenever a fax is received, it is automatically placed in your email account in PDF format for easy access and viewing.  Cloud-based telephony also provides a similar service known as voice to email where voice messages are automatically transferred to your email account.

Mobile communications.

Staff members that use mobile devices for daily productivity can take their school extension with them wherever they go.  This improves mobility and ensures you never miss an important call.  The calls are automatically transferred to the designated device without requiring the caller to dial another number.

High definition web conferencing.

With cloud-based telephony you have access to HD web conferencing which offers a rich selection of features.  The service can be scaled up or down according to your school needs while the cloud provider supplies and maintains the solutions from various vendors such as Vidyo Cloud, Skype for Business, and others.

All communications are encrypted to protect sensitive school information and privacy. Plus, you can host online meetings and webinars for up to 10,000 people for the purpose of faculty and staff meetings, parent presentations, and more.

Cloud-based instant and in-app messaging.

Cloud telephony using an application such as Skype for Business provides you with instant access to colleagues without having to wait for them to retrieve a voicemail message or respond to an email.  The preference settings let others know the current status of your availability, allow you to share screens for collaboration, respond to multiple messages simultaneously, attach files to a conversation, and more. Although it is called Skype for Business, many schools use this app as well.

Cloud-based call analytics.

Cloud-based telephony services provide you with a centralized dashboard that allows you to easily view data and analytics in real-time.  The data can include employee performance and response, call activity, phone call statistics for specific times of the day or year, and more.  The dashboard can be used on both a desktop and a mobile device.

Cloud-based telephony provides better control.

Although cloud telephony is hosted on the provider’s platform in a datacenter, you still have better control over the system than you would with an on premise PBX solution.  With a cloud telephony system you can easily make changes using the central web interface and you no longer must be on the premises to manage the system. Any user can easily add an extension or number within seconds using the intuitive dashboard tools.

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Final thoughts.

Legacy on premise PBX systems are quickly becoming antiquated and are not designed for new technologies and the ever growing requirements for schools. This is the main driving force behind more schools making the switch to cloud-based telephony solutions.  Cloud telephony provides a cost effective way to bring a communication system into modern times with access to a rich set of features that would otherwise be costly and labor intensive to implement on the premises.

Cloud-based telephony systems help many schools curtail IT resources while quickly adapting to changing needs and educational requirements. The hosted services enhance collaboration, support mobility, reduce on premise IT infrastructure headaches, and improve productivity with easy integration of software solutions designed to increase efficiency.  All of this is accomplished without increasing IT expenditures, employing an entire staff of ICT professionals, managing security and compliance requirements, and shelling out costs for the latest upgrades and capabilities.

Don’t you think it is about time to start considering the switch to cloud-based communications to improve school productivity and empower your teachers and support staff with next generation technologies?

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 Cloud telephony for schools

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