Scotch College, a K-12 school in Australia, strives to provide its students with the best learning environment possible. This involves providing employees with the best technology to do their jobs. As its telephone system began to age, the school began to evaluate options for a new communications system based on Internet Protocol (IP) telephony. The school deployed Microsoft® Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, the Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile client for Windows Mobile® phones, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging. The solution offers employees easy access to fast and cost-effective communications tools such as instant messaging and presence. School employees work together more efficiently and have improved the way they manage student information. By using the new solution, the school will also reduce mobile phone costs.
||Office Communications Server 2007 is an excellent product for reducing expenses while improving our communications.
Scotch College is one of the oldest private K-12 schools in Australia. Founded in 1851, the school has a combined student body of nearly 2,000 students at its junior and senior levels, including 160 boarding students. Based in Melbourne and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, Scotch College has a rigorous academic and athletic curriculum designed to prepare students for college. The school employs approximately 300 faculty and staff, including administrative, grounds, and maintenance personnel.
To help maintain the school's excellent reputation and to continue to attract high-quality students, the Scotch College IT department works hard to keep the school’s information technology current. This involves maintaining tight controls over costs while continually seeking to implement the latest and best technology. One area in which the school has particularly sought improvement is in its telecommunications capabilities.
By 2007, the school's Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system had become outdated. “We knew that we would have to get a new telephone system in the next few years, but we were concerned that replacing the traditional PBX system was going to be very expensive,” says Carlos Sinay, Network Engineer for Scotch College. The school wanted to move toward telecommunications based on Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, but was hesitant to do so based on experience with early adoption of IP technology in 2000.
“We tried IP-based phones back then,” says Sinay, “but the technology was not yet developed enough for daily use, so we shelved it. But by 2007, we felt that IP telephony had advanced a lot, so we began to lay the groundwork for an IP-based system, including installation of power-over-Ethernet equipment that could provide power to IP-based telephones.”
In addition to avoiding a costly upgrade of its PBX system, the school was looking for other ways to reduce its telecommunications costs. In particular, the school wanted to reduce the monthly charges that result from employee reliance on mobile phones for communication, such as by grounds and maintenance personnel who had no other way to keep in contact with the school’s main office.
The school uses a broad range of Microsoft® products and technologies for both its server computers and its employee workstations, and it maintains a strong local relationship with Microsoft. In early 2007, Scotch College decided to become an early adopter of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, a unified communications software client. The school’s IT department began deploying these products across the Scotch College campus in mid-2007, starting with the IT department and then rolling out the solution to all staff.
||Office Communications Server 2007 and Office OneNote 2007 provide a great way for teachers and administrators to record a lot of details about students and then flag issues for follow-up, with the voice conversation file tagged to the notes.
The goal was to provide employees with communications features such as instant messaging (IM) and presence information, and to offer access to these features from both workstations and mobile phones. Through presence, school employees would be able to easily identify colleagues who are available for immediate contact, along with the best or preferred method of contact. They also would be able to use IM for quick communication without having to pick up a telephone or wait for an e-mail response. With the Office Communicator 2007 client available on every PC, the school can now also provide each employee with his or her own phone extension, which was not possible in the past due to the cost of providing a telephone for every staff member.
IT staff deployed Office Communications Server 2007 at the school’s computer center along with a single Dialogic 2000 Media Gateway Series device. They installed the IP-communications system alongside the traditional PBX system to make possible a gradual removal of the older PBX technology. The school plans to add a second Dialogic gateway device later in 2008 for redundancy while the PBX system is phased out.
Scotch College also deployed an array of IP-based devices for its employees to use, including handsets and desktop phones made by LG-Nortel and Polycom, with the goal of gradually replacing all of the older PBX-based telephones with the IP devices. The IP-based phones run the Office Communicator software and allow users to take advantage of the features of Office Communications Server 2007, such as presence and being able to redirect calls to other phones or into voice mail. During the period when both IP-based and PBX devices are still used together, existing numbers will still ring to the older PBX-based telephones. Over time, however, the older phones will be phased out and the IP-based phones will be used for all incoming and outgoing calls.
The school is taking advantage of the easy integration between Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which it deployed in 2007, and Office Communications Server 2007 to provide employees with unified messaging capabilities. With unified messaging, employees can receive voice mails directly in their e-mail inboxes for convenient access from anywhere at any time.
The school is also using IP telephony together with the Microsoft Office OneNote® 2007 note-taking program, part of the Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 suite that the school already had in place. With the Office OneNote 2007, staff members can easily combine notes and audio files—for example, telephone conversations—within the same digital notebook file. The school is using this feature to improve the efficiency and organization of its student-related record keeping.
In conjunction with the rollout of Office Communications Server 2007, Scotch College also began deploying Windows Mobile® phones to replace some of its existing mobile phones. The new phones can be used for regular mobile phone service and are also equipped with Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile so that employees can use them to send and receive wireless data, such as instant messages and e-mail, through the school's communications network. This capability reduces the third-party telecommunications charges that result from mobile phone calls.
Scotch College achieved a number of benefits by choosing to deploy Office Communications Server 2007. The solution delivers powerful new communications features such as presence and instant messaging to school employees, helping faculty, administrative, and maintenance personnel to work together more efficiently. Integrated with existing tools, the new features are especially helpful to staff in keeping track of students' activities and progress. The solution is also helping the Scotch College to reduce costs while adding features such as IP-based phone extensions for every staff member.
Improved Communications for Staff
The school’s staff is able to work faster and more efficiently throughout the day by using the instant messaging and presence technologies that are part of Office Communications Server 2007. “The instant messaging feature of Office Communications Server 2007 is a really powerful tool for our staff members,” says Sinay. “It makes it much easier to communicate and to resolve questions and issues that occur throughout the day. For example, if someone in another building needs a printer driver, they can send me a quick instant message to let me know. I can respond just as quickly by simply attaching the driver in my IM response. It literally takes a matter of seconds and the task is done.”
||With the presence feature in Office Communications Server 2007, it’s so easy to let others know where you are and the best way to reach you, such as calling your mobile phone or sending an IM.
He adds that presence is an equally compelling feature. “We have multiple buildings on a 35-acre campus and people are moving around a lot. With the presence feature in Office Communications Server 2007, it’s so easy to let others know where you are and the best way to reach you, such as calling your mobile phone or sending an instant message.”
Luke Turner, Systems Administrator for Scotch College, says that the unified communications features provided by Office Communications Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 have been enormously helpful. “The integration of voice mail with e-mail in Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging is much more refined and easier to use than our old voice-mail system,” he says. “Staff members love the ability to use their phones, for example, to check the appointments on their calendar or to listen to voice-mail messages from their inbox. It provides enormous flexibility and is simple to use.”
Better Tools for Monitoring Students
The Scotch College staff is using Office Communications Server 2007 to improve the way it manages information about students. For example, teachers now frequently use instant messaging for brief conversations about the behavior, academic performance, or other information about specific students.
Turner says that the integration of voice over IP with Office OneNote 2007 has also turned into a powerful tool that helps faculty to keep more detailed records.
“It’s very easy to open Office OneNote 2007 during a phone conversation while making written notes,” says Turner. This is particularly helpful when a teacher is talking with a parent. “Office Communications Server 2007 and Office OneNote 2007 provide a great way for teachers and administrators to record a lot of details about students and then flag issues for follow-up, with the voice conversation file tagged to the notes.”
Enhanced Features to Cut Costs, Boost Productivity
The school’s deployment of Office Communications Server 2007 is also helping to cut costs, especially the expenses related to monthly telecommunications charges for mobile phone use.
“We anticipate that over the next year or two we will begin to see significant cost savings as Office Communications Server 2007 helps us to reduce mobile phone use,” says Sinay. “We have about 50 school-issued and maintained mobile phones, with at least 10 calls per day per user. If we can replace routine, daily mobile phone calls with calls made through the Office Communicator Mobile client, we can probably save about $50 a day.”
Productivity is also increasing because staff members have access to telephony features through their computers. “Because of Office Communications Server 2007 and the Office Communicator 2007 client, we can give every staff member his or her own extension number,” says Sinay. “That’s an improvement over the past, when we could not afford to give every single employee their own phone. With Office Communications Server 2007, we’re able to reduce our communications costs and actually add great features like instant messaging, presence, and a phone extension on every PC. Office Communications Server 2007 is an excellent product for reducing expenses while improving our communications.”
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Document published June 2008