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Posted: 6/15/2012
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Benenden School U.K. School Deploys Unified Communications Saving 40 Per Cent on Cost of New PBX

Leading United Kingdom (U.K.) girls school Benenden School needed to replace its private branch exchange (PBX) telephony system. Having considered offers from four different PBX vendors, the school chose Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Standard Edition for telephony and unified communications. The Microsoft solution cost 40 per cent less than any of the competing offerings. Plus, it is scalable, easily accommodating new accounts for staff and students.

Business Needs

Benenden School, founded in 1923, is one of the leading academic boarding schools for girls aged 11 to 18 years in the U.K. It ranks among its most famous alumni Anne, the Princess Royal. State-of-the-art information and communications technology are vital to the success of any school, and Benenden is no exception. Under Wade Nash, Head of IT Services, Benenden has invested in a range of Microsoft communication and collaboration technologies as well as Hyper-V virtualisation software and the Microsoft System Center suite of products.

However, one pressing challenge was to find a replacement for the existing Nortel Meridian Opt 11 PBX, which was reaching the end of its life cycle and provided 250 phones for 300 staff. With the completion of a new science building, which needed to be equipped with phones, the school had to step up its search for a suitable replacement solution.

Nash, who had previously worked in the telecommunications industry, says: “The system was no longer fit for purpose and it was difficult to acquire new licences for additional phones without upgrading the PBX. We wanted a new IP-based system that would drive the school forward for the next five to 10 years. From our research, we could see the potential additional benefits of unified communications, including presence awareness, instant messaging, and audio and videoconferencing.”

Initially, Benenden sought offers from four leading telephony vendors—Mitel, ShoreTel, Cisco, and Avaya—with the lowest quote being £115,000 (U.S.$185,000). Nash says: “We had heard that Microsoft was entering the PBX space with its Wave ‘14’ product suite as an extension of its Microsoft Office Communications Server technology. We wanted to find out more.”


Benenden took advice from Modality Systems, which specialises in custom software for unified communications and was Microsoft U.K. Lync Server Voice Partner of the Year in 2011. Nash says: “Modality Systems gave us the confidence to take the first step by carrying out a proof of concept with Microsoft Lync technology. The initial stage involved the IT department, facilities management, accounts, and the director of studies.”

After a successful pilot project, Benenden deployed Microsoft Lync Server 2010 alongside its Meridian PBX, subsequently replacing the existing system entirely. Among other supporting technologies, the solution uses Polycom and Snom phones, Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT), Network Equipment Technologies (NET) gateways, and the Quintum Tenor Analogue Gateway. Nash says: “I was surprised at how seamless the rollout was. The team worked with Modality Systems in overcoming complex issues and accommodating the specific needs of some of our users.”

Lync Server 2010 interoperates with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, and the Microsoft System Center suite. Benenden is also using Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway for added security.

Modality Systems ensured that during the deployment the PBX continued operating around the clock. It also played a major part in encouraging user adoption of the unified communications features in Lync Server 2010. Tom Arbuthnot, Development Team, Modality Systems, says: “The primary driver for most of the users was voice rather than new unified communications features. But the solution soon proved useful in many different ways—for example, through using Lync Server 2010 for governors’ meetings and to interview prospective new overseas staff, avoiding the need to travel.”


Benenden School deployed Lync Server 2010 to replace its existing PBX at 40 per cent less than the lowest quote from a PBX vendor. Staff rapidly adopted the unified communications features and now have a flexible and sustainable voice and collaboration infrastructure that can be extended to students. Knowledge transfer and support from an experienced Microsoft partner has ensured resilience and reduced the risk of downtime.

Lync Server 2010 offers value-for-money alternative to new PBX. The lowest quote for a PBX was £115,000, but Microsoft implemented Lync Server 2010 for £70,000—a saving of around 40 per cent, with most of those costs in consultancy and handsets. Nash says: “Benenden took advantage of free Lync Server 2010 licences through the Microsoft Schools Agreement. Effectively, we gave the school a new PBX with full unified communications at no extra cost.”

Unified communications features improve staff productivity. Teaching and administration staff are working more productively using the unified communications features in Lync Server 2010, especially staff who need to be mobile. Nash says: “We can set up interactive response groups to handle incoming calls and direct them to different groups of users. Individuals can divert calls to their mobiles while out of the office, making it easier to work more productively.”

Experienced partner adds value to the Lync Server 2010 solution. Modality Systems has successfully integrated Lync Server 2010 with the existing Microsoft technologies and delivered customised features, including support for the receipt of fax messages. “Without Modality Systems, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve our ambitions in such a short space of time,” says Nash.

Students in boarding accommodation will get Lync Server 2010. The next phase of development will involve boarding students getting access to Microsoft Lync through their computers and mobile devices, making around 1,000 licences in total. As a result, students’ accounts will be safeguarded against unwanted or inappropriate calls.

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 300 employees

Organization Profile

Benenden School, located in Kent in the United Kingdom, is among the leading academic boarding schools in the country. It educates 530 girls aged 11 to 18 years.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010
  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2
  • Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2
  • Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Vertical Industries
  • Education
  • Primary & Secondary Edu/ K-12

United Kingdom

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Corporate Software Licensing
  • Cost Containment
  • Identity and Security
  • Unified Communications
  • Support and Services

IT Issue
  • Personal Productivity
  • Product Lifecycle Management


Modality Systems