Oxnard Union High School District serves eight high schools and 17,000 students across three cities in central California. The district wanted to replace its private-branch exchange system with a more sophisticated communications solution that also included voice over IP. After considering solutions from vendors such as Cisco, Oxnard Union worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Dell to deploy a communications solution from Microsoft to provide presence, instant messaging, enterprise voice, conferencing, and voice mail for employees. It recently decided to upgrade its solution by deploying Microsoft Lync Server 2010 to take advantage of enhanced ad hoc collaboration and online meeting capabilities, more flexible architecture and hardware options, and emergency service access, which will help Oxnard Union continue to reduce costs and improve communication across the district.Situation
Founded in 1901, Oxnard Union High School District provides educational services for 17,000 high school students across eight schools in three cities. The school district’s 2,000 employees, which include faculty and administrative staff, work closely with parents, students, and the larger community to assure a relevant education for all students to meet their personal objectives, prepare them for successful careers, and to help them become productive citizens.
The IT team at Oxnard Union wanted to provide more advanced technology to help district employees collaborate better with each other and with parents. For voice communication, the school district relied on a Verizon private-branch exchange (PBX) telephony system. When parents called the school, they reached the front desk, where a receptionist would typically take a message to put in the teacher’s mailbox. Teachers would return calls during their free periods or after school.
||By connecting Lync Server to the PSTN through SIP trunking, we will save an additional $20,000 a year. That’s a total of $160,000 a year we save across the district.
Director of IT Services, Oxnard Union High School District
The school district had deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 to provide email messaging. Staff managed email through the Microsoft Office Outlook messaging and collaboration client, and teachers managed their email through Outlook Web App on any computer with a broadband connection. Although the addition of email made it easier for people to communicate, the IT team still wanted to provide more sophisticated communication technology that included voice over IP capabilities. “Technology is the foundation of everything now,” says Puneet Sharma, Director of IT Services at Oxnard Union High School District. “If you do not have it, you will not survive.”
Oxnard Union looked at solutions from vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, and Nortel, but ultimately it decided to deploy Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to provide presence, instant messaging, conferencing, and enterprise voice capabilities for its 2,000 employees. The real driver for Oxnard Union was presence, which the other vendors did not offer. “Presence information truly unifies communication,” says Sharma. “Microsoft has completely changed how people communicate. Companies like Cisco and Avaya need to rethink their strategies.”
The school district worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Dell to deploy Office Communications Server 2007 R2 in an enterprise configuration at its main data center. To enable federation with external parties, Oxnard Union deployed two edge servers. It also deployed Exchange Unified Messaging so employees could receive and manage voice-mail messages through Outlook or Outlook Web App. To allow teachers from different schools across the district to have group chat sessions, it also deployed a Group Chat server. Group Chat also enables Oxnard Union to save chats and to meet requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act.
To provide enterprise voice, Oxnard Union and Dell used Mediation Servers connected Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) across primary rate interface (PRI) channels. Each school also has a Mediation Server connected to the PBX to provide public announcements. Now faculty and staff can call other schools in the district for no charge. The school district also reduced some of its long distance charges because they can call federated partners like Microsoft and Dell at no cost. “We were spending approximately [U.S.]$200,000 a year for our phone service,” says Sharma. “We were able to save about $140,000 a year with Office Communications Server.”
“The deployment has been a success because we managed the change and focused on training,” explains Sharma. Instead of having face-to-face meetings, employees across the district started using Group Chat or holding web conferences through Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2007. Math teachers from different schools use Group Chat to review lesson plans and strategies for classroom activities. Administrative staff uses Office Live Meeting to hold regular monthly meetings instead of traveling to meet at a central location. Faculty and staff also use desktop sharing to share and discuss presentations and other documents.
With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, all teachers have their own phone numbers, so parents can contact them or leave voice mail directly. If a call for a teacher comes to the front desk, the receptionist can see the teacher’s presence information and send an instant message about the call. Teachers use Outlook Web App to check voice mail, and because of the interoperation between Exchange Server and Office Communications Server, teachers can return calls directly or send an email to reply to the parent. The district also enabled the Auto Attendant feature, so people can use voice commands to transfer calls between departments or route calls to someone’s voice mail more easily.
The school district kept its PBX in place and used additional gateways to route emergency calls through its analog phone lines. It also uses the PBX for public announcement functions at each school. To further reduce costs, Oxnard Union wanted to provide emergency service through enterprise voice. It also wanted to provide better redundancy for schools in case of a network outage.Solution
To provide access to emergency service and redundancy of its communications solution across the school district, Oxnard Union decided to deploy Microsoft Lync Server 2010. Lync Server provides enhanced versions of the communications capabilities provided by Office Communications Server 2007 R2—presence, instant messaging, robust conferencing, and enterprise voice—as well as improvements in topology, deployment, and management tools. It deployed a pilot for 700 employees, and it plans to move all 2,000 employees to Lync Server in 2011.
||Presence information truly unifies communication. Microsoft has completely changed how people communicate. Companies like Cisco and Avaya need to rethink their strategies.
Director of IT Services, Oxnard Union High School District
Because of the more flexible architecture of Lync Server, Oxnard Union plans to virtualize its Monitoring, Archiving, and Group Chat servers. To connect Lync Server to the PSTN for voice communication, the school district will use a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking solution from Global Crossing. The configuration will include a Dialogic Border Net 500 session border controller to provide an inline termination point on-premises at the main data center.
Oxnard Union also evaluated an AudioCodes survivable branch appliance (SBA), which is based on cost-effective media gateways hosting the Microsoft Survivable Branch Appliance software package. The SBA provides a PSTN connection that continues to provide communications capabilities in the event of wide-area network failure. The school district plans to deploy an SBA at each high school in the district for redundancy. “We have a point-to-point managed network between schools now. If we lose a broadband connection, the school loses everything,” says Sharma. “With the SBA in place, schools will no longer experience an outage.”
In addition to the LG-Nortel IP8540 and Snom 300 phones the district has deployed in offices and classrooms, the school district is evaluating other hardware solutions optimized for Lync Server, such as the Polycom CX500 IP common area phone. With the CX500, faculty can easily log on to access their contacts and see presence information. They do not have to have their laptops with them in the classroom; they can place a call from any common area phone. “We plan to deploy the CX500 in all of our classrooms,” says Sharma. “They are much more practical for teachers because they cannot wear headsets or be tied to their computers while they are teaching.” Administrative staff is evaluating Plantronics Voyager PRO headsets, in addition to Microsoft LifeCam HD Cinema cameras for video conferencing.
Employees are happy with Microsoft Lync 2010, which has a unified client interface that makes it easy to access ad hoc collaboration and online meeting capabilities with a single click. Employees also like the Rich Contact Card, because they can see people’s pictures, in addition to organizational and contact information. School district administrators especially like that they can switch modes of communication—for example, from the desktop phone to the computer—easily without ending or dropping a call.
With Lync Server, Oxnard Union can also provide access to emergency service in accordance with federal regulations. “We were able to provide everyone’s correct address so all calls route to the correct police department,” says Sharma.
The school district’s IT team also likes the flexible management features in Lync Server. With the Topology Builder, they can quickly define all the parameters required to design a new installation. Topology Builder then communicates with the servers to install the correct configuration. To automate repetitive tasks, or to add or edit user settings for groups, administrators can use the Windows PowerShell command-line interface. Administrators can use the web-based management console to access and manage the Lync Server deployment from any location, without the need to install administrative software. To better define help-desk and administration roles, administrators can use the role-based access control (RBAC) feature for more granular control over how they assign permissions.
As its next step, Oxnard Union plans to upgrade to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010 to take advantage of additional enhancements to the interoperation between the products. It will use Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to deploy Office 2010 and provide automatic update capability.Benefits
By deploying Lync Server 2010, Oxnard Union can provide access to emergency services and ensure better redundancy for its solution across the district. It can also continue to capitalize on the benefits it experienced with its Office Communications Server 2007 R2 deployment.
With Office Communications Server, Oxnard Union experienced substantial cost savings that it believes will continue with its Lync Server deployment. “By connecting Lync Server to the PSTN through SIP trunking, we will save an additional $20,000 a year,” explains Sharma. “That’s a total of $160,000 a year we save across the district.”
Oxnard Union can also provide more options for hardware at better price points for Lync Server. “Right now, we do not have phones in classrooms,” says Sharma. “The Polycom CX500 is a cost-effective way for us to provide a phone in every classroom.”Improved Districtwide Communication
With the unified Lync 2010 client, more employees are beginning to rely on the ad hoc collaboration and online meeting capabilities. They no longer have to switch applications to communicate with one another or with a group. “Because they can start a conference with one click, I can see people using conferencing more frequently than the Group Chat,” says Sharma.
Employees also feel more connected to their colleagues because of features like the Rich Contact Card. “They really like being able to see each other’s pictures,” says Sharma. “They think it makes things more personal, and it helps to build better relationships between people who work at different schools.”
Because they will have phones in the classroom, teachers will also have better access to other teachers, parents, or—if they need it—emergency services.
Microsoft Lync Server 2010
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 ushers in a new connected user experience that transforms every communication into an interaction that is more collaborative, and engaging; and that is accessible from anywhere. For IT, the benefits are equally powerful, with a highly secure and reliable communications system that works with existing tools and systems for easier management, lower cost of ownership, smoother deployment and migration, and greater choice and flexibility.
For more information about Microsoft Lync Server 2010, go to: For More Information
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