You probably won't be surprised that schools are moving to the cloud, just like everyone else. For example, I just received the invite to the new comprehensive student/parent extranet from my kid’s school district, and I have to say, the thing is pretty impressive. It manages class registration, grades, conversations with faculty and administrators, access to a comprehensive knowledge base about the school, college application best practices, everything about my kid's academic progress and more. The next big push will be getting all the teachers to start using the same web publishing platform for day-to-day management of their classes. All this got me thinking about what is happening on the telecommunications side of things and what the benefits are for schools looking to move their communications to the cloud.
4 Reasons Why Hosted PBX / VoIP Phone Systems Make Sense for Schools
The primary focus of school districts when it comes to cloud communications is telephony, and building a business case for deploying a cloud PBX in a school system is pretty straightforward. Here are a few ways in which going with hosted VoIP delivers value.
Ease of Deployment and Administration
According to Brad Nichols, a Channel Manager at Hosted PBX / Hosted UC vendor ANPI who specializes in working with K-12 school districts, moving to a cloud-based PBX provides schools with a solution that is significantly easier to manage. “A Hosted PBX with an intuitive web interface allows school administrators to easily manage all schools and locations from a single website,” says Nichols. “It also allows end users to manage their own voicemail and set up preferences. This results in a huge time savings for system admins, not to mention the elimination of a bunch of PBX’s stuffed into closets throughout the district that would otherwise need to be managed, maintained and upgraded.”
Another major benefit for schools is the ease and speed with which Cloud PBX systems can be deployed. By doing some legwork upfront, determining the number and types of phones that are needed in each location and classroom and preparing your calling plan, phones can be pre-programmed and shipped ready to work as soon as they are plugged in.
Scalability / Flexibility / Redundancy
“For a number of school systems I work with, employee turnover is a big issue,” says Nichols. “Having the flexibility to turn up new employees, or tear down old user profiles from a central location is a key benefit.” Another capability that schools appreciate is the ability to easily setup multiple auto attendants at each location. For example, if there is a snow day, or a school loses power, the school needs to change the way incoming calls are handled, even if they can’t get to the school. In the case of a hosted PBX system, as long as you can get to the web portal (even on your phone), it takes a couple of seconds to update the auto attendant.
With most properly vetted hosted PBX providers schools should also expect a high-level of redundancy and availability with a cloud-based solution. To ensure the solution you deploy will allow you to sleep at night, be sure your service provider has multiple data centers, ideally is built on a backbone that leverages multiple carriers and delivers a high-level of security (remember, communications are now going over an IP network) with Session Border Controllers.
Financial Benefits of Hosted VoIP for Schools
I don’t know about your town, but our school system budget is always stretched way too thin. Big capital projects, like telephony system replacement, don’t go over very big. According to Nichols, “Being able to look at a new phone system as an OpEx expense instead of a CapEx is a huge bonus for many school districts. Not only is being able to pay for the system out of the monthly operating budget a big deal, but the capital expenditures are generally eliminated or limited to just new phones.”
Dig Deeper: Download Monetizing the Move to Hosted Communications
With hosted VoIP, schools can also expect to have unlimited inbound / outbound and local / long distance, not to mention enhanced features like voicemail to email or voicemail to text as well as many others. Since many Hosted PBX vendors are offering UCaaS solutions as well, being able to enhance services to include things like web and video conferencing is as easy as upgrading your plan.
The Feds Want to Help Pay with E-Rate
Another key consideration when it comes to moving to Hosted PBX, is that schools can now take advantage of E-Rate (a federal program that provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access) for cloud PBX solutions. With the recent E-Rate Modernization order, hosted VoIP solutions are an even more appealing option for schools as funding for traditional telephone services is being ramped down over the next several years.
For more information on E-Rate visit the Univeral Services Adminstrative Services webpage. Where does your school district stand? Are you moving telecommunications to the cloud? Need help with the process? Let us know in the comment section.