Yet another addition to our cloud-holdings…
Our campus was a normal wired campus. We had all ES classrooms wired to have a phone, as well as all administrative offices. MS and HS classrooms did not have a phone, and this presented a safety issue should one of the students need assistance. After some time investigating whether it made sense to take advantage of the already existing networking cabling in all classroom and add a Cisco IP telephone system on top of it, it became clear this would be a very pricey solution. I love Cisco’s IP telephone system, but frankly it is a bit much for a school our size and with our basic communications needs.
I had seen a system in Mexico some years ago that allowed many flexible options to be configured online via the Telmex configuration application online. It looked great, but at the time it was not mature enough to contract where I was working. Vodafone came to us last spring showing us a system very similar where all phones are regular office-type telephone sets with one major difference; the have a SIM instead of cabling. In essence the whole system is a set of mobile phones which look like regular office phones. All they really need is an electrical outlet to ensure the battery is charged, while the connection is via 2/3G.
Since this past summer we’ve been using Vodafone’s system, and it has proven to be the best solution given our across-the-street expansion project and our mobile administrative staff. A virtual network is set up where all our phones are interconnected. Calls from one of our school-owned lines to another school-owned phone cost fractions of pennies, and local land-line calls are also very low cost. Calls from our phones to other mobile phones get a preferential fee, thus making our system much cheaper than running our old traditional wired phone system with about half the phone lines available. Now we are paying a much less for about 3-times the amount of phones on campus, since all our MS and HS classrooms and all additional administrative offices are now connected by this system. Our administrative team have smartphones. The great thing about this is that office staff need only dial a three-digit extension to reach them as all phones either have a short three-digit extension along with their normal “long” mobile phone number. So parents do not call phones inside classrooms, whenever an outgoing call is placed using a classroom telephone out school phone number is shown in the caller ID information. Roaming, outgoing, incoming, SMS, internet, extension number and a number of other configuration options can be manipulated online. Billing is also handled online. When summer comes, we’ll go online to disable all phones in classrooms that will not be in use, just to be sure we’re not leaving the system open.
One of the major drawbacks, as with any cell phone, is that some times we get hit with bad reception and calls may be dropped. It is not a major issue, but it does get frustrating. Vodafone is carrying out a site-study to ensure we are enough capacity in our area for the number of phones we are using day-to-day.
In all, I am very pleased with the system.