A Proof

By Matthew Kelly  |  Posted 2005-04-18 Print this article Print

-of-Concept Network Becomes Reality"> The first VOIP system was installed as a proof of concept at a new school building that opened in September 2000, Moreno said. Another new school followed suit in 2001, and in the 2002-2003 school year, Pendergast and Calence migrated 11 more sites to the network, including all the older schools and the school administration offices.

Moreno said the implementation itself was relatively straightforward. New schools were built with the VOIP network in place. Older schools had their data networks tweaked during summer and school breaks to accommodate the new voice traffic, but none required extensive new cabling or similar renovations.

Caring for thousands of students every day, Pendergast officials did have heightened concerns about making the network absolutely fail-safe in case of emergency. To that end, each school still has a traditional copper-wire connection for 911 service and an uninterruptible power supply in its telecom closet to provide at least 15 minutes of power in the event of a blackout.

"Calence put together a very solid solution in getting those items addressed," Moreno said. It did take several years of installing VOIP systems to understand the network operations fully, "but now were there," he said.

The next step for expanding the Pendergast network will be the various software applications it could add to the network—which, Moreno said, are overwhelming right now. "Were not fully implemented ... because there are so many people writing so many different tools," he said.

In September, the district will begin using the VOIP system to manage paging and bell ringing to change classes. Moreno said he is also exploring options such as an electronic hall pass (where one teacher can e-mail an alert to another that a student is on the way and the second teachers phone will flash a notice) or an automated caller to notify parents when a child has not shown up at school.

Moreno does use monitoring tools to ensure the district has sufficient bandwidth (all sites have T-1 connections), but he said he believes Pendergast has enough pipe size for now, especially since QOS prevents data backlogs from overwhelming voice traffic.

"Theyre nowhere near stressing the system [capacity]. ... They can certainly add additional servers into their clusters," Fink said. "They have several different options to scale up that should maintain the district for some time."

Moreno calculated that the district now saves at least $25,000 annually on repair and maintenance, since he no longer needs to hire pricey PBX technicians. Improved efficiency with voice mail, consolidated long-distance lines and future applications such as homework hot lines all validate his VOIP bet as well, he said.

But while the bells and whistles are nice, Moreno said, "that wasnt the initial drive in making the decision. What really made the decision was the ease of management—and I knew we wouldnt be able to manage it all right out of the chute. But it was the biggest factor."

Matthew Kelly is a freelance writer in Somerville, Mass. He can be reached at mkelly@mkcommunications.com.

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