Cost Savings Success Story: Idyllwild Arts Academy

Located in a remote forest setting, Idyllwild Arts Academy was throwing good money after bad trying to keep its aging phone system alive.  To ensure effective communications between parents, teachers, students and staff, the school needed a highly available, modern IP telephony system.  And Global CTI was just the partner to make it happen.

Spoiler Alert
• Estimated savings of approximately 75 percent over the previous Fujitsu system.

• Customized applications to control student phone use and ensure effective emergency response in this natural disaster-prone area.

• Ease of management, freeing valuable resources and enabling the IT staff to quickly respond to changing requirements.

• Productivity enhancing features that help streamline communications and ensure students stay connected to parents and teachers.

Idyllwild Arts Academy offers a disciplined college preparatory program for grades 9-12 and post-graduates, together with world-class training in creative writing, dance, film and video, interdisciplinary arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. The picturesque campus covers more than 207 acres of forest, and houses about 70 buildings, including classrooms, studios, theaters, offices, labs, dorm rooms and dining halls. It’s also fairly remote—more than two hours by car from the urban neighborhoods of Los Angeles and San Diego—which means that reliable and effective communications are vital for students, parents and staff.

As the school’s previous phone system reached its end of life and became increasingly expensive to run and maintain, IT director, Buck Little, decided to investigate options in IP telephony. Experience told him that in this rural setting, the IP network was more reliable than the aging phone wiring, and that the advanced communications capabilities available with an IP-based system, would help improve efficiency and safety at the school.

“Since we’re in an area that is susceptible to earthquakes, fires and even mudslides, we take emergency preparedness very seriously, and communications is a key part of that,” Mr Little said. “Not only was it becoming increasingly difficult to get parts for our old phone system, but the system simply didn’t offer the kinds of 911 and campus-friendly features, such as four-digit dialing and automated call distribution, that we need to stay connected across campus.”

ShoreTel Selected From a Cast of Leading Vendors

As part of the decision-making process, Mr Little requested proposals from Avaya, 3Com, and Cisco. After receiving a cold call from Ken Dever at Global CTI introducing him to the ShoreTel system, he was impressed with its pure IP-based architecture and ease of management, and included the ShoreTel UC system in his evaluation.

“We’re an IT department of two people, so the fact that the ShoreTel UC system did not require special skills or certifications for performing routine tasks was very attractive,” Mr Little explained. “We wanted to be able to manage the system ourselves, but the others we looked at seemed too complex. Support and service capabilities also were important considerations—we need fast and responsive service, and felt confident that Global CTI and ShoreTel would be there when we need them.”

After carefully analyzing ShoreTel’s low cost of ownership, Idyllwild’s CFO supported Mr Little’s recommendation to purchase a ShoreTel UC system, and the president and school board approved. The school purchased two ShoreGear® 90 voice switches, 18 ShoreGear 24 voice switches, and two ShoreGear T1 switches to support 64 ShorePhone® IP Telephones, and more than 408 analog phones throughout the dormitories and other buildings. The school has fiber optic cabling to most of the buildings, and installed power-over- Ethernet (PoE) switches in each building with IP telephones.

“Some members of our staff were a little nervous about installing a whole new phone system, but the entire project went extremely smoothly,” Mr Little said. “Global CTI ran training classes and did such a thorough job that all our end-users are now raving about how easy it is to use. The custom application designed by the ShoreTel Professional Services team has also been very successful.”

Custom Applications Spotlight Safety and Discipline

At Idyllwild’s request, the Global CTI team designed a custom application that enables the school to turn off the students’ dorm room phones at predefined times. The previous system had electronic switches that actually disconnected the phones so that they were completely out of service during these hours and could not be used in the event of an emergency. The ShoreTel application provides a flexible time that prevents a phone from being shut off in the middle of a phone call, and streams a recording to alert students that the phones will be turned off.  The custom app prevented kids from making or receiving calls after bed time, but still allowed them to call the dorm master and 911.

“ShoreTel Professional Services delivered a solution that means calls can be placed to certain numbers, such as 911 in the event of an emergency, but are not available for general use during restricted hours,” Mr Little said. “This helps reduce late night distractions in the dorm rooms, while still ensuring everyone’s safety.”

In addition to this custom application, Idyllwild also deployed the ShoreTel E911 Integration Application that allows first responders and other allocated emergency and security personnel to see exactly where on campus the 911 call is coming from. “This application gives us the peace of mind that in the event of an emergency, we can get the right people to the right place as quickly as possible, and respond swiftly and effectively,” Mr Little said.

Idyllwild also is using the ShoreTel Paging Extensions application, which allows the headmaster to instantly broadcast security announcements to key administrative staff by dialing an extension. The page is heard through the speakers on the ShorePhone IP Telephones.

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