De La Salle College upgrades its PBX

Melbourne independent school De La Salle College has upgraded its technology infrastructure and is now enjoying cheaper calls and richer communications.

Founded in 1912, De La Salle College is a Catholic Independent school for boys in Melbourne, Victoria. The two-campus college, based in the suburb of Malvern, has approximately 1300 students. De La Salle College is a member of the Associated Catholic Colleges Victoria.

Stephen O'Shea, De La Salle College's business manager, project managed the upgrade from the existing Exicom GSX telephone system, which had become unreliable and, in the six months prior to the upgrade, required two resets.

All calls went through the main switchboard with no direct in-dial or voicemail. The process of relaying messages by placing handwritten notes in pigeon holes was inefficient and flawed. Sometimes, important messages, like a student missing an exam, would take 24 hours to reach a teacher, says O'Shea.

O'Shea identified several options for the college with a bolt-on voicemail solution or a whole new system the most obvious choices. Additionally, the new system could be VoIP or a conventional standalone telephony system. O'Shea decided that the college's needs were best served by a standalone system rather than upgrading the entire IT network to accommodate VoIP.

O'Shea undertook a rigorous review of telephony solutions, approaching eight of the major vendors in the marketplace.

De La Salle College decided on a Samsung OfficeServ system with the OfficeServ 7200 serving as the telecommunications backbone.

According to O'Shea, the installation and system launch at De La Salle College went seamlessly. A few weeks before installation, Samsung analysed the existing infrastructure across the two campuses to ensure the process would have minimal impact on business time. The company also reconfigured the college's wiring to a more logical and user-friendly format.

The on-site installation started on a Friday afternoon and was complete by midnight. Samsung provided a technician for the first day of operation, in case there were any problems. A trainer was also provided, to educate staff about the system's functions and features.

A key component of the college's new system is the voicemail to email function, which allows users to access and manage messages of various forms, including voicemails, faxes and emails, from an email inbox. New voicemail messages and faxes appear in the inbox and are identified in the email's subject field, eg, 'Voice message from Number 8542 8500'. Just like a standard email message, users click on the message to open the email, which provides a summary of information, including the time and date the message was received. The actual voicemail or fax is presented as a WAV or TIF file attachment.

Staff members without their own dedicated phone extensions can now access their individual voicemails through their virtual extensions. Individuals have the flexibility of accessing their messages from any telephone - on campus or off site - at a time that is convenient to them.

"Voicemail has streamlined our external and internal communication processes. There's just less mucking around," adds O'Shea.

A GSM interface means the cost of calls from fixed line to mobile are significantly reduced, regardless of whether the individuals are on campus or off site.

"The GSM interface is saving the college approximately $1000 per month in mobile phone expenses during busy periods and at least $200 to $300 during the quieter months," O'Shea says.

Management software was also provided so that staff at the school could easily make changes to the system without delays or having to rely on technical support.

"We're not dependent on a third party," O'Shea says.

An extra order was placed for the included headsets, which were well received by a number of staff. The college's IT manager is also in contact with Samsung to learn how to do various tasks, such as adjusting the time across the network when daylight saving changes.

Examples of new efficiencies include the improvement in coordinating work experience placements as providers now have direct access to the college's careers coordinator. Similarly, a separate virtual voicemail line has been established to receive absentee messages. During the peak morning time, this ensures the switchboard is not overloaded, and important and emergency calls can be received and addressed.

Also, six voice lines and two fax lines were converted to eight pure voice lines during the installation, which allows for better network usage during peak periods. The ability to use extra telephones in the reception means telephone answering responsibilities can be shared during peak periods, cultivating better teamwork at the college.

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