How K-12 Schools Use VoIP to Save Money

After the recent recession, many states have cut school funding. Even with a recovering economy, restoring funding to previous levels has been a slow process. IT leaders must demonstrate how certain technology investments can provide legitimate ways to help K-12 schools save money and improve effectiveness.

Given many educational institutions struggle to fund their daily operations, technology investments are often put on the back burner. However, deploying a voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution can actually lower costs, as well as provide a wide range of additional benefits. In other words, spending money can lead to saving money in the longer run.

Many K-12 schools are reducing the cost of communications with VoIP-based solutions. According to eSchool ews, an online resource center for educators, 54% of school IT executives said the top benefit of unified and VoIP communications was reducing operating costs. In addition, some K-12 schools are using these technologies to put a phone in every teacher’s classroom to improve security.

Voice services typically include Hosted Private Branch Exchange (Hosted PBX) and Session Initiation Protocol Trunking (SIP Trunking). Hosted PBX is a cloud-based voice service delivered over the Internet or private IP network for anywhere, anytime communications. SIP Trunking leverages an organization’s existing on-premise equipment by connecting it to a service provider’s IP-enabled PBX and network. VoIP is the underlying technology in both of these services.

Voice services based on VoIP technology can provide K-12 schools with a versatile communications solution that saves them money. The following list outlines some of cost-saving benefits of deploying a VoIP-based voice solution:

  • Reduced Equipment Investments — Outsourcing voice services to a technology provider eliminates hefty investments in on-premises IP equipment and/or network infrastructure, as well as the in-house expertise to maintain it. Hosted PBX requires only limited hardware at the local level, usually only desktop IP phones. And, because VoIP-based services use data lines, organizations won’t need to invest in additional phone circuits. Phones are simply plugged into existing broadband connections. Organizations that choose SIP Trunking improve call control and gain access to advanced features without additional investments in IP-enabled PBXs.
  • Access to Next-Gen Technology – Using outdated technologies can prevent K-12 schools from realizing many benefits, including saving money. While end-of-life for a typical on-premise PBX phone system is three-to-four years, it’s not uncommon for some educational organizations to keep their systems for 10-15 years or longer. These older solutions don’t leverage the latest performance-enhancing technology that leads to cost savings and features that improve performance and flexibility.
  • Improved Scalability – As teachers come and go, VoIP eliminates the need to reconfigure a K-12’s communications systems. Schools can move a staff member’s phone line without having to reinstall anything. With a Hosted PBX solution, you simply plug IP phones into existing broadband connections.
  • Centralized Communications – VoIP-based solutions can consolidate communications throughout a district. Rather than rely on separate systems for each individual building, VoIP enables one system to serve all locations. In addition, VoIP allows schools to use their data circuits for voice. They don’t have to invest in and maintain separate voice and data networks. As a result, they avoid the recurring charges associated with traditional phone systems.
  • Reduced IT Staff Dependence – A K-12 district may not need to dedicate internal IT resources to managing a Hosted PBX solution. Your service provider will do all the heavy lifting associated with managing the communications network. The district also has more control over making administrative changes easily and quickly from an online portal. For example, adding a new user or redirecting calls from an office location to a mobile phone. You won’t need to hire technicians, or use your existing resources, to install, maintain, repair or upgrade your system.
  • Enhanced Performance – Using the latest telephony features can improve efficiency for teachers, parents, students and administrators. Through improved communications, schools can be more productive. And, greater productivity can lead to cost savings.
  • Improved Reliability – A Hosted PBX solution resides off-site at a service provider’s hardened data center. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about power outages that could bring down your district’s communications systems. With Hosted PBX, you can keep your communications running, even during a natural disaster. In addition to maintaining classroom communications, K-12 schools won’t have to pay for technicians to work overtime bringing the phone system back online.

In addition to these cost-saving benefits, VoIP-based services, such as Hosted PBX and SIP Trunking, offer a slew of other advantages, including security. In an emergency, VoIP voice services have the technology to identify the precise location of where a 911 call was placed. VoIP can also enable notifications to designated staff when a 911 call is dialed. And, teachers and parents can get in touch with each other directly to/from the classroom.

Mobility is another significant benefit for K-12 schools. Teachers without a designated classroom can conduct lessons from any location and still be reached on one number. Teachers can also access the district’s phone system features from any location.

K-12 schools have an added inducement to adopt VoIP technologies. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program, schools and libraries across the country can receive discounts on eligible telecommunications and Internet services. With these discounts, K-12 schools may find it easier to retire their outdated communications systems and invest in next-gen voice technologies. But K-12 schools must act fast – the E-Rate subsidies for voice services are declining by 20 percentage points annually.

For more information on how VoIP solutions can help Gov/Ed organizations, download FairPoint Communications’ new white paper. This informative resource discusses how your organization can use IT investments to overcome challenges and accomplish goals. Titled, “Using Next Generation Technology Services to Solve IT Budget Challenges,” this new white paper outlines how investments in data, voice, data center and managed IT services can actually improve your organization’s financial situation.

To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation from an experienced Gov/Ed sales representative, contact FairPoint Communications at 1-866-984-3001. For more information on FairPoint’s technology services, visit our website.

Vice President Karen Romano is Vice President, Government and Education at FairPoint Communications, a leading provider of advanced communications technology in northern New England and 14 other states across the U.S.