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Brigidine College St Ives Case Study

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Brigidine College St Ives deploys Mitel to cost effectively adapt and scale to meet the school’s long-term educational and communication needs.

Brigidine College St Ives

Long Term Thinking for Brigidine College with Mitel

Located in Sydney, Brigidine College St Ives (Brigidine) is a Catholic girls secondary school founded in 1954 by the Congregation of Sisters of St Brigid.

Brigidine prides itself on providing a holistic education for girls, combining the spiritual, academic, physical and cultural dimensions of learning, creating women of spiritual, moral and ethical strength.

Information and communications technology (ICT) is a key component of Brigidine’s learning environment, explains Greg Boyd, IT Manager at Brigidine College.

“ICT is the foundation on which our school runs, just like it does for most organisations today. It’s an enhancing tool that is used across all facets of college life, teaching and learning.”

“The total ICT infrastructure, including ‘Bridge to Learning’ – the one-to-one technology program for our girls – is entirely focused on learning outcomes and is a key differentiator for Brigidine as an education provider.”

The ‘pragmatic and sensible’ choice

Brigidine’s ICT decision-making is based on what Boyd describes as the ‘pragmatic and sensible’ option that best serves the College’s needs. That approach was called into action in 2012 when Brigidine was facing a serious business continuity risk with its existing IP telephony platform.

Brigidine’s existing IP telephony software platform was approaching end of support. To upgrade the software, the College would have had to undertake a complete hardware refresh, effectively replacing the entire system.

“The software couldn’t be upgraded on the servers we had, and we couldn’t run the next generation software on generic servers – it had to operate on the IP telephony vendor’s proprietary servers and its virtual infrastructure,” said Boyd.

To avoid this same issue in another four years’ time, Brigidine investigated other IP communications solutions. The main criteria was to find a solution that would provide the flexibility and modularity the College needed to support its communications and collaboration requirements over a lifespan of ten years or more.

Brigidine short-listed three solutions and chose Mitel, implementing the system during the middle of an academic year.

“ACHIEVING BUSINESS CONTINUITY WAS EASY WITH SHORETEL. WE COULD LOCATE THE SHORETEL VOICE SWITCHES IN DIFFERENT SWITCH RACKS AROUND THE CAMPUS. TO ACHIEVE THAT WITH OTHER SOLUTIONS WOULD HAVE REQUIRED US TO REBUILD OUR DATA CENTRES.”

Greg Boyd, IT Manager
Brigidine College St Ives

“We looked at the three IP solutions and asked the question, ‘will we have to do another forklift upgrade in a few years’ time?’ We didn’t want a system we would have to throw away and start again every few years. We also needed a solution we could run in our Microsoft Hyper-V virtualised environment,” said Boyd.

The initial purchase price was only part of the overall decision, explained Boyd. Brigidine also completed a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis over ten years, with Mitel the clear winner.

Brigidine also required a modular architecture to support business continuity by enabling IP telephony resources to be in multiple locations.

“Achieving business continuity was easy with Mitel. We could locate the Mitel voice switches in different switch racks around the campus. To achieve this with other solutions would have required us to rebuild our data centres,” said Boyd.

A smooth cutover

Deployment of the Mitel Unified Communications (UC) solution was completed in parallel to Brigidine’s existing system. The College had dual E1 links, so one line was connected with the Mitel system to test all possible scenarios.

Brigidine also engaged pilot Mitel users in key areas, deploying handsets for the executive, reception and office administration staff, and in one of the teacher staff rooms.

Once all the testing had been completed, cutover took place overnight, with the existing handsets simply swapped out for Mitel phones and the external lines switched across to the Mitel UC platform.

For the cutover, Brigidine preconfigured and labeled all 115 handsets, with the school’s own team literally unplugging the old handsets around the campus and plugging in the new ones.

The final hardware solution deployed comprises two Mitel SG-220E1 and two SG-90 Voice Switches on-site to provide N+1 redundancy, and one RA2000 Mobility Router.

Redundancy is achieved with two separate Telstra E1 circuits interfaced to the two SG-220E1 switches, which are strategically placed in two different locations in the College.

The main Mitel Director server is virtualised on the College’s existing virtual server platform.

Brigidine teachers and administrative staff are connected with 115 x IP560g handsets, 1 x IP655 handset with 12 x lines for reception, 175 x Mitel Communicator Personal Access licencees, three Mitel Communicator Professional Access licencees (for executive staff which enables soft phone and point-to-point video), two Workgroup and Workgroup Supervisor licencees, two Operator licencees and 30 Mobility Client Access licencees. The two Workgroup licencees have been deployed for IT help desk and reception with a full IVR tree.

IP560g series (gigabit) phones were selected so that throughput to the attached PC or laptop on Brigidine’s gigabit edge network was not restricted to 100Mbps. When Brigidine reimages or updates an attached device it has the full 1Gbps available.

“Mitel Mobility gives our administrative, IT support and executive staff flexible access to the Mitel system after hours, on our WiFi and from home. It’s also very effective to keep in contact around the campus, because we have a few mobile blackspots,” said Boyd.

Meeting education’s unique needs

“The role of telephony in a school is very different to the role of telephony in a standard business,” said Boyd.

While reception, executive and administrative staff all have a phone on their desks, there is no business requirement for each teacher to be assigned an individual handset. Instead, the teacher staff rooms have a number of handsets assigned to a group of users.

With Brigidine’s previous system, each phone was configurable with only one number, so any voicemails left on each staff room would be sent to an email inbox for the group of users assigned to that extension – not the ideal outcome.

Now, each Mitel handset in Brigidine’s staff rooms is configured with the different extensions for a group of teachers. If the teacher is not available to take the call, rather than another user answering and taking a message, they can simply let the call go through to that teacher’s voicemail, which can be picked up later and played back via their own email inbox.

“THE SHORETEL SYSTEM IS CONFIGURED BASED ON PEOPLE, NOT HARDWARE, WHICH IS IMPORTANT FOR AN EDUCATION ENVIRONMENT.”

Greg Boyd, IT Manager
Brigidine College St Ives

“Most telephony systems are device-based however, the Mitel system is configured based on people, not hardware, which is important for an education environment. Our teachers need their own extensions, but they don’t want distractions like phone calls when they are in face-to-face teaching mode.”

“With Mitel, our teachers never miss a call,” said Boyd.

Simple, reliable and distributed architecture

Brigidine’s campus environment has enabled the school to establish a distributed IT infrastructure, with fully redundant data centre services and connections.

“Our Mitel environment has been very reliable. That said, based on Mitel’s simple architecture, that was what we expected!” said Boyd.

“WHATEVER THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR BRIGIDINE, WE ARE CONFIDENT OUR SHORETEL SOLUTION WILL EASILY KEEP PACE, EXPAND AND ADAPT TO ANY CHANGES.”

Greg Boyd, IT Manager
Brigidine College St Ives

Brigidine’s IT department is managing the Mitel environment in-house, with Mitel called in for feature advice and functionality enhancements to the system.

Future plans

“The future is very dynamic for Brigidine’s learning environment, so enhancements to our IT systems will depend on the changes we might make to the structure of the school,” said Boyd.

“The technology needs to be flexible enough to accommodate future changes at the College.”

Brigidine believes it has made the right long-term choice in Mitel to support Brigidine’s core business: student learning.

“Whatever the future holds for Brigidine, we are confident our Mitel solution will easily keep pace, expand and adapt to any changes,” concluded Boyd.

CHALLENGE:

Forced to undertake a forklift upgrade of its four-year-old IP telephony solution, Brigidine College St Ives needed a new collaborative communications solution that was cost-effective, flexible and scalable to meet the long-term needs of its dynamic educational environment.

SOLUTION:

A virtualized and distributed Mitel Unified Communications and Mobility solution with full N+1 redundancy. Mitel Voice Switches SG-220E1 and SG-90; Mitel RA2000 Mobility Router; Mitel IP560g and IP655 handsets; Mitel Communicator with Personal Access, Professional Access, Workgroup, Workgroup Supervisor and Operator licence; Mitel Mobility Client Access licence.

BENEFITS:

  • A long-term communications solution with the lowest TCO
  • Modular and distributed architecture supporting Brigidine’s business continuity needs
  • Communications model supporting specific needs of an educational institution
  • Mobility providing flexible communications access for key staff
  • Reliability, simplicity and redundancy with no downtime

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