On Premise vs. Hosted VoIP: What’s Best For Schools?
Schooling is an industry that uses their phone systems constantly—calls between school locations, calls between schools and the district offices, calls between staff and student’s parents, and so on. Historically they’ve met their needs with some form of on premise solution; this means the hardware that processes their call transfers, voicemails, and call routing are all on-site, at the location itself. But there is a new form of phone system that can go beyond that, adding unique benefits and solving unique problems. This is, of course, Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP, hosted phone services. Where on premise leverages the familiarity and comfort of onsite hardware, VoIP leverages powerful internet-based cloud solutions to solve problems. What does that difference really mean, and why should the education sector care?
The Reality of Hardware
Having physical access to all of that hardware had its benefits in the past—easier access for repairs and modifications—but that is no longer the case for many schools. Many of these locations are relying on old hardware that might be out of production, which means any maintenance or repairs of the old system will be hard to conduct and potentially expensive. Even if the on premise system isn’t outdated, ongoing maintenance for it can wind up being more expensive than paying for a hosted system; even more so if you include payroll for on-site support staff.
Speaking of on-site support staff, we’ve noticed a trend of school districts not employing people with the expertise needed to keep up with the onward march of technological development. They’re often a teacher who lacks certification, specific degrees, or relevant training—but they know just enough to handle the day-to-day tasks. This isn’t a judgement; we want to highlight an area where people are being asked to handle something they can’t reasonably do. It’s hard enough to maintain existing technology, and it can advance beyond anyone’s expertise if they don’t specialize in the field. In these cases, if a catastrophic system failure occurs, the downtime will be extensive and hard to fix. Hiring a certified IT professional for the district can fix these problems, but that comes with the additional payroll costs—and budgets are always something school districts are keenly aware of.
The Hosted Value Offering
A cloud-hosted VoIP offering can solve most (if not all) of these problems, but before we discuss them we want to clear something up. There’s a common perception that VoIP services—or internet-based services in general—are unreliable or unstable. This is not necessarily true; if your location has a strong internet connection, then these kinds of services are both faster and more reliable than any landline can be. This is one of the first things AVS does when we’re working with a new client; we analyze their connectivity and network health to make sure everything will be a good fit.
As for VoIP’s service offering, it’s simple: VoIP can do everything an on premise system can, plus security, remote capabilities, virtual receptionists, call recording, and more. While it’s worth noting that the initial costs of VoIP are indeed higher than an on premise solution, its cost-over-time is significantly less, which means you can save money in the long term. In regards to staff training, you don’t need to worry about the hands-off, just-read-the-manual style of training you might see with AWS or Azure or Google. AVS will train your staff in how to best use these new tools as part of the implementation process. If your campus has multiple buildings (as many do) we can also make sure you have redundant connections in the event of an internet outage at one building—guaranteeing uptime without a noticeable disturbance in your operation.
VoIP services can also integrate with your existing public address systems; you’d be able to broadcast simultaneously to phones, loudspeakers, and intercoms on campus if necessary. For teachers and staff, VoIP’s video conferencing and collaborative capabilities can help manage assignments, state test administration planning, district or school events, and more. It’s all about giving you a wide array of tools to help you solve each and every one of your communications solutions.
So, what do you think? When it comes to on premise vs. hosted VoIP phone solutions, the obvious answer seems to be VoIP, unless your school is in an area with poor internet connectivity. While that might be the obvious answer (given where this article is posted) we would be happy to discuss our proven track record with school district systems. If you’re at all interested in upgrading your phone system, please feel free to schedule an Accelerator Session with us.