Reaseheath College was reluctant to move away from its trusted Avaya IP Office 500 platform. But the transition to the new IP Office Server Edition platform proved notably non-disruptive.
What’s more, it has given the College a substantial boost in capacity and unified communications capabilities that promise new efficiencies and savings across its operations.
While just as dependable and easy to manage as the old, the new solution now runs on a virtualized Hyper-V environment – ideal for disaster recovery, administration and mobility in a busy education setting.
Rob Brown was extremely happy with his telephony system. As head of technical services at one of the UK’s leading land-based colleges, Brown and his small team are responsible for a vast range of IT solutions and services.
While many of them caused him regular headaches, with complex configuration and regular maintenance updates, the Avaya IP Office 500 was the exception: “it was easy to configure, and incredibly reliable: it just sat there and did its job.”
But Brown had a problem. Reaseheath College had grown rapidly – faster, in fact, than had been expected when the IP Office 500 had been purchased. Student numbers had soared, impressive new facilities added and the number of staff grew accordingly. His much-valued platform would have to be replaced by a larger one.
However, Brown and his colleagues had a few complicating factors to consider. One was whether to move to a hosted model, rather than on-premises; another was that Reaseheath College had already opted to introduce Microsoft Hyper-V as its core IT platform – following the path that many other UK education providers have taken.
It was therefore hugely welcome news that the latest release of IP Office Server Edition, version 10.1, could be deployed on Hyper-V. “We would have moved to Server Edition anyway,” Brown confirmed, “but the fact that we could run it on our chosen virtual software platform was a real plus.”
As well as being compatible with the new virtual platform, IP Office Server Edition was also ready to work with the College’s existing Avaya handsets. “That not only meant we wouldn’t have to pay for new handsets,” Brown explained, “it also meant we wouldn’t have to retrain users.”
This in turn helped make an on-premises solution, retaining the existing handsets, a more cost-effective option for the College.
Keeping the same handsets was one way of minimizing any potential disruption from the upgrade, but Brown was still acutely conscious of the risks of changing communications systems.
“For us, being without a phone system for any length of time would be a killer.” The upgrade was therefore meticulously planned to take place over a three-day period when the College was quieter – though still open.
As well as introducing IP Office Server Edition, the transition also involved moving from the older ISDN 30 connections to SIP, to increase capacity and support greater convergence in the future.
“The new system was brought in alongside the old one, so there was no downtime at all. The changeover took place in a live environment and nobody outside the project team knew anything changed – which is exactly how it should be.”
From the administration and management perspective too, the difference was small; the interfaces were familiar, so Brown’s team were immediately confident and in control.
But while the initial change was deliberately low-key, Brown is keen to explore the new features that IP Office Server Edition offers for users. “Once we’ve got all our major platform projects out of the way, we’re looking forward to giving staff the option of mobile twinning and new conferencing capabilities,” he confirmed.
For now, though, these opportunities – which will save money as well as time – are for the future. The immediate requirement was a new telephony system and with IP Office Server Edition installed and working smoothly, Brown is just as happy with the new system as the previous one.
“The reliability is top tier, without a doubt. On a day to day basis, we can almost forget about it – which is ideal for us.”
intlx Solutions is an Avaya business partner.