Bringing VoIP to Eastern Oregon

Making calls with NocTel since February 2016

The Situation

EOU was looking for a modern alternative to the current PBX communication system that needed to be reliable, feature rich, and a transition path that must not be cumbersome or require additional technical staff to maintain and operate.

For students and staff, the only constant is change

As a place of education for individuals of all ages, most view college campuses as buzzing grounds of new ideas and learning. Each campus has its landmarks students, alumni, and community often refer to – a state of the art business center, its football stadium, its very large library full of general use computing and print resources, its principles and campus culture. Beyond the staff on these university campuses, very few outside are aware of the challenges and considerations enabling the institution to function effectively.

Eastern Oregon University, one of the state’s seven public universities in La Grande, employs more than 100 full-time faculty and staff and enjoys welcoming nearly 4000 new and returning students each semester. Though smaller in comparison to Oregon State, whose Agriculture and Natural Resource Program operates at EOU as an extensions campus, and University of Oregon; EOU strives to instill a sense of responsibility and conscious deliberation as they study and enter the diverse, ever-changing interconnected world of today.

Eastern Oregon's Situation

In remaining true to its educational goals, EOU also seeks to adapt its own operations to modern alternatives that allow the university to do more and better while being mindful of changes and opportunities whose adoption could return considerable benefits. One such aspect of operation for consideration was its communication system, which until a few years ago had been operating on a PBX system and had shifted to Jive, a NocTel competitor, for a hosted VoIP solution. As with any established medium-large organization, EOU set forth the expectation a modern alternative to the current PBX communication system needed to be reliable, feature rich, and the transition path must not be cumbersome or require additional technical staff to maintain and operate.

Thanks to EOU’s future forward mindset, the concern of how much time and effort would be required by all staff to acclimate to a new communication system manifested as a valid, real concern. As a place of learning and bringing the future closer to today, EOU understood there are associated risks with adopting fairly new technology which has not withstood being put through its paces in practical usage or existed long enough for wide enough adoption to occur. Service with Jive was an improvement over the PBX system, but was there another option that could improve over Jive?

Our solution

Weighing the options, EOU opted to work with NocTel in procuring and deploying a number of demonstration devices on campus to assess before subscribing, which is an option NocTel offers most interested organizations. After an initial integration of the demo NocTel system, EOU found the feature set and NocTel’s openness to feedback and dialogue with customers to gain insight to future features to be the option of choice. Contacting NocTel was simple for all inquiries ranging from support requests to feedback to documentation. The ease of dialog characterized the relationship more closely to partners than customer and service provider.

While not a prominent requirement for EOU, NocTel was able to provide a lowest pre-negotiated rate through its award of an OETC contract. OETC or Organization for Educational Technology and Curriculum being a non-profit predominantly in the pacific northwest working to simplify and make essential education technologies and services accessible and affordable for its members. By being a member of OETC, EOU and NocTel did not need to work through the process of bidding for service and focused more intently on the planning of effort to scope and transition of service. A clear course of action to transition from Jive, which has its own ecosystem for its hosted VoIP solution, to NocTel was developed with the joint efforts of NocTel and EOU technical staff. When the transition of more than 500 extensions and 1000 numbers occurred, the majority were successfully transitioned in less than an hour. With careful planning and assistance in the transition process unique to EOU’s situation, the anxiety of what could occur during transition was allayed and EOU staff were customizing and using their new hosted VoIP system soon thereafter.

Eastern Oregon's Results and Thoughts

According to Chuck Kennicott, System Administrator at EOU, the transition was described as “one of the smoothest projects we’ve had, especially considering the size and complexity of the project. NocTel helped us with planning, project management, and provided on-site staff the during the transition period.” Even though EOU had seen improvements in transitioning away from a PBX system to Jive’s hosted VoIP solution, the university quickly saw benefits in the transition from Jive to NocTel including cost savings for service, staff training resources and effort, and the peace of mind knowing future system features will always be available at no additional cost.

Transitioning service was one of the smoothest projects we’ve had, especially considering the size and complexity of the project. NocTel helped us with planning, project management, and provided onsite staff the during the transition period.

Chuck Kennicott, System Administrator at EOU

For EOU, the ability to allow its staff to configure and manage their handsets from a web-browser also transitioned general staff away from simply being users of a system with presets and toward the today of personalization and flexibility found in most services, systems, and devices used on a daily basis. Supplemented with onsite training, 24×7 support by NocTel staff, and its frequently updated online knowledge; EOU staff in general were able to become proficient with a newer technology that keeps roots in basic landline-based telephony systems but offering new functionality allowing handsets to do and be more than a desk fixture with tightly defined use. IT staff at EOU also welcomed the ability for individual staff to configure their handsets as System Administrator Chuck Kennicott remarks, “We’ve been able to train all of our support staff on how to manage various aspects of the phone system themselves instead of relying on busy IT staff. All of this frees up our administrators to manage other projects and provides more efficient support.”

Summary of Benefits Provided

As a public educational institution, EOU’s budget ebbs with available funding. The cost savings on service made possible through EOU being a member of OETC and NocTel being awarded a contract by OETC thrilled even though it was not a prominent requirement by EOU for service. NocTel’s service solution has provided the following benefits to EOU:

  • Open dialogue with engineering to identify and implement desired features and feedback on existing features
  • Reliable and responsive support team for all manner of inquiries and issues
  • OETC contract held by NocTel guaranteeing lowest pre-negotiated rate for service expedited transition timeline
  • Pricing on a per device usage model allowing underserved areas of the university to be covered
  • An over 50% monthly cost reduction from previous service and maintenance costs driven by per device usage pricing and no applied maintenance or licensing fees
  • Simple, reliable web-based remote management of handsets eliminating time cost of technical personnel dispatching onsite to devices

In being a good service provider, partner, and community member; NocTel is pleased at being able to help our education institutions do more and better without costing more to its students and community.


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