The university’s legacy phone system will get a much-needed upgrade this fall when the current PBX system is replaced with Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a data-based phone service that will provide increased functionality for all campus phone users.
The new VoIP phones have all of the features available on current university phones, as well as a color LCD display that allows users to search the faculty/staff phone directory from the phone itself. The phones also have a history feature that shows missed calls and recent callouts (similar to a cell phone), allow for conference capability for up to six users, and accommodate up to three rollover lines on one phone. In addition, the VoIP phones make it much easier for faculty and staff to forward calls to multiple devices—an often-requested feature according to OTS Director of Infrastructure Projects and Operations Jim Monroe.
“Right now, it’s difficult to forward calls to another device, like a cell phone or a home line, and that’s something that a lot of users want,” Jim said. “The new phones make it a lot easier for staff who want to get their phone calls wherever they are.”
The upgrades will be installed on a departmental basis beginning this October, with installation expected to be complete by the end of the year. When it’s time for a department to upgrade, Office of Technology Services (OTS) staff will install the new phone alongside the current one, with calls going to the current phone until all VoIP phones have been installed for departmental staff. Once all phones are installed and staff members have received phone user guides, OTS will transition the department to the new phone system during off-hours to minimize phone service disruptions. Employees’ phone numbers will remain the same.
“Our goal is to make this as seamless as possible for faculty and staff,” Network Project Engineer Brenda Yarema said. “Users will be able to do the same things as before—there just might be a different way of doing it.”
To that end, Brenda and her colleagues are planning to host a series of training sessions to get users accustomed to the new system. There will also be quick reference guides available online, as well as hard copy user guides.
The project is currently in its pilot phase, with about 20 OTS staff testing for functionality. Next, the system will be tested by a wider, non-technical pilot group before being rolled out to campus. The testing may seem overly thorough, but the project has been four years in the making, and Jim says that they want to get it right.
“We’ve known for some time that the current phone system was nearing end of life, so we’ve been planning this for a while,” Jim says. “This is the next iteration of professional phone systems and it’s the way the industry has been moving. We think it’s the best option to meet the needs of campus users.”
For more information on this project, go to www.towson.edu/phones.