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Call forwarding: VoIP goes from possibility to reality. Plan wisely now and prevent trouble in the future.



Thanks to the availability of more affordable networking technology, voice over Internet Protocol See Internet and TCP/IP.

(networking) Internet Protocol - (IP) The network layer for the TCP/IP protocol suite widely used on Ethernet networks, defined in STD 5, RFC 791. IP is a connectionless, best-effort packet switching protocol.
 is becoming one of the hottest discussions in school districts throughout the country. Not only does VoIP put a phone in every classroom, but it taps into the wealth of features that come with networking and IP telephony The two-way transmission of voice over a packet-switched IP network, which is part of the TCP/IP protocol suite. The terms "IP telephony" and "voice over IP" (VoIP) are synonymous. .

Although many vendors can help with nitty-gritty technical installation needs like which IP phones to buy or how to configure See configuration.

(software) configure - A program by Richard Stallman to discover properties of the current platform and to set up make to compile and install gcc.

Cygnus configure was a similar system developed by K.
 networks, it's up to individual school districts to prepare for VoIP through a series of planning and preparation steps. Here's a general timeline, and which key decisions need to be made from the blueprint stage to the first few months of implementation.

Eighteen months before implementation

Even before the first purchasing decision is ever made, a district has a number of planning needs to tackle, including how VoIP will be rolled out specifically, how it will be funded, and what role vendors will play in the initial discussions.

Although some districts may be tempted to do a rip-and-replace in order to have a VoIP system district-wide as soon as possible, many experts and vendors urge a more cautious, leisurely approach.

"VoIP should be phased in at a district's convenience," says Bob Bluemer, a director at networking firm Avaya. "It should be similar to a home redecorating effort; you wouldn't gut the house and redecorate re·dec·o·rate  
v. re·dec·o·rat·ed, re·dec·o·rat·ing, re·dec·o·rates

v.tr.
To change the appearance or furnishings of; refurbish.

v.intr.
To change a decorative scheme.
 everything at once, just in case you hate the motif. Instead, you would do it room by room. VoIP is the same."

Implementation on a smaller scale--say, a single room or department, or just one school--will help a district understand and use VoIP with fewer risks. If it turns out the district doesn't see the benefit of the technology or simply doesn't like it (and, Bluemer notes, this does happen), then the district won't be stuck with an entire system. Common complaints are frequently dropped calls Dropped call is the common term for a wireless mobile phone call that is terminated unexpectedly as a result of technical reasons. Areas where users experience a large number of dropped calls are commonly referred to as dead zones.  and other quality of service issues, slowed network connections and too much IT time spent maintaining the system. Rolling out slowly will lesson these potential headaches.

Also during this timeframe should be a discussion about responsibilities. Consultants recommend that districts assign one individual to shepherding VoIP through the process. In most cases, this will be the head of network services or IT, but in some districts the facilities department handles VoIP Wherever the leader is drawn from, he or she should take charge of the entire process, from initial planning to network assessments to training. That way, implementation will be faster and more cohesive.

When a plan of action is decided funding comes into play. By comparing a district's existing costs with proposed VoIP costs, a rough idea of ROI (Return On Investment) The monetary benefits derived from having spent money on developing or revising a system. In the IT world, there are more ways to compute ROI than Carter has liver pills (and for those of you who never heard of that expression, it means a lot).  can be attained. To get a handle on potential savings, a district will need to get vendor quotes, and that process can fold in nicely with introducing others in the district to the technology.

John Dierdorff, manager of network services with the Palm Beach (Fla.) County Schools, chose vendors that appeared in research reports from the Gartner Group (company) Gartner Group - One of the biggest IT industry research firms.

Address: Connecticut, USA.
. He asked them to do demos for himself and one other tech person, but also for principals and teachers, because they'd be using the system so heavily. In pursuing subsequent vendor negotiations, Dierdorff found it was easier to get the go ahead from the district because employees' familiarity with the technology.

At this point, a district can also look at technology grants, local and state initiatives, and even partnerships with other districts so VoIP technology can be bought at volume discounts. Vendors, too, are usually eager to assist districts with price plans that will stretch out the costs over a period of time.

"We found that there was a great deal of flexibility in funding options from the vendors," says Dierdorff. "That definitely helps when you've got to get multiple approvals for purchasing."

Twelve months before

With general planning kick-started, it's time It's Time was a successful political campaign run by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) under Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election in Australia. Campaigning on the perceived need for change after 23 years of conservative (Liberal Party of Australia) government, Labor put forward a  to turn to more specific technical issues relating to relating to relate prepconcernant

relating to relate prepbezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc 
 what's already in place at districts, mainly infrastructure and network systems. Now is also the time to ponder Ponder - A non-strict polymorphic, functional language by Jon Fairbairn <jf@cl.cam.ac.uk>.

Ponder's type system is unusual. It is more powerful than the Hindley-Milner type system used by ML and Miranda and extended by Haskell.
 how upgrades to software and hardware will affect subsequent VoIP implementation. Even seemingly non-conflicting choices like operating system operating system (OS)

Software that controls the operation of a computer, directs the input and output of data, keeps track of files, and controls the processing of computer programs.
 changes could affect how VoIP is rolled out.

Dan Burns, business manager for the Toledo (Ohio) Public Schools, decided in part to get VoIP in order to enhance security and safety, so that teachers could have phones in the classroom. Rather than trying to hook up traditional phones, Burns felt VoIP could prepare its districts for the future, by giving them more networking capability. But first Toledo had to make sure it was ready.

"The most important thing was making sure we had an infrastructure that could support it," says Burns. "Several years ago we put in a wide area network, and we had to make sure there was interoperability The capability of two or more hardware devices or two or more software routines to work harmoniously together. For example, in an Ethernet network, display adapters, hubs, switches and routers from different vendors must conform to the Ethernet standard and interoperate with each other.  with that."

As Toledo continues to roll out VoIP, there is some equipment replacement, Burns notes, but mainly just the addition of hardware and systems. That means rather than refurbishing what it has, Toledo had to ensure that its infrastructure was scalable, and could handle the kind of growth that VoIP brings.

Also an issue is bandwidth, which has to be enough to handle another network component like VoIP, says Avaya's Bluemer. "Your entire data network has to be reassessed before an implementation," he notes. "If your equipment is having a hard time transporting data because of bandwidth concerns, imagine what will happen when you put voice on top of that."

In order to prevent problems, it's advisable to get a network assessment, which can be handled by an IT consultant or networking equipment vendors.

Six months before

The plan is in place, the network is spiffed up, and vendors are starting to bring in technology and systems that will get a few months of testing before they go live. Feels like training time.

Some districts choose to do VoIP training with administrators and teachers once the system is up, but trying to manage a new system and do training simultaneously can be hazardous to the health of any IT department. Instead, experts advise districts to do smaller training sessions, and spread out training over a period of months so users can get a feel for what's coming.

The first group to do training will likely be network and IT staffers who will have the most direct contact with VoIP systems. Vendors, who are only too happy to help customers learn the intricacies of their systems, often provide this type of education. Dierdorff implemented Avaya technology, and sent his IT employees to Avaya's training center so they could learn about IP switches, security and connectivity issues. The employees were also shown how to train teachers and administrators on the system when they returned to the district.

In parallel with training should be a focus on making sure the new systems have appropriate security controls, says John Halpin, public sector strategy manager at 3Com. "Number one should be physical security. You'd be shocked to learn how many devices are sitting in unlocked rooms."

From there, he recommends a thorough check of wireless protocols, intrusion prevention See IPS and IDS.  and application security. Because VoIP is an entryway into a district's network, every aspect of the network needs to be bolstered to make sure there are no virtual open doors. Halpin says, "Make sure code that runs the VoIP system is something that can't be hacked Modified. Attacked. Having code altered. See hack and hacker. . Security should be rechecked at every level before implementation, from the infrastructure down to applications."

The first six months

Once a VoIP system has been implemented, a district should be prepared to handle additional training and glitches such as interoperability problems with network hardware and software, or additional costs related to network charges. If a problem does crop up, this is a good time to be glad that you've decided to roll it out on a smaller scale.

After a system has been in place for six months, a district should have a good feel for how it's working and will have moved beyond any initial difficulties with the system, training and technological interoperability.

At this point, it's time to think about expanding VoIP's role, including where it can be rolled out in other parts of the district. Some districts choose the six-month point to begin additional planning, when they ponder how to put VoIP in elementary schools elementary school: see school. , for example, rather than just high schools and administrator offices.

In addition to physical expansion, districts can now think about more features, notes Charles Fadel, Global Lead for education at Cisco. "VoIP phones See IP phone and softphone.  are able to function with multiple applications, so once it's up and running, you can think about more than just telephony," he says, noting that schools may want to move into video telephony See videophone. , Amber alerts Am·ber Alert
n.
A message that conveys information about a recently abducted person, usually displayed on electronic signs positioned along roadways and broadcast by mass media, intended to enlist the public's help in finding the abducted person and
, unified messaging Having access to e-mail, voice mail and faxes via a common computer application or by telephone. For example, unified messaging may send faxes and digitized voice mail to a mail server that turns them into e-mail attachments.  or other higher-level functions.

No matter where a district is in the process, with VoIP there may be no such thing as too much planning, says Mary Ellen Buzzelli, Siemens' business development manager for public sector. The more forethought fore·thought  
n.
1. Deliberation, consideration, or planning beforehand.

2. Preparation or thought for the future. See Synonyms at prudence.
, the better the implementation will be, and the more likely it will be that a VoIP system will fit into a district easily and affordably.

"Each district will take its own approach, depending on its size, budget and technical resources," she says. "That means there's no one, standard way to implement VoIP. Because of that, planning is crucial, and it pays off in the long run with a streamlined, useful system."

RESOURCES

3Com

www.3com.com

Alcatel

www.alcatel.com

Avaya

www.avaya.com

Cisco

www.cisco.com

Comcast

www.comcast.com

Cox Communications Cox Communications is a privately owned subsidiary of Cox Enterprises providing digital cable television and telecommunications services in the United States. It is the third-largest[2] cable television provider in the United States, serving more than 6.  

www.cox.com

Juniper Networks Juniper Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ: JNPR) is an information technology company based in Sunnyvale, California and founded in 1996. The company designs and sells Internet Protocol network products and services.  

www.juniper.net

Mitel Networks

www.mitel.com

NEC (NEC Corporation, Tokyo, www.nec.com, www.necus.com) An electronics conglomerate known in the U.S. for its monitors. In Japan, it had the lion's share of the PC market until the late 1990s (see PC 98).

NEC was founded in Tokyo in 1899 as Nippon Electric Company, Ltd.
 America

www.nec.com

Trillion

www.trillionpartners.com

Verizon

www.verizon.com

Vonage

www.vonage.com

RELATED ARTICLE: Handsets grow up.

As more VoIP implementations get done at districts, it's likely that schools will begin investing more heavily in Wi-Fi handsets, which let VoIP users VoIP User is a community driven and financed SIP based VoIP network. The projects aim is to introduce people to the concept of VoIP by allowing members to experiment with SIP and IAX2 devices.  tap into a voice network without being tethered Attached to a data or power source by wire or fiber. Contrast with untethered.  to a classroom or office phone.

The handsets would allow teachers, administrators and others to carry their phones with them, similar to cell phones. But rather than connecting to a cellular network, the VoIP handsets would use a district's VoIP network.

The market for wireless handsets is set to take off, according to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 a study released in July 2005 from research company Infonetics Research. Right now, the market is relatively small, with only about 143,000 handsets sold in 2004, but the research firm expects that by mid-2006, these units will be much more attractive to VoIP users.

Before then, vendors will have to address some technical challenges that have been preventing the technology from garnering wider adoption. The handsets tend to have trouble with roaming The ability to use a communications device such as a cellphone or PDA and be able to move from one cell or access point to another without losing the connection.  across different wireless platform, quality of Service concerns, and limited signal range. But manufacturers expect to work out these kinks within the next year.

Elizabeth Millard is a technology writer based in St. Louis Park, Minn.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Professional Media Group LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:voice over internet protocol; school districts implementing technology
Author:Millard, Elizabeth
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:1816
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