School Phone Systems: College Campus Phone System Prices, Features, and Benefits
A good phone system helps manage multiple facets of campus life. Today's systems are part of the overall communication network for your campus, helping to connect teachers, staff, administrators, students, and parents.
With these enhanced technologies, your college's phone system allows distance learning, improved technology, and even enhanced safety and security campus-wide.
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What Do You Want in a School Phone System?
Phone systems come with an enormous amount of variety. So much so, in fact, that it can be confusing attempting to choose which features you need, which ones are nice to have, and which ones you probably won't use.
When it comes to education, savings is usually the number one goal, but with your phone system, you need to look beyond the sticker price to see the full cost. One of the items to look at is maintenance, as some vendors charge a yearly fee, measured as a percentage of the purchase price, for upgrades and support.
Digital systems tend to be less expensive than analog systems over time, because the service itself is less expensive through your telecom provider. If you're looking at making the change, but price is an issue, consider rolling out the upgrade in stages. VoIP systems allow this, because they easily grow and expand. Talk to your provider about a good incremental rollout plan.
Easy to Use
A good VoIP system is intuitive, easy to learn, and offers secure web access. Ideally, you need only refer to a short manual to make changes, not call in a tech expert.
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Emergency 911 Monitoring
For the safety of your students and staff, you need emergency 911 monitoring. This is a feature available with newer technologies, such as VoIP, and it notifies pre-determined staff (such as administrators) whenever someone on campus makes a 911 call. Selected staff receive both an email notification and a notification at their desk phones, including the building and room number where the call originated.
For greatest efficacy of this feature, assign unique DID numbers to each building. This allows the 911 dispatch operator to identify the correct building and helps ensure emergency personnel achieve the fastest, most accurate response time.
Flexible Extension Dial Plan
If possible, choose a system that allows you to assign six-digit numbers to each extension. It may seem like an annoyance, but setting up this level of extensions allows you to assign extensions that include building, floor, and room number. For example, extension 120220 represents building 12, floor two, room 10. It might also look like #12210. The flexible extension dial plan correlates directly with the emergency 911 monitoring feature.
Unlike the old analog systems, VoIP offers incredible flexibility, allowing users to log in remotely. It's almost like they carry their desk phones with them. Administrators can easily reach staff, even when they themselves aren't on campus. You can even make announcements via the paging system from your smartphone.
This one likely registers low on the importance scale for the average professor, but for the people handling most of your facility's calls, this feature is incredible. It allows them to quickly see every system user, as well as his or her extension and real-time status with a single click. No more giant switchboard hogging the desk, or transferring calls to a staff member out on vacation.
Rolling out your new system works best if you include staff training. Without it, no one knows enough to take advantage of all the great features you selected. A good vendor works with you to provide training, as well as resources for school personnel to refer to after the trainer leaves.
What Does a School Phone System Cost?
The number of extensions and lines you require, your chosen features, the vendor you select, and even your location all play a role in pricing. Consider the following, though, when determining your budget.
You pay for network services, which varies by whether you choose POTS (plain old telephone service, also known as analog) or digital phone service. POTS lines cost around $40 per month, per line. With digital, you can get a PRI (23 lines) for around $450 per month.
Depending on the type of phone station, budget around $200 for each digital phone, or $350 for each IP phone. Conference phones run around $650 and receptionist models around $750.
Control units that are not server-based range from around $1,500 to $25,000, depending on the number of phones (5 at the low end, 100+ at the high). A server-based control unit starts at around $6,000 for 20 phones, and clocks in at $325/phone for 50 or more.
Installation costs around $1,200 for up to 15 phones, and $50 per phone for 50 or more.