Many K-12 schools cope with antiquated phone systems that don’t offer now-standard features like mass notification and mobile support. To meet district needs and keep the systems running, they often have to bolt on piecemeal solutions. What’s more, these older systems can end up costing schools more money to maintain over time, even as they fail to deliver on ease of use and functionality.
But replacing an aging phone system is fraught with challenges. How can administrators balance the need for a flexible and robust communications solution while also lowering the total cost of ownership? It’s a tough but unavoidable question, because at some point that old, inadequate system is going to have to be replaced.
Fortunately, K-12 administrators today have options. Advances in communications technology, such as unified and cloud communications, make it possible for you to quickly and easily deploy a more feature-rich solution. On top of that, today’s systems result in a lower TCO. This frees up funds for resources and programs that directly benefit the student body while also delivering a high return on investment.
Four Goals to Remember
To achieve a lower TCO, here are four things to look for in a communications solution:
Simplicity. A system that’s easy to install – whether it be an on-site, cloud or hybrid solution – has a low impact on your IT team. You save money on IT resources from Day 1.
Ease of use. An intuitive and simple-to-manage communications system equates to less training time and minimal staffing requirements. Your maintenance and administrative costs are low.
Procurement options. Work with a vendor who has multiple procurement contracts and understands how schools purchase technology. This simplifies the acquisition process and makes it easier for you to buy.
Special pricing for academic institutions. Look for a provider who understands the importance of a low TCO for schools. For one thing, they’ll offer special pricing contracts for education. Knowledge of E-rate funding is also important, especially with the recent changes to these guidelines.
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Look for Collaboration and Productivity Features
Simply considering the price of a communications system is just one way to lower your total cost of ownership. But increased productivity, collaboration and adaptability also add to cost savings and ROI. This is where technology makes a difference. The following features are examples of how the right technology in your communications system yields a lower TCO and a higher ROI:
Open APIs. Connect your phone system to student and parent portals and add SMS functionality to increase communication and collaboration.
Voicemail to email. Staff and administrators can access voicemail from any phone or receive it as a .wav file via email.
Dial by name and four-digit dialing. Eliminate the need and cost of paper directories.
Bridge conferencing. Expensive conferencing systems are no longer required.
Mobile app. Increase mobility and productivity with access to messages on personal cell phones.
Custom voice and SMS apps. Easily send out emergency alerts, weather cancellations and other notifications. You’ll spend less time crafting messages and making sure all recipients receive them.
Cloud-based solution. Enjoy reduced maintenance and overhead costs with a cloud communications solution. Easily scale down over the summer to save money and enjoy the flexibility of shifting user licenses according to personnel changes.
Hybrid solution. Not ready for the cloud? A hybrid solution gives you the features and cost-savings of the cloud, while still maintaining some on-site control. This is a great way to slowly migrate to a complete cloud solution.
Spend Less on Communications, More on Students
The primary focus of your budget should be your students’ education, not your communications. An advanced system at a reasonable price gives schools the flexibility to adapt as needs change, increasing the life of the package.
A system that makes communications easier and is simple to maintain requires fewer resources to keep it running. A truly robust system eliminates the need for add-on items like conferencing that eat up your budget. A well thought out investment can deliver returns from Day 1 when it comes to staffing, training hours and software and hardware requirements.
Schools that take the time to search for a vendor that has education in mind will be able to take advantage of a lower TCO and bank extra dollars for after-school programs, supplies and curriculum-based investments that are focused on the education of the student body.