Upgrading telephone system and installing wireless - advice for a novice please
Hi. Our current telephone system is 15 years old and needs replacement. We have no wi-fi beyond a few domestic WAPs. Governors are keen to upgrade the telephone system and install a new wireless system. The central issue is this: do we consider telephones and wireless as separate or integrated solutions.
11-18 school with 1,200 students; 150 staff; one large site built in the 1950s
Funds are VERY tight - we need a value-for-money solution with investment spread over several financial years
a significant number of staff are 'IT-conservative' and want 'the basics' ie simple reliable wireless, telephones and email - for now. In short we are not looking for a leading edge solution
NB I am taking the lead in doing the research needed to come up with a costed strategy ie I do not have a technical background. I also know that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.. especially with something as complex as IT comms systems
Wireless considerations. If funds are tight and we have to make choices then our priorities are:
wireless access for 150 staff and 200 sixth formers now;
1,000 students later.
Is there an option to roll out wireless in stages across financial years?
Telephony. I have a limited understanding of unified comms.
We have just adapted Office 365 and are confident that Salamander will export staff and student data from SIMs which means Lync will give us IM and presence - we find out next week when we link Salamander to our system.
I understand that if we go for a low cost digital PBX telephone system we are missing out on the benefits of VOIP telephones, But VOIP requires an upgrade of our IT infrastructure - as I said funds are very short
My First thoughts
buy a digital PBX knowing it may be redundant in 5 years time - we do not have the funds for IT system upgrade and the extra cost of VOIP. A 50 set digital phone system upgrade is around £10,000 I am told
Use Office 365 Lync and Yammer for free unified comms opportunities within the school - users will need time to gain confidence in their use for teaching and learning.
either do a self-install of wireless in a few key areas or bring in a contractor like Network IT or Net-Ctrl for a site wide installation
Any advice or guidance you can offer on the above most gratefully received.
For wireless the most cost effective solution is Ubiquiti, UniFi | Ubiquiti Networks, Inc., I have not used it personally but it allows for a staged install as you describe, you simply buy access points as and when you can, there is a wealth of opinion on this site about this solution.
I have been putting in UniFi APs for the last few months. So far they are a great success.
The main things to consider IMHO are:
1. Do you have spare sockets to power the APs?
2. Do you have spare network sockets to connect them?
3. How are you going to use the WiFi?
Point 1 can be solved with more sockets or better with an upgrade of your network switches to POE.
Point 2 will need more sockets installed if you do not have spares however you power them.
As to point 3 you need to consider what devices will be used on the wifi. I am only connecting 30 to 40 Learnpad tablets plus a few laptops. The tablets are moved around in the trolley and the APs I have installed are supplemented by taking one more with the trolley to be plugged into a socket in the classroom.
As our school is a 50s build and my budget is also tight I have faced the same dilemma as you ☺
I also had to explain to various people who were pushing for WiFi that you need wires to install wireless!
Don't forget to look at your infrastructure first. Is it able to cope with all these additional devices? Often it depends on your current infrastructure to put in place much of the client separation and security you should really have. Do you run radius for example, or need a solution where the wireless controller can do a lot of it for you? Will you be able to keep voice traffic separate to ensure quality if you go down that route?
Regarding wireless, you need to look at coverage vs. density. Do you want full site coverage, how dense will the deployment of devices be across site? What do you expect your devices to be accessing? How bandwidth hungry will they be? Cheap solutions can work really well. Meraki and Ubiquiti are a good starting point, but they lack quite a few of the features of the more expensive brands, Ruckus, Muru, Aruba, Cisco etc.
With regards to telecommunications - It is likely that your investment will last another 10-15 years. It's an important decision to get right. How are you going to route your external calls? You might be able to use your internet connection, but is it resilient, is there bandwidth free, can you apply QoS? Depending on your external demands, a more traditional medium might prove cheaper - ISDN for example.
VoIP as a term gets confused I think. Handsets which plug into your network points could be VoIP, but your outside calls may go over analogue lines. Hybrid systems are available - they could use existing telephone wires around the building, but allow you to use digital or analogue handsets, and IP based handsets in the future.
You ask the question about if these are different projects, or the same... well that entirely depends on if you see wireless handsets now, or in the future. Wifi telephones can be a funny one to get working, migrating from one access point to another.
You'll get lots of good advice on here - but be prepared for a few questions too!
Last edited by IrritableTech; 22nd May 2014 at 08:28 AM.