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|Friday, 23 January, 2015|
By ROSELYNN WAHTOMY
FORT HALL – The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes converted to ShoreTel Phone System on December 10.
All tribal employees completed training the first week of December to learn how to operate the new system.
Mike Grinnell, IT Director for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes explains the old phone system was is dire need for an upgrade and change in technology.
“The Tribes phone system was a mix of digital, analog and IP phones controlled from several different locations around the Tribal campus. This made it very time consuming and tedious to troubleshoot in the event phone service was down in any one of the Tribes many departments.” He says the old phone system infrastructure, or underground copper phone lines have been buried in the ground since the early 70’s and have become old, brittle and have been slowly deteriorating over time sometimes breaking altogether. For instance, during periods of rain or snow many phones experienced static, or simply shorted out from being exposed to moisture. In addition, the lines have been continuously dug up and severed during construction activity throughout the years.
“The continual breaking and repairing of these old brittle lines have contributed significantly to the degradation and weakening of the copper phone line infrastructure. In addition, many of the outlying departments such as Water Resources, Tax, Early Childhood, and Transportation relied on separate phone company technology (T-1’s) to tie their phones into the Tribal phone system costing thousands of dollars each year for that service. Maintaining the old phone system was extremely costly and inefficient for the Tribes, not just in dollars and cents, but also in man hours needed for the continual repair and maintenance, and especially the downtime experienced by mission critical departments,” said Grinnell.
Over 300 phones were replaced and more phones will be added to the system as time goes on. He estimates the cost as very minimal compared to the cost burden to maintain the old system.
The new system has voice over Internet protocol work capabilities.
Simply put, it is a method of taking analog audio signals, such as the kind heard when talking on the phone and turning them into digital data that can be transmitted over the Internet. Of course this requires a series of servers, switches, IP phones, and other devices to make this work over the Tribes internal intranet infrastructure. The end result however, is the ability to make and receive phone calls as before, but over an Internet connection. It eliminates the need for traditional underground copper wires.
Grinnell notes five major benefits to the Tribes on the new system: 1. Elimination of the old copper wiring of the past. 2. Centralized phone system administration. 3. Cost savings in the thousands with the elimination of T-1 services from Century Link. 4. Cost saving in the thousands from maintenance and repair. 5. Major reductions in down time and system outages due to severed lines from construction activity.
Grinnell adds there are many other benefits to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phones over the more traditional type of phones. One clear advantage is that VoIP phones provide more features than traditional phones. For instance, not only is there call forwarding and voicemail, there are also such features as being able to turn voice messages into e-mail messages. Having the ability to manage voice mail and calls directly from a computer screen, and incorporate those calls into files that can be stored on the local PC is an added benefit. These added features mean improved convenience and productivity. VoIP is often a less expensive way to make calls than with traditional phones. It’s also convenient because it’s so portable. For example, an employee can move their phone anywhere and keep the same number whether it’s at the TBC, or moving to the Water Resources office several miles down the road.
“Voice over IP Technology is the new technology, and the way of the future,” said Grinnell.
There are whole municipalities such as Idaho Falls that have completely changed over to the ShorTel phone system, a highly respected leader in its industry.