Missouri Western considers replacing telephone system

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Later this spring, Missouri Western will be looking to replace its outdated telephone system with a new voiceover IP (VoIP) system through a new telephone vendor.

Mark Mabe, Director of Information Technology Services, says that this idea was prompted by AT&T’s announcement that they will soon not be supporting the current phone system.

“The phone system itself just offers significantly greater functional features,” Mabe said. “Our system that we’re on currently has been in place for over 25 years. It’s the old, analog, plain-old telephone system line. It’s served us very well, but we have found out from AT&T that they are going to discontinue that system at the end of 2019. So we took it upon ourselves to go ahead and do a bid and look at the VoIP telephone solutions.”

VoIP phones differ from traditional phones in that they use an IP network, such as the internet, to transmit calls. Among other benefits, Cale Fessler, Vice President of Financial Planning and Administration, says that the new phones will be better in cases of emergency.

“Part of why we’ve also been able to do that now is that our IT server room has 24/7 battery backup operation,” Fessler said. “So if our power goes down, our phone service through VoIP wouldn’t correspondingly go down.”

According to Fessler, this switch would also save the university some extra cash each month. The current phone system costs the university $20.40 per month per line, while the potential new system would cost $19.54 per month per line.

Missouri Western is still in the process of choosing a telephone vendor.

“We haven’t awarded the bid yet,” Fessler said. “We’re still working with the low bidder on that, because we’ve made some additional changes to reduce some lines even further than we anticipated.”

In addition to the possible switch, several faculty members are choosing to remove phone lines from their department offices due to under-use. Mabe says that IT has been reevaluating phone use on campus.

“The VoIP project has kind of prompted us to reevaluate how we’re using phones in the departments and, in some instances, to makes some improvements,” Mabe said.

The idea of allowing faculty members the choice to disconnect their phone lines was originally put forth by the Department of English and Modern Languages. Stacia Bensyl, Department Chair, says that many of their office telephones are rarely used.

“Before I was in this office, my phone didn’t ring very much at all,” Bensyl said. “I always told students that the best way to get ahold of me is email, and that’s what they do anyway, just generally.”

Bensyl feels that removing phone lines makes sense in light of recent budget cuts.

“We know that we’ve got a 3 percent cut for the rest of this year, and we’re looking at 7 to 9 percent in the fall,” Bensyl said. “At some point it doesn’t really matter who gets the savings; it matters that the university gets the savings.”

Since January, 23 departments and offices on campus have disconnected a total of 79 phones, which would result in $1,543 in per month savings if the low bid is awarded by the university.

Currently, the university does not have a proposal in place that is ready for approval, but Fessler is hopeful that they will be ready in time for April’s Board of Governors meeting.