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Siena Heights University Case Study

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Siena Heights University learns the ease of VoIP with Mitel UC

Siena Heights University

Poor quality communications, increasing expenses

When the university’s PBX systems and copper wiring became so outdated that the maintenance costs went up and the quality of communications went down, the college began searching for a better solution.

Less maintenance-intensive, lower costs

As with any institution of higher learning—or higher calling—the practicality of daily operations takes focus when things become too complex or cumbersome to run smoothly. “Our Fujitsu F9600 PBX system was more than 10 years old and approaching its maximum capacity, which means we weren’t able to expand cost-efficiently. When faculty and staff mentioned that they have better telephones in their homes than the tools we have to work with, we wanted to do more than upgrade our existing system,” says Bob Metz, director of computer services and systems at Siena Heights University.

Calling for higher communications at a lower cost

By moving away from its legacy PBX platform, the university could eliminate rising support costs and most of its copper wiring. “Data path connectivity between the buildings on our main campus needed to be improved, and we wanted to foster easier communications across the university system, too. Our plan was to upgrade our network and the phone system concurrently and hopefully use one vendor for both to save costs and support a better solution. Fiber and Voice over IP (VoIP) seemed to be an attractive way for us to accomplish these upgrades and offer a greater set of tools for faculty and staff,” explains Metz.

Metz contacted AmeriNet, a Mitel reseller partner in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that specializes in IP telephony solutions. After developing a list of requirements and a request for proposal, potential and incumbent vendors were asked to provide demonstrations and references.

Specifically, Siena Heights University wanted to ensure that a unified communications (UC) solution would integrate with core school business applications and ERP systems. The team was also interested in built-in Web conferencing. “We’re responsible for delivering audiovisuals, and we also want to be able to remotely control client stations through the help desk for better support and training purposes, rather than subscribing to videoconferencing services,” explains Metz.

Another important criterion was the switching infrastructure. Al Ballenberger, network administrator for the university, wanted to ensure that vendors could fully interoperate with network switching technology that offered resilient Power over Ethernet (PoE) for powering IP telephones, thin clients, and higher port counts. “PoE offers a gigabit of data per second. Some of our desktops are thin clients running on Citrix servers. Having switch-to-desktop gigabit power means faster throughput and less energy consumption,” says Ballenberger.

Mitel deemed best-in-class VoIP

Siena Heights University selected Mitel as its IP-based communications provider. “Two vendors proposed Mitel as their VoIP supplier, so we knew Mitel had to be worth looking at. We really liked the distributed architecture, the sustainability, pricing, and the flexibility of the Mitel solutions,” says Metz.

“Price and ease of use were also deciding factors. Mitel presented the lowest TCO, and a simple, unified interface. The other contenders seemed to require extra servers, more technicians and costs, which were not attractive options for us.”

The university implemented the Mitel UC system, which incorporates switch-based hardware to facilitate UC across campuses. Extreme Networks, a Mitel partner, was chosen to implement the high-performance network infrastructure. The university was able to eliminate 490 pairs of copper wiring with Mitel’s distributed architecture and Mitel Voice Switches.

Advanced features increase productivity The system was cut over during the summer, and AmeriNet conducted training for the university’s IT staff, who in turn trained end users. “Staff at AmeriNet are knowledgeable, well trained and experienced, and supported both Extreme and Mitel, working diligently to address our requirements,” says Metz. “They were able to help us identify and anticipate potential issues, which resulted in a smooth implementation, with no unpleasant surprises.”

“We were able to add an application that tracks calls back to budget codes and individuals rather than just extensions, so that we can perform charge-back accounting. And we added a really cool widget—a small specific application for the desktops—to help manage the university’s various fundraising campaigns. The widget integrates Mitel Personal Call Manager with our donor application so that volunteers can simply doubleclick on the phone numbers of prospective donors to place calls from their desktop,” explains Metz.

Mitel Auto-Attendant is making the grade, too, with 24-hour automated call answering and routing. The feature allows departments to handle common inquiries with customized professional prompts, which has helped to free staff time and improve customer service.

“The Find Me feature has been a huge wow factor,” concludes Metz. “I’m pretty mobile on campus and it can be difficult for calls to reach me directly. Mitel allows me to specify up to 10 rules for handling/escalating calls such as ringing to my cell phone or going to voicemail. If voicemail is not acknowledged in 10 minutes, my callhandling escalation rules kick in and the Mitel system finds me—calls my phone and lets me know I have voicemail waiting.”



Siena Heights University decided to deploy a flexible VoIP strategy to improve communications and integrate school applications.


The university implemented the Mitel Unified Communications system, including Mitel Voice Switches, Mitel IP Phones, plus analog phones and other analog devices.


  • Integration with custom and specialty apps
  • Reduced costs and increased reliability
  • Improved call handling and customer service
  • Ability to easily set up temporary call centers

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