Iowa State's telephone service moves to the 'cloud'

Imagine. You’re walking on campus at lunchtime and your cell phone rings. It’s a call that’s coming in on your ISU telephone number, not your cell number. You take the call. You’re still having the conversation when you return to your desk, so you pick up the receiver on your desk telephone and continue the call.  Different phone, same line, same call. This is possible because of the “integrated lines” feature on your computer.

Integrated lines is just one of the many features that will be available through the university telephonic system beginning next month.  Campus-wide telephone replacement will take place between May 1 and July 1.

The following Q&A from information technology services (ITS) explains the change.

Why are we getting new telephones?

ITS has been investigating telephonic systems for more than a year because the current service contract expires on July 1. ITS was seeking a cost-effective solution that would keep up with rapidly changing technology. The goal is to provide more features, better integration and enhanced user control at a lower cost.

What is replacing the current telephonic system?

ISU will contract through Internet2, an advanced networking consortium led by research and educational institutions, of which Iowa State is a member. Internet2 will host Iowa State's telephonic services through "cloud computing," which means ISU's telephonic services will be housed off site. Aastra will be the university's cloud service provider, storing ISU's telephone data digitally, initially in Texas and New York. More cloud storage locations will be added as the network grows.

Iowa State is the first educational institution to switch its entire telephonic system to Aastra in the cloud using the Internet2 network. Along with other colleges and universities using Internet2, Iowa State is helping to develop communications programs in higher education.

What's the advantage of using "the cloud" for telephone services?

The new system will provide flexible service levels, upgrades, support and an integration of services. And because ISU is purchasing a service rather than just hardware, this system is more cost effective.

What's the initial cost to the university to switch to this new telephone system, and how is it being funded?

The capital outlay for the telephone system, for which ITS had planned and budgeted, is $1.5 million to replace the telephones and $50,000 for local gateways (systems that connect to local phone companies such as CenturyLink). ISU will realize a savings of approximately $600,000 per year. There will be no initial cost to individuals or departments; you actually will pay less and receive more services.

Who is getting a new telephone?

Most telephones on campus (about 8,000) will be replaced. This includes telephones in residence hall lobbies and dens.

What is happening to the old telephones?

The old telephones are going to ISU asset recovery.

When will my telephone be replaced?

An installation crew will begin replacing telephones May 1 (1,000 phones each week for eight weeks).

Will the new telephone installation cause any disruption to my telephone service?

There should be minimal disruption to your telephone service when the new telephone is installed. Generally, your new telephone will be installed up to a week before your scheduled “cut over,” leaving your current telephone in place. On a specified date, your telephone will be removed from the old system and activated on the new system. The installation crew will return to remove your existing telephone when functionality has been verified.

Can I keep my current telephone number?

You will keep the same telephone number, and basic functionality will remain the same.

What features will my telephone have?

The new telephones will have several new capabilities. Employees may choose to integrate their university telephone numbers with personal cell phones and/or their university computers. The telephone system also will be linked with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, and configuration changes such as the "busy" indicator and call forwarding can be edited through a user interface on the Aastra website. It's up to you how many, or how few, of the new capabilities you use.

Will I get trained on how to use my new telephone?

Yes. All department telephone coordinators will be invited to an informational session on April 11. Most user training will be provided through online tutorials with specific training requests accommodated as needed.

Will 911 calls or ISU Alert be impacted with the changes?


Will the university's telephone service be impacted if campus Internet servers go down?

Iowa State has redundant, or multiple, connections to the Internet. If a complete outage occurred, the telephone systems' local survivability gateways would take over and handle telephone service for the university until the connection is restored.

Who can I contact with questions about the new telephones?

You may contact the ITS implementation team or the ITS support team at 4-8565.