Getting a new VoIP phone system for Galena School District #120 wasn’t just a good idea, it was necessary. The old analog system was not 911 compliant, meaning that the phone system didn’t have the kind of connection to Illinois’ 911 emergency system that allowed it to pinpoint, right down to the classroom, where an emergency call might be coming from. All Illinois schools had to be part of the system, explains Rich Rehfeldt, who was in charge of finding a new system for his district.
It turned out there were a lot of requirements that made this easier said than done. Acquiring the phones at a good price, however, was not one of them. A Sourcewell Cooperative Contract made that the easiest process in Rehfeldt’s list of tasks.
What is Sourcewell?
An Sourcewell cooperative contract is a service created by Sourcewell in Staples, MN. The business model is rather unique. As a member of Sourcewell, which is free, a state agency, school district or non-profit can get aggressively discounted prices on a wide variety of products without going through the RFP and bidding process. This usually shaves months, many months, off the purchasing process for these public organizations. It also gives members a predictable price for a product, which is a great benefit for business managers in these organizations.
A Perfect Fit with Sourcewell
That’s why Rehfeldt always asks vendors if they are in the Sourcewell system when he meets with them for the first time. He discovered Sourcewell about 10 years ago as he was purchasing IT hardware. He was pleasantly surprised by how much easier it made his life that he has used them often over the past decade. Also it “saves me a ton of money,” said Rehfeldt.
After meeting with vendors about the VOIP project, only one manufacturer (Mitel) was available thru the Sourcewell contract and only two vendors (Marco was one of them) were familiar with the Sourcewell program. Other mandates from the state of Illinois made Marco the obvious choice, so Galena School District #120 bought its Mitel VoIP system through them using Sourcewell.
Sourcewell was the determining factor. “You know the price is guaranteed once you are in the Sourcewell agreement and that makes it kind of nice. You’ve got a comfort zone,” said Rehfeldt.
VOIP isn’t easy
The learning curve for VoIP, even though Rehfeldt has an IT background, was steep. He had to figure out how to take an analog phone system with five phone numbers into an IP system with a lot more DID (Direct Inward Dial) numbers. Getting all of those numbers from the phone company took an extra 30 days.
In addition, he had to test the new system with the 911 system run by the police. In the end, the phone system went live the day before school started and it has been trouble free ever since.
Rehfeldt says that learning about VoIP took longer than he thought. Most IT people, he says, don’t really understand the complexity. Fortunately, he doesn’t worry about it anymore. Now that it’s up and running, if he wants to change anything with the system, he just sends an email to Marco support and they remote into his network and fix things.
For Rehfeldt, purchasing his VoIP system using a Sourcewell cooperative contract was the easiest part of his project.