With the 2020 lockdowns causing even more harm to the economically distressed western Pennsylvania, education and career re-skilling became as important to the area as it had ever been.
That meant schools like Pennsylvania Highlands Community College—a top-ranked institution for degree and certificate programs in fields such as healthcare, technology, and agriculture—became more important than ever to the area’s economically disadvantaged residents, many of whom lost their jobs in the COVID quarantines.
But as the college closed its six campus locations and transitioned everyone to working from home, Penn Highlands had to quickly migrate from its legacy, office-bound phone infrastructure to a cloud solution that would allow faculty and staff to continue communicating remotely.
Priority 1: Staying connected during the lockdown
Penn Highlands’ IT team switched to RingCentral’s app-based communications solution primarily to enable its employees to stay connected with students, colleagues, donors, journalists, and other members of the public while working remotely.
“With our old phone system, we would’ve had real difficulty forwarding people’s office numbers to other phones, and there was no way to make calls at home from our work numbers” explains Chief Information Officer Matt Hoffman. “That meant faculty would’ve been giving out their personal cell numbers to students, and our fundraising and marketing staff would’ve had to share their personal contact information with donors and the media.”
When they rolled out RingCentral, Matt’s team solved those challenges immediately for all of the college’s faculty and staff members. Everyone had RingCentral desktop apps on their laptops, mobile apps on their phones, or both—allowing them to make and take calls and even texts from anywhere, using their Penn Highlands office phone numbers.
But that was only the first of several ways the school found it could improve operations with RingCentral.
Finding more benefits from their cloud phone solution
With their antiquated phone infrastructure, Matt’s team found it challenging to make even minor administrative changes to the system. “Setting up a call queue would be a nightmare,” he recalls.
But with a cloud solution that they could easily manage through a user-friendly online dashboard, Matt’s team had no problem creating call queues and updating routing instructions as often as they needed.
Another benefit Matt’s team realized they had with RingCentral was the ability to provide a more rapid response to an emergency call on campus. When they tested out the 911 feature, RingCentral sent texts to Penn Highlands’ internal emergency-services team instantaneously. In fact, they all received the text alerts while the phone was still ringing.
“If someone were calling from a classroom with a real emergency, our own people would be notified even before the 911 operator picked up,” says Matt. “Knowing that gives us real peace of mind.”
Finally, while Matt knew switching to a cloud phone solution would lower Penn Highlands’ overall telecom expenses, he discovered the cost savings was more significant than he had estimated.
“One thing I hadn’t factored in was that our old phone system’s software package was so large, we were paying a small fortune for a virtual system just to house it. When we moved to RingCentral, we were able to stop paying those huge license fees right away.”
Originally published Feb 19, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022