UI phone switch 'very successful' despite issues

UI phone switch 'very successful' despite issues

URBANA — Amid grumbling about dropped calls and dysfunctional phone transfers, the University of Illinois made the formal switch to a new computer-based phone service last week.

The campus converted about 10,600 numbers from the old land-line system to the new voice-over-Internet phone service that's part of the $4.8 million Unified Communications system.

"While there have certainly been some issues, it's been very successful," said Greg Gulick, director of application services for Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services, known as CITES.

Unified Communications, run on Microsoft Exchange and Lync software, combines email, instant messaging, electronic calendars and phone service, all through a computer. It's designed to improve services for faculty and staff and save money — up to $3 million a year, by UI estimates.

It has been deployed in stages across campus, with the email and calendar functions already up and running. The majority of phone lines have now been "ported over" from AT&T to Windstream, the new provider, and another 4,000 or so will be converted in the fall after the campus works through any remaining issues, he said.

Some land-line phones will remain, for safety reasons, so that offices always have one or two available during outages or emergencies.

And some units will have more. The Child Development Laboratory is keeping a land-line phone in every classroom and at its front desk in order to comply with licensing regulations from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Executive Director Brent McBride said the classrooms don't have computers, so teachers wouldn't have access to a phone if they switched over to the Lync system. They need to be able to contact other staff members during an emergency and be available to parents throughout the day, he said.

"It's a child-safety issue," McBride said.

And McKinley Health Center won't switch to the new system until procedures can be set up to ensure patient privacy.

The new system converts voice-mail messages to emails, which don't carry as much privacy protection as land-line calls, said Dr. Robert Palinkas, McKinley's director.

McKinley has strict procedures for how to handle voice messages left by students so their questions are addressed promptly and their privacy is protected, he said. Similar procedures will have to be set up to ensure emails or instant messages on the new system are protected in a similar fashion, he said.

The health center sees 80 percent of the student body during the course of a year, and students are sometimes dealing with substance abuse or other issues that could be "career busters" if they were disclosed publicly, he said.

Also, the voice-to-email translation software isn't 100 percent accurate, which could be a problem in a medical situation, Palinkas said.

"There may well be some bugs that we would want worked out before we move over," Palinkas said.

Across campus, complaints have ranged from calls that won't transfer to calls that suddenly end in mid-conversation to employees being unable to use phones because they can't log in to their computers. In one case, every time an employee tried to send an email while she was on the phone it sounded like she was dialing a new call.

One common complaint involves phones that used to be answered by a group of people, or a general number not tied to any one employee, Gulick said. Usually an employee now has to log into that account for the phone to work.

So far the problems have been fairly localized, rather than systemic issues, Gulick said. Most involve people getting used to the new system or errors in the configuration or setup. The CITES help desk has been working to help sort out the problems, he said.

"There's always going to be issues when you do something this major," he said.

It just takes time to get used to various icons to transfer a call, put someone on hold or add a person to a call, said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler, whose office switched over earlier this year.

"It's just a different paradigm," Kaler said. "In our office it was much more frustrating when we first got it than it is now."

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

kiel wrote on June 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

As I said in response to a related story, it's a great system. In order to "answer the phone" on my Mac (which was recommended to me by tech support), I have to change the auido output, unplug my speakers, plug in a headset, and then -- THEN -- I can click on the icon to answer (that is, if the program is left running constantly, interefering with the other programs I use to actually work). So...I'm just guessing that a lot of people in my situation will no longer be answering phone calls.

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on June 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Bingo!  I let everything go to voice mail now.

kiel wrote on June 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Of course, voicemail can come over e-mail now, and that is completely reliable. Here's an example of one I got today: 

"Hey this is rob visa counter if you could give me a call I wanna just talk to you little bit about the stones and stuff kinda pushing it rest alright peace with what what's going on over there sometimes tedious we need to start on the phone and email."

Totally comprehensible.

killerut wrote on June 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Technology makes everything better.  WEll, it's supposed to.

xb wrote on June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

It's a "preview" not a transcription and it's pretty useful for some things.  Really it is no more or less accurate than Google Voice, and you can turn the transcript off if you don't like it and just listen to the audio.

dean5101 wrote on June 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

It should be able to setup to use your Mac's speakers and mic.  You shouldn't be forced to use a headset with it.

kiel wrote on June 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I do not want my phone calls broadcast over my speakers. No reason for anyone in my office to hear my phone calls.

gamera wrote on June 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

My Mac has no mic or camera. And one small speaker on the box that you can't hear even when the air conditioner is turned off and the printer isn't running. 

spangwurfelt wrote on June 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Unworkable solution if you don't have a private office, which most university employees don't.

pangloss wrote on June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Well, this is what you get for choosing an Apple (which makes it difficult for IT staff to help you, given the way things are dealt with on an enterprise-scale windows domain system like UI and most businesses and universities are setup).

The new phones work flawlessly with Windows 7 and Lync/Office 2010.

spangwurfelt wrote on June 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

About a third of the people on campus use Macs. If Lync can't handle one third of the people on campus, Lync is not ready for prime time, that's all there is to it.

pangloss wrote on June 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Lync for Windows works perfectly fine with the new phone system.

Where are you getting your "one third" figure from, exactly?  I've worked in IT support in two different departments on campus, and taken classes in several others.  The percentage of departmentally owned and serviced computers on campus can't be anywhere near 1/3 Apple.

spangwurfelt wrote on June 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm

'Lync for Windows works perfectly fine with the new phone system.'

Good to hear. Then you should be able to name a deskset phone currently available that can be driven by the Mac Lync client Microsoft currently supplies.

As far as the prevalence of Macs, I've been in meetings this year where 7 out of 8 of the laptops are Macs. If you aren't seeing lots of Macs on campus, you need to get out more.

pangloss wrote on June 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Just as I figured - your "one third" figure was just pulled out of thin air and not based on any real data.  Most of those laptops you saw in your 'meetings' were probably personal machines.  I can assure you, after dealing with scores of systems on campus, the vast majority of University-owned computers are PC/Windows machines.  I would guess that Apple makes up closer to 10% of systems.  Of course, this does not include personal machines that people bring in to work, which are only given limited support in most departments and were never intended to be used with the UC system.

Even for the few people who DO use departmental macs, the MS Lync for OSX works just fine with the lync-compatible handsets and headsets, with a few tweaks.

After setting up dozens of lync phones for staff and faculty last semester, I really can't think of more than one or two people who expressed anything but satisfaction with the new system...most were beyond satisfied and enjoying the new features offered.  None of these people were very tech-savvy either.

Orbiter wrote on June 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm

pangloss wrote "Most of those laptops you saw in your 'meetings' were probably personal machines."

Yes, but you don't seem to understand that graduate students and post doctorals and even a lot of regular staff are using personal machines because the department or program they're working in does not supply them with University owned machines. The fact that they're using personal machines for university business is a HUGE savings to the University and State.  But those people ARE needing telephony services, and now you're saying that the only way they'll get it, if they're using Macs (which virtually everyone in my program owns) is to use a personal cell phone as well.  

I will acknowledge that xb did provide one potential solution for many situations: a shared IP phone in the shared office/lab.  Just like the Centrex line was shared. But someone is going to have to pay to put in the extra jacks in the wall, because many of those personal laptops that individuals are providing for their University work are using WiFi--because of a shortage of Cat6 jacks.

spangwurfelt wrote on July 02, 2012 at 9:07 am

"Just as I figured - your "one third" figure was just pulled out of thin air and not based on any real data."

Comes from a conversation I had, oh around January or so, with a guy at Cites in a position to know, who put the campus Apple "penetration" as he called it at about thirty percent.

Y'all need to get out more.

Fromthearea wrote on July 03, 2012 at 7:07 pm

In regards to the Apple use being nearly a third, oh I bet it can.  I'm guessing your contract won't get renewed when you have to reapply for your job in what, two years?  

Orbiter wrote on June 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

The adoption of the Microsoft telephony package by the U of I is a real scandal. Someone must have gotten paid-off for this.  Horrible system, and as other commentors have said, it's a major pain to use. It's fine for receptionists and call centers, but for the diversity of the academic institution, it's horrible.  The dictatorial manner in which it was rolled-out was chaotic and overbearing.  NO user-feedback was solicited, and there are clusters of people on campus who were never even notified of the upcoming change--and who in fact are still using wired phones.

schmeckendeugler wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

I disagree with you on almost every point! I love it, I have no problem using it.

User feedback was solicited over a years' time, but only for certain departments.

Sure, somebody got paid off- Microsoft and the other company. But the U. will indeed save millions.

Regarding the "Dictatorial manner" in which it was rolled out? you expected a democratic method of choosing a VOIP provider?

If you don't feel you were in the loop enough, ask your IT staff about it.

 

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on June 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

User feedback was solicited over a years' time, but only for certain departments.

Which departments?  Certainly not mine!  It is a terrible system, slows down the process of the email system, drops calls, and I can barely hear the person on the other end.  God forbid the caller is on their cell phone because can't conduct business with them. I had to usually call them back from a land line to finish business.  Now I don't even have that option.  The dictation function is a joke.  Hate it!

Orbiter wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Somehow, schmekendugler, I suspect that you're one of the folks behind this horrible new phone system.

 

"I loved it! ... Much better than Cats!  ...  I'm going to see it again and again!"

Janet wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

Yes, it's a great system if you don't have to use it. First, my phone was mysteriously disconnected before the switch.  Then, I could not dial long distance, which meant I couldn't reach 20+ coworkers on the Chicago campus. [This has been repeated in our conference room, which turned all of yesterday's meetings with the Chicago campus into no-shows.] Then there's the fact that the system further slows down my ancient computer (in case no one is aware, some departments can't afford anything but surplused equipment).  But that didn't prevent us from having to buy several $100 phones to replace the perfectly good ones that we can no longer use.  Add to that the non-intuitive ways of dealing with calling records, and not being able to make a call when my computer is off (like when I'm about to go out the door and there is a crisis I need to deal with). It's a pain. No one in my office likes it. 

schmeckendeugler wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

"Then there's the fact that the system further slows down my ancient computer (in case no one is aware, some departments can't afford anything but surplused equipment)."

This is more of a problem with how the University handles IT purchases, than the phone system itself. I would rather much see the entire university go all-in on giant batch computer purchases, rather than force smaller academic units live off the surplussed scraps.

We implemented the phone system to save money... now, let's save even more money by cosolidating the IT resources.

Orbiter wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm

"We implemented"  Oh yea, I see you really are one of the folks behind this.

And so it's no surprise that you'd like to take away all purchasing choice from the entire university community when it comes to IT acquisitions.  That is the kind of big-brother minded approach which causes these problems.  And here you are, blatantly advocating for you and your ilk to have even MORE power.   

See my comment above about "dictatorial manner", and see how you criticized it... and then demonstrated it.

Bah, be gone.

spangwurfelt wrote on June 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

"We implemented the phone system to save money... now, let's save even more money by cosolidating the IT resources."

And so the hand is tipped.

vcponsardin wrote on June 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

As I commented in another article today, our department had to get rid of most individual faculty office phones several years ago--long before this system was installed--for financial reasons.  We were told to use our personal cell phones instead.  So we have no office numbers to switch over to the new system.  In fact, almost all of my contact with students and colleagues is now via email.  I might occasionally use Skype or Gmail to make a phone call.  But this new system just isn't relevant to most of the faculty in my department.  And no one has made any effort to show us how it might be relevant or useful or worth the cost.  Obviously, the only part of our department to use the new system is the main office.  But I must say, I called in earlier this week and got a very unfriendly robot voice machine that took much too long to deliver the welcoming message and to direct me to the correct number.  If I were a prospective student calling for information, I'd be very unimpressed.

logicalpositivist wrote on June 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I’m surprised nothing has been said about the new travel expense system causing huge delays in processing payments. Also, what about the new requirement where travel agents (who charge commissions) must be used, instead of just using internet booking sites?

vcponsardin wrote on June 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

No kidding.  I just attended a conference in Spain last month.  The Univ. required I use a local travel agent.  I soon discovered that I could have done much better had I booked my ticket online on my own.  Not only that, but a colleague from another school booked his ticket on the same flight three weeks later, paid less, and got a window seat, no problem.  I got stuck in the middle of a wide-body and was unable to change seats online or through the local agent.  Once again, the University's efforts at efficiency are suspect and demonstrably flawed.

MS1204 wrote on June 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm

So many of these comments are things that could be taken care of with a simple call or email to CITES. The Mac problems have been researched, and there are some better solutions in place than the one that you mention. An IP phone, for example, is being used in some Mac instances, and seems to work fine.

Complaining does no good. Research solutions, ask questions, and go on with life. This system wasn't just picked out of thin air. A lot of time and effort went into the selection, preparation, and implementation. CITES has done a great job of communicating, soliciting feedback, and preparing campus for the switch. I do not work for them, but I was a Telecom Unit Coordinator for one of the units on campus, and I don't feel like anything being said here is fair to them. There were bumps, as there would be with any system, but they have worked endless hours to correct those bumps and make this process as smooth as possible for every unit on campus. If you don't feel like you received enough communication, look to your own Telecom Unit coordinator. I promise you, their feedback was solicited, even if they didn't offer any, it was requested.

No matter how you feel about the system, it is here. It's a great system, and you just need to get used to it.

Greg and team did an outstanding job, and all deserve very long vacations after this.

kiel wrote on June 27, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I have called CITES numerous times. Nothing has been accomplished doing so. The solution I described was the one SUGGESTED BY TECH. 

juandez wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Kiel, I left U of I before the project was complete and never worked for CITES, but I knew enough about the project to know you're being completely unreasonable. I'm pretty sure nobody has suggested you continue to do something that does not work. Likely you turned it around in your mind to make it that way.

The solution might involve you having to buy something. There is no guarantee that you can use every existing piece of equipment you own. Perhaps another headset will solve the problem.

I never worked for CITES but spent quite a bit of time dealing with them, and whenever anyone claims to have called them "numerous times" there is a problem and it is probably not with CITES. If you're expecting instant answers over the phone and get impatient and keep hanging up telling people they're no help, then yes, you won't get much solved.

If you work through the process, return phone calls, and wait for things to escalate, you will get your problem solved. There probably is an IT person local to you who can help you with this as well. 

I'm sorry, I just don't buy it. They're pretty good with customer service and followthrough. It's a lot more likely you've been unreasonable which seems clear by the tone of your comments. They're busy, but they're not inherently stupid nor do they want you to have a bad experience.

The new phone system is pretty technically impressive and was put together through a long process with many, many oppourtunities for feedback. 

I actually registered for an account just to reply to you.

I hope you get your phone setup fixed and working but it'll require you and them to work together. Good luck.

gamera wrote on June 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

So...you're saying that Kiel is lying and you know this even though you don't work for CITES nor do you know Kiel or that situation but in your infinite internet wisdom, you know better. 

Nice condescention. 

spangwurfelt wrote on June 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

"The Mac problems have been researched, and there are some better solutions in place than the one that you mention."

Are you serious? There are some paperclip hacks and stopgaps which at best bring Lync on the Mac from being 100% fail to 90% fail. They can't change the fact that Microsoft's deeply inferior Mac client for Lync is several iterations behind and lacks many important features, including a complete 100% inability to use deskset phones at all.

Which, again, might not be a problem if Macs weren't about a third of the computers on campus.

xb wrote on June 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm

You have 100% ability to use a desk (IP) phone, because a desk phone does not require a computer.  You just can't do phone control from the computer, but most people don't seem to care about that anyway, nor do they really care that their calendar shows up on their phone.  

You didn't have that on centrex so you really aren't losing anything features you had before.  Using the mac client only, the biggest issue is the audio control.  What other feature is a fail compared to your centrex phone?

 

 

spangwurfelt wrote on June 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Remember, Lync was supposed to give the university not just cost savings but new capabilities, video conferencing, etc, the buzzword was "unified communications." It was all supposed to be cross platform, which is essential in a campus environment. Now that we've got it in place, we can see that all these great cross-platform things Microsoft promised didn't actually materialize in the cross-platform way they were promised. Microsoft's Mac Lync client right now is so tuberculitic that the recommended campus way to use it is, apparently, either don't bother to use it at all (accepting Microsoft's promises are unfulfilled) or use those parts of the Mac client that actually work (accepting that _some_ of Microsoft's promises are unfulfilled) and juggle audio jacks or broadcast your calls to the entire room.

Somehow, on the way out of Redmond, a lot of those promised bells fell off and whistles rusted out.

I know that the campus people who put this together are doing the best they can with what Microsoft has given them, and they've worked hard, and my complaint isn't about them, because after all Microsoft had promised them robust Mac support and gave them what looks to me like a sow's ear. But I sure hope that the message getting sent back to Redmond isn't "Mac users are all sorted out" because they're not.

Microsoft still has a chance to pull it off, but if they decide to doom a third of UIUC campus users to a third-rate phone system by failing to live up to their cross-platform promises, it'd be awful hard to recommend other universities follow in our footsteps with Lync.

xb wrote on June 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

You make some very good points.  The only thing I can say back is, if the campus didn't go with Lync due to its level of Mac support, what would we have gone with that actually supports MacOS better and fulfills all the scale/capability requirements?  There are choices, but not many, and they have their own major disadvantages.

spangwurfelt wrote on June 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I think that the campus made the right decision based on the promises that were made, but I also think that people are pretty clear that the gap between what we were promised on the Mac and what we got is a pretty big deal. Microsoft needs to know that they can't be Microsoft-as-usual on this, relegating Macs to the thing they only think about after they are done thinking of all the other afterthoughts. There had better be big red alarm bells going off in Redmond right now, and our campus better be twisting Microsoft's arms mighty hard, or the two-word summary of this whole thing will be "broken promises." And with that any dreams Microsoft had of collecting the higher education telephony market for itself.

Orbiter wrote on June 30, 2012 at 12:06 am

xb wrote: "You have 100% ability to use a desk (IP) phone, because a desk phone does not require a computer."

But it DOES require an IP jack. And there aren't enough of those in many offices.  Because when they were being installed, nobody told us we'd need one for each of the 6 telephones in the office.  So your nifty solution is no solution at all.  Heck, we can't even get a clear wireless signal in my office.

I'm sure additional jacks can be installed... requiring expensive cat6 wiring and unsightly wall conduit, while the perfectly functional legacy copper phone lines are being ripped out.  I bet your brother in law can do it for us right away.

This was a complete boondoggle.

Michael McKelvey wrote on July 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

In case it helps ease your mind, new ethernet jacks aren't needed in order to install IP phones. The IP phones have the ability to pass network traffic through from the ethernet jack to a computer.  So when you set up an IP phone, an ethernet cable connects the phone to the wall, and another ethernet cable connects the computer to the phone.  The phone receives only voice traffic, and all other traffic is passed through unimpeded.

Bulldogmojo wrote on June 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Wait until everyone gets back in the fall and find out half the numbers didn't transfer...oops

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

If they did transfer, there is still the problem of training those who were gone over the summer.  The IT staff will be very busy the first few weeks; as well as those who were here over the summer.  The training will not be a problem; but getting those who were gone over the summer to do the training while at the same time they are doing their work will be a problem.  It will all work itself out by the end of the semester.  No one likes change; but it still happens.  People adapt; or fall behind.

drewbert41 wrote on June 29, 2012 at 9:06 am

VOIP is the future of business phone systems. It is going to save the University millions of dollars. The only reason this was not done earlier is because of the large scale of the University.

It will take time to work out the kinks as with every new technology. Instant messaging has replaced most of my phone calls, and the calls I do get mostly go to voicemail anyways since I am out in the field.

And in case you are wondering yes I helped implement this system.

No matter what change, good or bad, people will complain.

You complained about Windows 7, now you like it.

You complained about your smartphone now you cannot live w/o it.

 

Go with the flow. New technology takes a little time to get used to, but it is for the better (in most cases).

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Spare me the crap about "testing in certain departments, blah, blah, blah".  The decision to go to this system was made LONG before any testing was done or before any feedback was received.  As far as saving millions, that too is a farce.  They've had to buy numerous new servers because they totally underestimated what was going to be needed. 

xb wrote on June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

This is the unfortunate part about comments, there isn't any fact checking (vs at least in the articles it is pretty accurate).  When do you think the decision was made and when do you think the testing and feedback started?  Post and I and others can help you figure out that I don't think you are correct.

I think even if they doubled their servers for voice services it would barely be getting into six figures, so I don't see that significantly changing the overall savings over the next 3-5 years.  This system is dirt cheap compared to probably the only other viable vendor at this scale (I'm betting the 'server' end alone would have been more like 10x the cost not to mention the user end requirements).

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on June 30, 2012 at 9:06 am

My wife works in CITES, her group was part of the so-called "test".  I know for a fact that absolutely nobody cared about whatever comments they had because the decision to implement campus-wide had already been made.  The system is total crap for Macs and the University is still going to have to pay the phone company for the "rental" on all of the phone numbers.....those don't come free.

xb wrote on June 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Constructive comments go a long way and help everyone.  Giving someone feedback that they can work with and actually do something about is good, not, I have negative things to say but no alternative suggestions that one can actually take action on.  What could be done before with her centrex phone that can not be done now?  Is part of her ability to do her job impacted compared to what it was on centrex?  These are the sort of feedback that can actually get changes to be made.

The challenge with Macs of course is that in business in general, the % of their share (which are actually still running MacOS and not Windows) in business generally is still pretty small, and far far smaller outside the United States than it is even here.  If you've ever visited a business which is primarily MacOS based, you will find that pretty much every desk has a physical VOIP phone (unless it's a business where the employees really don't use the phone).

spangwurfelt wrote on July 02, 2012 at 9:07 am

"The challenge with Macs of course is that in business in general, the % of their share (which are actually still running MacOS and not Windows) in business generally is still pretty small, and far far smaller outside the United States than it is even here."

This is true. But if Microsoft is serious about the higher education telephony market, a market with its own distinctive characteristics, they're going to have to turn it up a few notches in Mac Lync support. I've seen promises of new versions of the Mac Lync client later this year that will catch up to some degree, which is not just a good sign but frankly a necessary one. So let's hope they carry through with their promises.

Scratch Fury wrote on July 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm
Profile Picture

 

It seems evident that the new system has saved a lot of money for the University over Centrex and other VoIP vendors, but I also find the savings claims a bit disingenuous, because it seems a fair chunk of the purported "savings" comes from passing costs down to the colleges/departments/units.  Examples, to the best of my understanding (please note, I'm in IT, not finance/accounting!):

  • The units' telephony bills per FTE (Full-Time Employee) have increased because they now include new charges for services like network costs (which I believe were essentially free previously) subsidized by CITES or the Provost or some office high up.  Perhaps this is a good and fair thing, but I feel it's also important to acknowledge that it's happening, and that just because some office high up in the University's administration is saving millions of dollars, it doesn't mean that overall the University is necessarily saving money.
  • While units did already pay for each phone line, now there are many more phone lines because each FTE has his/her own phone, as opposed to shared phone lines for a whole room which might have covered 2-10 people previously.  So I'm pretty sure colleges/departments/units are now paying more for telephony than they did before Lync.

Feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken on these points, but I have found that my discussions with the billing people tend to leave me more confused rather than less, since they look at things from a particular point of view and can't always translate what they're saying so the average lay-person can understand it.  I also sometimes get the feeling that they have been told to word things in certain ways and to avoid particular words and phrases...

Please note that this is all coming from someone who has whole-heartedly adopted Lync and finds it to be a wonderful improvement over the old Centrex phones.  I find I use my "phone" (headset connected to computer via Bluetooth) so much more than I used to use the Centrex phone, which would sometimes go untouched for weeks.  I also think CITES has done the best they can to implement a system as massive as this, so I bear them no ill will whatsoever.

birdfarmer wrote on June 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

No, drewbert41, people don't randomly complain about change, they complain about stupid change in which they have no input.

People did not complain about Win7, they complained about Vista because it was spit out by MS without sufficient development time given to the developer community.

People complain about Banner because it is still a failed package by Enterprise standards, a gift to Arthur Anderson Consulting.

They complain about iBuy because it is a failure at many levels yet the U/I is now owned by its developer, just like ...

the U/I is now owned by MS for whatever MS wants to charge for the Lync software down the road.  Why can I make a Google Voice long distance call for free but have to pay full copper-quality long distance charges for a long distance call through Lync? 

Save us all if VoIP is the future.  The squelch/digitizing/noise floor of this implementation of VoIP sucks and as others have said, if combined with a cell phone on the opposite end of a conversation, is nearly unintelligible.

xb wrote on June 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm

If we switched to another provider (Google or whatever) you don't think the univ would be "owned" for the time we were with them?  I bet we are a lot less "owned" now than depending 100% on AT&T.  You can make a Google Voice call for free because you are an individual user.  Last I checked, you can't port a corporate number or a wireline number to GV, and it doesn't have encryption.  You're also not going to get call distribution or multiple people answering lines.

If you have bad audio quality, you need to have someone help you investigate what's wrong with your computer / network, this is really an issue you can get fixed.  The calls within the system seem to sound like the person is practically in the same room with you, and even the calls to the outside are really clear.  Cell phones have pretty poor audio and you do really realize it when you talk to someone on one after making other calls (but, that's the cell phone's issue).  Maybe you're hearing the limits of a cell phone more clearly now :-)

drewbert41 wrote on June 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm

You guys are old school.... What is better paying a phone bill for 70,000 people or having some extra network traffic? People complain about the state wasting our money (which they should) but when they do things to save money they still complain because they want their ancient centrex phones. sheesh..

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

At least, it will have more memory.  The message that someone's voicemail box is full will not occur until there are many more unanswered calls.  When someone's voicemail box is full; does that mean they are really busy, or lazy?  I worked for someone who never responded to their voicemail calls.  If you said that you had left a message, the response was: "I never answer my voicemail calls."  Of course, they never read their e-mails either.  I used to drive them nuts by e-mailing with copies to every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the chain-of-command.  After a week or so; the copy recipients would start sending e-mails which were not answered inquiring about what was decided.  The preferred administrative method for communicating was face to face with no witnesses.  It allowed for plausible deniability.   The front line employees started communicating in pairs with the administrators.  That was state employment though.  I am sure that it does not happen in university employment. 

pangloss wrote on June 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Exactly.  It is saving quite a bit of money, and user feedback on the system is actually quite good, on the whole.  The system really only poses a problem to people using Apples (and it still works fine with some adjustments), or very old Windows computers that don't have the hardware performance to handle the Lync software running all the time.

Voicemail boxes don't "fill up" anymore, messages are delivered in audio format to one's e-mail account automatically, a feature that many people like.

jgrout wrote on June 30, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Anyone who buys a Microsoft-based VOIP implementation has in effect made up their minds about the relative importance of Windows versus other platforms.  I am surprised to learn that UIUC would choose such a platform.  My employer's Cisco-based system is platform agnostic and functions with Windows, Mac, Linux, and other Unix platforms.

xb wrote on July 03, 2012 at 1:07 pm

It's not platform agnostic... you have to buy nearly all Cisco gear to make it work with all the features.  You also pay several times as much for the servers and maintenance.  You also end up with a bunch of proprietary protocols.  Been there, done that.  For every place Microsoft, Cisco, OR Apple is "agnostic", there are plenty of other areas where they are pretty interested in you using just their stuff.

*ix users are probably much happier if their client software isn't made by either Cisco or Microsoft.  They've got open source software to do IM and presence now with Lync, and since the protocols are free and published, as soon as someone decides to do something about it the open source community will likely make voice fully work on an *ix software voice client.  Right now there are *ix clients that could talk to Lync if it were set up to accept it, but the university wisely is requiring encryption and has to obey E911 laws, both of which the *ix generic VOIP clients don't seem to handle right now. 

IMHO Linux users seem to be pretty happy either getting an IP phone or forwarding their phone to their cell phone and not having anything someone else is telling them to install on their computer :-)