Case Studies

THE NEW FRONTIER OF TEACHING

Advocating for teachers, learning, and a better tomorrow across Alberta

As the province’s professional organization of teachers, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) promotes and advances public education, safeguards standards of professional practice, and serves as the advocate for its 47,000 members. This case study describes how ThinkTel enables the ATA to accomplish its mission: to assist teaching professionals to achieve educational excellence in classrooms and communities across Alberta.

Forged in 1918

The original ATA was established 100 years ago, towards the end of the First World War in 1918. With thousands of young Albertans serving abroad and no professional teaching standards or teachers’ association in place back home, the state of education in the province was disconnected. Alberta’s teachers took action, unifying professionally into the ATA, or Alberta Teacher’s Alliance, which in 1936 became the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Rapid growth

While the ATA has evolved considerably over the past century, the Association stays true to its bold and progressive vision to respond to and represent members across the entire, enormous province of Alberta. From offices in Edmonton and Calgary, an innovative team of 170 professionals supports over 47,000 teachers and substitute teachers working in 55 ATA Locals province-wide.

“While we may not function as a traditional call centre, our members call in at any time, from across the province. Depending on what’s going on, we can field dozens—even hundreds—of calls in a single day.”

—Chris Stogowski, Enterprise Infrastructure Architect, Team Lead

Staying connected

While the ATA does hold in-person meetings, the efficiency of modern technology allows its employees to communicate and collaborate with ATA members on a more regular and frequent basis. Most day-to-day member services are delivered by phone and through email. The ATA relies on both to tackle diverse tasks such as fielding inquiries, resolving issues, and managing teacher qualification and development programs.

“People don’t think a lot about telephony. But we rely on phones and email every day to communicate. Our members notice if our lines go down. That’s why we try to engineer things to ensure minimal down time.”

Best-in-class telephony

With communications at its core, the ATA’s technology team continually invests in modern solutions to provide its members and employees with the best possible experience. A conversation about the opportunity to improve ATA’s telephony led to a meeting with telecom provider and Microsoft partner ThinkTel . ThinkTel provides Internet-based voice, video, and data service to businesses across Canada.

“Unlike the big telcos, ThinkTel is smaller, more agile and responsive. When we need something, they’re there. They are different and a better fit when it comes to working with them.”

Proof of concept

The ATA recognized how the ThinkTel solution eliminated the single points of failure in the old system while providing its technical team with greater visibility and improved control over their technical environment. Once the technical team piloted the new platform and saw how well it functioned, they confidently rolled it out to the entire organization.

“We took our time getting familiar with the technology and started testing it ourselves, on conference calls and whatnot. Everything worked perfectly and over time we felt confident of the benefits we could realize.”

The ThinkTel solution

With ThinkTel’s assistance, the ATA replaced its outdated PRI system with ThinkTel’s SIP trunking solution, which allowed for the introduction of modern collaboration tools, specifically Skype for Business. By embracing a “pure SIP solution,” the technical team eliminated the headaches of managing technically complex media gateway hardware, which the old system relied on to translate voice over IP.

“Our largest annoyance was the media gateway hardware. It took a technical specialist to go in there and figure out these rules, which typical IT pros do not know. We were happy to let go of that stress and anxiety.”

Access supreme

With Think Access, the ATA gained a dedicated private access circuit from ThinkTel that the SIP Trunk can run on. This private connection keeps the ATA’s traffic off the internet, heightening security and other essential benefits such as: dedicated and guaranteed bandwidth; robust service level agreement and monitoring; and “multiple services, one circuit.”

Skyping along nicely

The ATA’s employees adjusted nicely to using Skype for Business. Some use it just for calls, while others embrace advanced features like video conferencing and instant messaging chat. The ATA tech team provides each employee with Skype for Business orientation and encourages them to explore the features as they see fit.


“Instead of worrying about tying up a quarter of our phone lines to do conference calls, we use Skype for Business instead. Staff can have as many people on the call as they need or want.”

Savings

While reducing costs was not a primary motivator for modernizing, the ATA realized significant savings with ThinkTel, primarily in long distance charges. In a province covering an area of 660,000 square kilometres, these savings add up quickly! The ATA estimates that their long-distance charges are down to approximately 25 percent of the former amount.

“With ThinkTel, we stopped thinking about single points of failure and the potential for busy signals. Today our phone system is more robust and flexible, with the added benefit of saving over 40% than with our previous provider.”

Scale up

For an organization with a growing membership, like the ATA, a scalable solution eliminates potential barriers to growth instantly. Instead of future investing in IT infrastructure, like another PRI or new media gateways to replace those that fail, they can simply get the service they need, when they need it.

“Other vendors said they offered SIP, but it wasn’t true SIP. ThinkTel was able to reduce the single point of failure.”

The ThinkTel difference

With ThinkTel, the ATA also enjoys peace of mind, thanks to more disaster recovery and redundancy measures. If something should happen at either office and/or their private line should ever go down, calls will travel over the Internet instead—giving the tech team the time they need to identify and remediate the problem.

Benefits

  • Collaboration → Skype for Business features—like video conferencing, persistent chat, and desktop sharing—spark more collaboration and better all-around communication.
  • Cost savings → By removing service fees and connectivity costs, ThinkTel’s solution dramatically reduced the ATA’s long-distance charges—from $3,600 to $2,000 monthly!
  • Reliability → SIP Trunking eliminates potential points of failure by establishing a direct SIP connection with the mediation server without relying on an additional gateway.
  • Manageability → ThinkTel’s flexible and dynamic software allows the ATA to manage its own users and make changes to its network, saving time and money.
  • Ease of deployment → With low-to-no business disruption, ThinkTel made next-generation communication tools a reality at the ATA.
  • Scalability → As an Office 365 subscriber, the ATA can easily add new cloud services through-add-ons to increase uptime, call quality and uptime performance.
  • Security → 24/7 monitoring, as well as the latest encryption and security protocols, help ensure that the ATA’s data stays safe and secure.

“Security is always important, especially with cyberattacks going on everywhere. Our members expect us to safeguard their privacy and data, and we do. We take cybersecurity very seriously.”

—Chris Stogowski, Enterprise Infrastructure Architect, Team Lead

Learning

For any organization looking to reduce costs, improve security, and/or scale their operations quickly, the ATA story offers some insights:

  1. SIP Trunking works. In the right hands, it can slash costs, improve the customer experience, and enable growth—all while making IT management easier.
  2. Take the long view. Removing an organization’s dependency on outdated systems and hardware can remove significant cost barriers to growth.
  3. Safety first. By introducing disaster recovery and redundancy measures into their telephony, the ATA can now better ensure business continuity.

Links

10 reasons to choose ThinkTel

Not all voice providers are created equally! We’ve become Canada’s biggest and best voice partner through specialization and experience.

  1. Best-in-class → First-to-market with SIP services in Canada, ThinkTel is the voice partner of choice to Fortune 100’s, governments, and institutions.
  2. Global coverage → Other providers may sell you a SIP for each city you want to be in, which adds up fast! ThinkTel gives you one SIP for the world.
  3. Pays-as-you-go → Unlike some services that lock you into static prices, with ThinkTel, you only pay for you what you use. The cost scales to your needs.
  4. SureCall → Ensure 100% business continuity with the ultimate failover system. Managed manually or automatically, SureCall comes free with our services.
  5. Technology → Highly-redundant national voice network. Supports multiple network paths/carriers and up to eight simultaneous IP gateways.
  6. Quality assurance → To ensure an exceptional experience, we test the hardware you need for SIP trunking in our lab before we deploy it.
  7. Compatibility → ThinkTel works with the world’s top IP PBX technologies. We are certified in 30+ OEM brands, including Microsoft, Cisco, etc.
  8. Customer-centricity → We work with you to deploy a SIP service that fits your unique needs and size and leverages your current capabilities.
  9. Agility → Whether your organization is growing or streamlining, unifying your communication in the cloud gives you the flexibility you need to scale.
  10. Expertise → We’ve earned our place as a voice leader through thousands of successful deployments. We appreciate just how complex the challenges get!

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