Below is an article written by Chuck Fieldman of the Chicago Tribune about the new security upgrades for entry into 9 Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills District 181 schools. Mr. Fieldman details Pentegra Systems’ integrated security solution, which District 181 refers to as “double buzzer systems.” Visitors to the schools will still walk into an unlocked door and into a vestibule where he or she will then have to be buzzed in by a school employee. However, an additional layer of security is being added where he or she will then have to be buzzed in from inside the office to then gain access into the school itself. This project will be completed over winter break and be up and running by the time the students return in January.

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Workers from Pentegra Systems work on installation of the new double-buzzer entry system at Oak School. (Chuck Fieldman/Pioneer Press)

 

Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 is adding a layer of security for entry into its nine school buildings.

“We’ve been calling it a double-buzzer system,” said Bridget McGuiggan, the district’s communications director and chairman of the district’s Safety & Crisis Committee.

Visitors to district school buildings now may enter an unlocked door into a vestibule, but must be buzzed into the office by a secretary or another school employee.

That protocol will remain. However, the new system also will require an office staff member to buzz visitors out of the office in order to get into other parts of the building.

“In some cases, parents may be coming to drop something off, a lunch or musical instrument, for example,” McGuiggan said. “In those cases, they can drop those items off in the vestibule and don’t need to enter the rest of the building.”

The committee considered requiring a staff member to buzz visitors from outside into the vestibules, McGuiggan said.

“We don’t want to make parents stand out in the elements, and I don’t know it would add substantially to the security when they already aren’t able to get into the office without being buzzed in,” she said. “Safety is the priority, and we are being proactive with that, but we want to be as welcoming as we can be, too.”

Representatives from the Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills and Burr Ridge police departments served on the committee.

Along with the additional hardware needed for the new buzzer system, main entrance cameras and intercoms are being replaced in all schools with equipment that provides a clearer view of visitors for staff.

The security work was started Monday, was to continue Tuesday and be completed over winter break.

“The idea was to have this work done while students are not in the buildings,” McGuiggan said. “Everything should be working when students return from winter break.”

Cost of the new security cameras, intercoms, ID card reader and buzzer system is $12,000 to $16,000 per school, said Mike Duggan, director of facilities. The system won’t be installed at Hinsdale Middle School, but will be included in the new HMS, which is under construction, Duggan said.

District 181 plans to implement an additional security measure some time in early 2018, similar to one being used at Hinsdale Central.

That system requires visitors to schools to provide identification, which will be scanned before they are allowed beyond the school office with a badge sticker printed by the system.

“This change will support consistency in district visitor procedures, ensure appropriate background checks have been completed, and allow us to maintain a digital log of our guests, all while integrating with our student information system,” superintendent Don White said.

McGuiggan said the Visitor Management System has a total cost of about $9,400 for all schools, which includes the ID scanner, badge printer, badge stickers and one-time setup costs, as well as an annual fee for software. There also is annual recurring cost of about $3,600, she said.

cfieldman@pioneerlocal.com

Twitter @chuckwriting

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For more information on how Pentegra Systems can help with all of your school’s security needs, head on over to www.pentegrasystems.com/security or give us a call at (630) 941-6000!

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Globally Connected Education

GEMS World Academy Chicago

Through the use of technology, the world has become much smaller. Computers, cell phones and internet connection have made possible the communication with someone across the globe. The business world has been cognizant of this for quite some time and duly takes full advantage.

As this technology becomes more readily available, it seems only fitting to begin to educate our population at an early age of this technology and what can ultimately be accomplished through new methods of communication.

GEMS World Academy, an international private education company, has been at the forefront of high-tech education and is expanding its global network to Chicago this fall. GEMS currently educates students from JK-12th grade worldwide on four continents with over 150,000 students. Historically, education has always been built upon standard communication. GEMS World Academy is rewriting the script when it comes to communicating knowledge onto the youth of today. Past and current education has revolved around a lesson instructed by a teacher while students listen and perhaps take notes. GEMS is amplifying the environment in which the students are learning through global communication.

Each classroom within GEMS World Academy Chicago will be fully equipped with large interactive touch screens for video conferencing installed by Pentegra Systems to function as a portal of communication, not just with any other classroom within the facility, but to other GEMS classrooms across the globe. Through this enhancement of technology, students now have the opportunity to expand their knowledge even further, from a few feet away to across oceans without having to leave the classroom.

The world plays host to countless cultures, offering invaluable opportunities to grow and learn. Students who enroll at GEMS World Academy are given the chance to experience these cultures interactively. Whether it be using Skype to learn about desalination plants in Dubai, or writing a limerick in English class and sending it to fellow GEMS students in Singapore, technology opened the door to endless possibilities of learning on a global scale.

For a further look into GEMS World Academy Chicago, click here!

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Every School Needs a Systems Integrator

If you are reading this, chances are you went to school at a time when you were lucky to have an overhead projector in your classroom and really had it made when your teacher rolled in the TV cart to watch a movie. You’ve most likely been out of school for some time and might not realize just how large of a contributor education technology has become in the classroom today as opposed to ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty. What was either considered a luxury back then or just extremely expensive is now a thing of the past. Schools are now depending on these technologies more than ever and actually use it as a selling point to make their school a more appealing option. If you’d walk into any given classroom in 2016, you might not see as many textbooks as you’d imagine. Instead, you’d see students with Chromebooks or iPads in their hands working on educational software or other educational apps. A school’s technology is sure a lot to keep track of and stay on top of that personnel at the school most likely aren’t capable of handling. This is where a systems integrator comes in.

 

Consultation

 

Whenever you are looking to purchase something, the best thing to do is talk to somebody. Independently researching only goes so far. If you are seriously looking to acquire or upgrade your technology, your best bet is to talk with someone who knows the industry, knows the products and pretty much has their finger on the pulse. You can’t expect your school’s Director of Technology or other IT personnel to know everything. What types of technology are available? What do I really need? What is best for the students? Working with a systems integrator will answer all of your questions. Teachers and faculty of the school know how day-to-day operations go and what areas need improving. A systems integrator can help identify these areas for improvement and suggest what the best solution would be based on their vast knowledge of systems integration.  Having a direct line to that source of knowledge is extremely beneficial.

 

Healthy Business Relationship

 

Consulting and doing business with are two different things, yet a trustworthy and reliable systems integrator has you covered in both aspects. Not only can they steer you in the right direction they also bring the vision both of you come up with together to life. Having a strong relationship with an integrator means you don’t need to go elsewhere. This saves you a lot of time and from the hassle of having to find someone else. Working with a systems integrator is more than just purchasing technology; it should be a partnership and a team effort to ensure not only the best working environment for teachers and faculty, but most importantly the best learning environment for students.  The benefit of finding a reliable, hard working, honest integrator is a luxury if you often make technology purchases and upgrades for your school. Repeat business not only benefits the integrator, but also the client by getting better deals and better pricing given the repeat business over an extended period of time. As in any sort of relationship, both sides need to benefit for the relationship to continue

 

Changing The Culture

 

Having a good systems integrator can single handedly change the culture of how students learn at your school. Sure, the technology itself is the real propeller of instituting change when it comes to learning, but the systems integrator is the means of transportation to get it there. A good systems integrator can be the one to bring in the very best and top-notch systems into the classroom, not only making the teachers jobs way easier, but bringing a new level of collaboration and interactivity among students that they might have no had previously.

 

 Management All In One Place

 

Having your own integrator is not just beneficial to the school and all of its end-users, but also to the technology itself. All aspects of your technology both in AND out of the classroom can all be managed in one place. Your sound system, presentation system, phone system, data network, surveillance, etc. can all converge on the very same I/P network and going through the same systems integrator can make that all possible. Having all of your low-voltage integrated systems run on the same I/P network simplifies not just how it operates, but also adding new technology in the future.

 

 

Having a systems integrator that you can call your own can help your school in several ways. The only real question left is where you find a good systems integrator. For more information on what to look for when picking the right systems integrator, check out one of our recent blogs posts Picking The Right Integrator.

 

Are you looking for a systems integrator? Perhaps Pentegra can be of service.

Call us today at (630) 941-6000 or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com!

 

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Are you using Video Conferencing yet?

It is almost 2017. The internet has allowed us to achieve levels of communication and collaboration we would have never dreamed about. You can communicate with someone halfway across the globe instantly and effortlessly. This has improved not only our personal lives, but these possibilities have also had a lasting impact on the world of business. Basically, unless you have been living under a rock, video conferencing is here to stay. It goes without saying that nothing beats a real face-to-face conversation, but what do you do when that’s not available? Sure you can have your emails, instant messaging, telephones, etc. but the next best thing to an actual face-to-face conversation is indeed video conferencing. Can you believe there are still people out there NOT utilizing this technology? There is nothing wrong with being a late-adopter, but if you ARE a late-adopter you’ve most likely heard time and time again how beneficial video conferencing from others that have used it. Here are some major advantages and reasons to start using video conferencing:

Productivity:

Whether your employees work out of the office or at home, the luxury of attending a meeting whenever wherever is a blessing for businesses. The world of video conferencing negates any travel whatsoever. You don’t have to drive across town, hop on a plane or even just walk to the meeting room upstairs. Taking traveling out of the equation leaves employees more time to get work done which increases productivity for any business.

Money Saver:

In most cases business meetings are local, but in other cases you’d need to catch a flight to wherever. In either case it costs the company money. Traveling not only costs you productivity (AND TIME), but it also hits you financially. Got a meeting and it takes an hour to get there and an hour back? That’s gas money. Need to attend a meeting in Phoenix next week? You’ll need to pay airfare, accommodations, rental car, food, etc. Imagine the money you’d save by just clicking an application on your computer or mobile device and remote in through video conferencing? No muss, no fuss.

Employee Satisfaction:

Let’s be real, traveling can be a hassle to varying degrees. No matter if it is for a few hours or a few days. Who wouldn’t want to remain at their desk opposed to spending time on the road or in the air just to attend a meeting? You don’t need to pack your suitcase, you don’t need to dread the road trip, don’t need to go through TSA, don’t need to be away from your family, etc. Instead of boarding a flight, your employees will be onboard with this.

Improved Communication:

You get all the benefits of a face-to-face conversation with video conferencing. Much of communication is determined by body language and facial expressions. It is difficult to read a person over a conference call or e-mail. This helps build your relationships with your customers and also your fellow employees. You get the effect of being there…without literally being there. It is much easier to become engaged in a meeting when you can see the people you’re speaking with.

Sharing:

Most meetings have visual aids, something to compliment the speaker. With video conferencing, not only can you see the people you’re speaking to you can also share files effortlessly online. Need to show an informative video? Need to display a PowerPoint? The members of your meeting can view these files through screen sharing and easily keep up with the topics on the agenda.

Build the Best Staff:

As a business owner or decision maker for you company, you want to do what is best for business. A crucial aspect of any good business is employing the right people. Through the use of video conferencing you don’t necessarily have to limit your personnel search to just locally. Let’s say you find a prime candidate for a position that is more qualified than any of the local applicants however this person is in the next state. No problem. Video conferencing enables you to bring this person onboard because you can work from home and never miss a meeting or suffer from a lack of communication. Also this enables your business to cover more ground if your employees are working out of different locations.

 

Technology has come a long way and is becoming more easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. There are several different options to choose from when it comes to video conferencing and they are all so incredibly user-friendly. Even the most out of touch late-adopters would find it easy to use should definitely take advantage of this communication tool. Let one of our engineers steer you in the right direction and help determine what video conferencing system is best for you today.

 

Call us today at (630) 941-6000

Or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com

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Outdoor Security Cameras NEED Surge Protection

Video surveillance is designed to protect, but how do YOU protect your video surveillance? Accidents can happen that can affect your surveillance system both indoors and especially outdoors. You are putting your cutting edge technology outside and exposing it to the elements. Sure, outdoor cameras are designed differently than indoor cameras specifically to be able to function outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t take extra precautions. Although designed to “weather the storms,” there are still parts within the cameras themselves that are susceptible to surges and transients (What are transients? Read more here). If your system experiences a power surge your signal will become disturbed and more than likely disable your equipment altogether. Bottom line is: your system needs surge protection.

You plug most of your household electronics into a power strip at home so they don’t get fried during a thunderstorm. You wouldn’t want to lose that expensive HD television you just bought. The same principle applies to your surveillance system which is a much, much larger investment.  Installing surge protection on your surveillance system is a little more complex than simply plugging your TV into a power strip. Typically, your surveillance system is connected to your building’s electrical service panel, whether that be directly or indirectly. AC power, data lines and coax cables are ALL equally vulnerable to surges and/or transients. If a bolt of lightning were to hit one of your cameras, that one surge can go from that one camera all the way into your building affecting your indoor equipment. Your entire system can be compromised without surge protection. Surge protection devices need to be installed on every component you have that is connected to any wiring entering or exiting your building.

The following components of your surveillance system require surge protection devices installed:

Surveillance Cameras

 

-Analog

-Network

 

Head-End Equipment Rack

-DVR

-NVR

-Switches

-Routers

 

Any type of surge that hits your surveillance equipment can not only damage said surveillance equipment, but any electrical equipment or device that is connected to your building’s main electrical service panel. It is best practice to also install surge protection devices on the electrical service panel itself in addition to any of your other equipment including indoor cameras, lighting, HVAC, etc. You can’t afford to have Mother Nature knock out your security, protection and peace of mind for an extended period of time. If you surveillance system is down it is not doing its intended job of monitoring for public safety, traffic, property loss and crime prevention.

 

Need help? Pentegra Systems is has got your back if you need assistance in determining the best surge protection devices for your current surveillance system.

For more information please visit us at

www.pentegrasystems.com

or give us a call at

(630) 941-6000

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Picking the Right Integrator

Time flies. We have all heard that expression. You can’t stop the clock. Everyone and everything gets older, including your technology. Well, especially your technology. It seems like every day you look at your once “state-of-the art” presentation system complete with projector, ceiling speaker system and all of the bells and whistles that would and did impress people about 10 years ago. Now? Well you are looking for an upgrade. This goes for all sorts of technology. You want something completely brand new, but most of all you want it designed, engineered and installed by professionals. So, what do you do? You need to pick the right integrator.

Here are 5 things to look for when choosing the right integrator:

Compile a List of Integrators

Picking the right integrator is easy if you have the right options. Finding said options is a little tougher of a task. Give a general contractor or a consultant a call and ask some questions. These are the companies and individuals that work with integrators often and would have a solid knowledge base on the matter and can definitely point you in the right direction. Also, it goes without saying, the internet is your best friend. A simple Google search of local integrators should turn up some results. Pick some accurate keywords when searching online. For example: “CCTV” and “Access Control” when searching for potential security integrators, “sound masking” or “digital signage” if you are trying to find an AV specialist. Some names could be very familiar to you and some you may never have heard of and that’s okay.

Competency

By now you have a short list of a few integrators you’d like to explore working with. You now need to find out if these firms can even do the work and do the work properly. The firm you ultimately choose will need to be certified in the specific field. The target firm not only needs qualified individuals, but industry leaders when it comes to all facets of your potential project such as sales, engineering, project management, etc.) The firms’ websites are a primary destination to find out most of your answers and are a decent indicator of the firms’ abilities. The more information on a company’s website the better your perception of them will most likely be. Give each integrator on your list a call and let them help you find out what it is you really want and really need. There is nothing better than interacting with a potential future integrator early in the planning process. You can feel them out, ask questions, and test their knowledge. Have them help you identify your issues and aid you in finding the perfect solution. That is what an integrator does, identifies a problem and devises a solution. Have multiple conversations or have a representative come out to your site so they really get a good grasp of the situation. This will give you a much needed and accurate perception of the integrator and give you a pretty solid base to select the perfect one for you.

Firm Size

Dig deeper into the firm, more than the basic information. Is this firm the size of a firm that can make your project a reality? What is their annual revenue? You have already spoken to these companies and have a pretty good perception of how qualified their staff is (or not), but do they have a reasonably sized staff to execute such a project as yours? Is this firm too small to be taking on your project? Or is this firm actually too big to be taking on your project? For example: You’re a small business looking for a small telephone system for your office. The one firm you have an eye has contracts with companies that makes $50 Million dollars per year or higher. Will they even take time to work with you? Will they exhibit the same care they show for their high-end clients? These are just some things to think about.

Reputation & References

Being capable of doing something and actually having done something are two different things. You have a good idea that a couple firms can get the job done, but now you want to know their track record. To really get a good idea of what working with a certain firm is like you need to talk directly to some of their clients. Many firms have some of their notable clients listed on their websites that you can get in contact with and some firms will actually give you a client list with the proper information of who to contact, which is a very good and telling sign of how they go about their business. When making any decision, the more information you know the better off you’ll be.

Post Installation Support

When you are doing research about an integrator please do not forget to also look further into their post-installation methodologies. This includes their ability and reliability of servicing and maintaining your system to ensure it operates to its full potential. For more information about what to look for in a great service department, check out our previous blog here.

 

Much like a consumer buying a new car, businesses and organizations do their due diligence when it comes to purchasing new technology for their space. This is not a task that should be rushed. A worthwhile investment such as a new phone system or sound system requires investment from a financial standpoint, but also a time standpoint. Rome was not built in a day. If you follow the steps above and get serious about searching for the perfect integrator, you will find one and hopefully build a lasting business relationship with for several years.

 

Pentegra Systems is a low-voltage integrator specializing in audio, video, data, security and telecom solutions. Are you in the market to upgrade the technology in your business or organization? Visit our website for more information at www.pentegrasystems.com or give us a call at (630) 941-6000.

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Ways Video Surveillance Can SAVE You Money

Anything of real importance needs to be protected. Something of value cannot simply go unmonitored because anything bad can and most likely will happen, eventually. You wear a helmet to protect your head. Your money is protected by being put in a bank. Automotive insurance protects both you and your vehicle in case something goes wrong on the road. As little or as significant as these measures are, these measures need to be taken, but all these measures come with a price of their own. When it comes to security, sure it will cost you, but like making any other decisions in life, there are positives and then there are negatives. You make a substantial investment on a quality security system, a pretty large chunk of change, but just imagine how much money that system will save you down the stretch and in how many different ways. Here are the basic methods in which video surveillance can really become extremely valuable for your company very quickly and SAVE you money.

Obviously, the first method is loss prevention. A security system that utilizes cameras can monitor potential robberies, vandalism, etc. A fully functional video surveillance system can drastically lower the possibility of such crimes happening on your premises. If criminals are aware of the system in place, they are less likely to perpetrate the crimes. You may have a facility housing an extensive amount of extremely expensive equipment and items that you plan to use on six or seven-figure jobs. Can you possibly afford to have any of those items damaged or stolen, I don’t think so. How much would it cost to replace those items? What damages could be done to your facility alone during a break-in? Suddenly, the idea of purchasing an extensive security camera system isn’t that bad of an idea.

Another useful way to utilize your video surveillance system is for monitoring purposes. Sometimes instances and errors can happen in the workplace environment. To ensure the quality of your products and services, a video surveillance system can come in handy to record errors made during operations and be gone back to for reviewing purposes. Are your employees using the correct components on the assembly line? Is your outgoing product being packaged safely and securely? Take a minute and think of how much money these errors can cost you. How much would it cost to replace those components? How much money and resources would it take to ship the damaged products back to your facility and fix them or replace them altogether? The dollar amount adds up pretty quickly.

Video surveillance can not only record company procedures, but it can record employee conduct and behavior. For example, a restaurant can monitor whether employees are keeping up with sanitary regulations, such as washing their hands, with surveillance. A good video surveillance system can keep track of your employees at all times. What are they doing? Where are they going? Where have they been? An access control system uses access cards to gain entry into secure areas of your facility. A certain card can unlock a certain door. A video surveillance system can work with your current access control system by recording who actually is entering that door or gaining access to that specific area, all captured on video keeping an extra eye on your facility at all times. Not only can surveillance record criminals intruding your building, but it can also record potential criminals already inside of your building, such as your own employees. For example, you own a computer company and all of the high value components such as processors and memory are in a separate, more secure section of the warehouse where only select individuals can gain access to. One day, a few items went missing. The value of having surveillance in that area has just skyrocketed.

What if one of your employees had an accident? What if your employee slipped and fell off a ladder trying to get an item off the top shelf? Your company is liable for any accident that may happen. Video surveillance captures the entire accident for evidence purposes. More importantly, video surveillance can prevent false claims. An employee can claim they slipped on a newly washed warehouse floor and then say there were no signs to let he or she know the floor was wet. Video surveillance can prove whether or not the appropriate signage was displayed to let personnel know the floor was wet and use caution or if that employee actually did fall or not at all. Any employee could potentially try and pull a “fast one” on you and video surveillance provides the evidence that gives you an advantage to potentially avoid any legal fees or litigation that may come along with this sort of situation.

There are a slew of ways to utilize a video surveillance system in your facility. It won’t only save you money, but it can also save you time. For example, it’s 2:00 am and your phone rings waking you up at home notifying you that the alarm has gone off at your facility. Using your home computer, tablet or other device you can remote in and view all of your cameras at your own home and see what is going on. Sure, the alarm could still have been triggered by something serious, but in many cases it does in fact turn out to be a false alarm. If that is the case the surveillance system really came in handy. Do you have any security staff on payroll? Having a video surveillance system in place could eliminate the need of keeping actual security guards in house saving you even more money instantly and in a number of ways; a surveillance system could be more beneficial and catch happenings that an average security guard may just miss completely.

If you were to crunch some numbers real quick, the choice would be simple. If your business needs an extra set of eyes for whatever the reason may be, a quality video surveillance system should be in your future. There is far too much value in being able to see what is going on in and around your facility for you not to have one. The future is unpredictable and as the saying goes “anything can happen.” You need to be prepared for when anything does indeed happen.

To learn more about Video Surveillance visit

http://pentegrasystems.com/what-we-do/security/digital-video-surveillance

for more information.

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Misconception of Business Class VoIP

When making any sort of important decision, you need all the facts. Whether it is for your personal life or professional life, your home or your business, a thorough analysis needs to be conducted on the road to your ultimate solution. A common issue for both homes and businesses, for example, is what phone system to choose. In the communication industry, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is quite the popular and appealing choice. However there can be quite the misunderstanding when customers assume getting a VoIP Phone System for their business is the same as the one they’d get in their own homes. This is specifically why having all the facts is crucial.  When the average, non-tech savvy consumer hears VoIP, they tend to think of residential phone systems that make calls over the internet and carry the reputation of terrible call quality given the internet cannot be controlled and bandwidth is always an issue. Many businesses are hesitant to go the VoIP route because of this reason. Why would a company choose a phone system if they know terrible call quality is even a remote possibility? More importantly, why would a company choose a phone system that relies solely on the internet? However, they are simply making an assumption without having all the facts.

A business VoIP phone system is actually a premise-based phone system that is Ethernet-based and uses the data pipes of the business. Basically, the VoIP system combines with the business class phone service that the company uses. This system utilizes the data network to make calls within the building only, but uses the standard phone line to communicate anywhere outside the building. Call quality is not an issue since it doesn’t function like a residential VoIP phone. There are several advantages for businesses to use a VoIP telephone system. For instance, changes and modifications to the system can be made much easier and at a quicker rate.  Let’s say an employee needs to move their desk somewhere else in the building. Historically this would require quite the amount of effort to make the move. With a business class VoIP phone system, all of the phones are already programmed. The employee simply just needs to plug it into the network jack at their new desk. This eliminates the unnecessary time and resources it would take to get that employee up and running at their new desk if the company didn’t use a VoIP phone system. A phone system in the office that uses the company’s data line enables the phone system to interact with company computers; accessing contacts, transferring voicemails, managing voicemails and completely integrating with the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system, just to name a handful of possibilities. This interaction is called Computer Telephone Integration, also known as CTI. Another attractive aspect to business class VoIP systems is that the company would not need to install a second set of cabling since the existing data cables are already in place. Easier connectivity, countless features and crystal clear sound quality make business class VoIP quite the appealing option to businesses.

As you can clearly see, VoIP in the business world is significantly different than a VoIP system in the home. A residential VoIP phone system does have its own advantages and features that are appealing to the consumer, and all of those features are also available with a business class VoIP system without the quality of the call being an issue like it occasionally is with a residential VoIP. The potential and upside of using a VoIP phone system in the business world, such as the systems ShoreTel offers, is quite large considering all of the integration possibilities of the system. Much like any decision maker, if you want to truly make the right choice and the choice that makes the most sense for both your needs and your wants, you should make sure you have all the correct information first and foremost.

 

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Notifying the Masses

The safety or your children is the greatest concern a parent can have. Parents need the reassuring feeling of knowing where their children are at all times and knowing they are safe. Parents are well aware they cannot keep an eye on their kids at all times, however. Children need to go to school. They need to get an education. Your children need to go somewhere for the majority of weekdays to learn. Do you, as a parent, trust your son or daughter’s safety at school? You should since all schools keep safety and security as an utmost priority every single day to ensure the well-being of not just students, but faculty alike.

In the event of an emergency, every school needs to be able to take action no matter the threat. Every person within and around the building needs to be notified of the emergency in addition to notifying the proper authorities outside the building to respond to the emergency as soon as possible. A mass notification system in schools is the most crucial aspect of safety and security of students and faculty. Mass notification notifies the masses in all areas surrounding the emergency.

 

There are several levels of notification that this system provides:

The most important area of notification is that of the immediate emergency. The area that is most directly affected needs to be notified immediately. Audio is the primary source of notification whether it be a siren alarm or a voice recording relaying instructions and to follow proper protocol. For the hearing impaired, strobe and LED lights are also used in addition to the alarms so they are visually noticeable to everyone around the area.

Those directly outside the facility are the next ones that need to be notified. At this point external speakers and public address systems are utilized to make crucial announcements and alerts regarding an emergency. These sirens or alerts will send out the proper warning for surrounding parties to take proper precautions.

Another element to an effective mass notification system is the ability to send out both text messages and e-mails to concerned parties both on and off campus. This useful tool not only helps alert people on the outside to stay away but could also be used to tell emergency contacts about the current situation.

In addition to mass notification to students and faculty, the proper help is also notified whether it is the police department, fire department, etc. Through the use of emergency call buttons integrated into the mass notification System, the response times are reduced dramatically.

One last piece of the life safety system in schools is the use of digital signage. Digital signage is becoming more and more prominent in schools around the world. These displays inform the students and faculty of important schools events, bulletins and news. However, in the case of an emergency these displays can be overridden to display messages notifying students and faculty of what is going on. For example, if there was a tornado warning in the area, the displays would let everyone know and to take the proper precautions to remain safe.

 

Through the use of new technology, schools have more ability than ever to keep their campuses as safe as possible. Fact is, when an emergency occurs everyone needs a helping hand no matter how serious or life threatening it can be. A mass notification system brings the power of connectivity to an entirely new level through the use of audio recordings, strobe lights, alarms, e-mails and text messages, mass notification spreads incredibly fast to warrant aid that much quicker.

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The Difference Between Consultants and Integrators

Imagine this scenario. You are the owner of a medium sized business whose sales have been on the upswing for the past several years. Due to this increase in business, your company is in the process of expanding into a brand new facility to support the increased operational demands that accompany your business success.  Your new facility has ample office space to house your growing workforce, and includes huddle rooms for ad hoc collaboration and a large conference room for formal presentations. Even your warehouse space is drastically larger than your previous location. You are now faced with a dilemma and you need answers. What technology systems will you need to best support the way you do business? What are your options for audio and video systems, telephones, internet connection, security, etc? Where do you start? These are decisions that need to be made not only in a timely fashion, but they need to be made correctly for the overall well-being of your business. At this fork in the road, there are two directions you can go: seeking out the help from an independent consultant or enlisting the services of a design-build systems integrator.

Independent Consultant:

Whenever someone is faced with an issue in life, they tend to seek out help or advice. They tend to consult someone on what they should do next. That is where independent consultants come into play in the technology field. A consultant is there to steer you in the right direction when you have very little to no knowledge of what steps to take. These consultants are skilled at strategically evaluating current and future needs. They have no particular affiliation to a product line or relationship with a contracting company and as a request will provide an unbiased opinion. Independent consultants can conduct a feasibility study after visiting to your site or start with a “blank slate” when designing for a new facility, and in either case formulate the design direction. Independent consultants are typically part of a larger architectural and engineering team charged with designing a new facility or renovating an existing facility, and will ensure the technology systems are integrated within and coordinated with other elements of the facility design. Independent consultants act as the Owner’s advocate, refining the technology systems’ design to best balance the Owner’s concerns, including technology scope, system complexity and level of user expertise, and costs. The design process typically culminates in a set of documents – drawings and specifications – that are used to solicit bid proposals for each trade division that are required to construct the facility, and consultants often have the opportunity to recommend a list of prequalified  systems integrators that  can best execute the scope of work.  The independent consultant method serves best to establish a defined scope of work on which multiple systems integrators may bid, resulting in bid proposals that may be compared directly to each other in an apples-to-apples way.

Design-Build Systems Integrator:

When Owners are looking for a more cost-effective option, they seek out the alternative.  Known as a Design-Build process, it utilizes the design knowledge and expertise of the systems integrator, themselves.  For the Owner, the initial process of selecting a systems integrator is the most difficult, and requires a targeted effort on their part to be successful.  How do I find the right integrator?  What integrator has the appropriate expertise?  Can the integrator design multiple types of systems for my facility? All of these are important questions to ask, and the Owner must ask these and other questions in order to receive answers that establish a level of comfort and trust in choosing an integrator that will deliver success on every aspect of the project scope. So, what exactly are the answers an Owner should expect from such an integrator?  Owners should ask for – and contact – an integrator’s references for similar projects, which is likely the best indicator of how successful they will be on your project. A systems integrator should have a detailed process for assessing the Owner’s systems needs and should compile those needs in a written narrative describing the design of each system in conceptual form, and then review and refine the design and associated costs with the Owner toward arriving at a final design and cost that best meets all of the Owner’s needs and concerns.  Integrators should be capable of working with multiple applications and system types that interoperate with one another, typically through the data network, of which the integrator must also have design expertise. They should also have a good track record of working with other vendors and trades on a project in a harmonious way.  Integrators must have the personnel and internal resources to make the project a reality from concept to completion, including industry certified design engineers, standards-based CAD departments, certified project managers and highly trained shop and field technicians. A systems integrator designs and builds systems for Owners by combining both hardware and software from multiple vendors to assemble multiple systems in a custom way, which when performed correctly can lower the overall cost of the design and installation of these systems by achieving an economy-of-scale typical of a single integrator approach.

As you can see, both independent consultants and systems integrators more than serve their own respective purposes in the world of technology. Which method would you choose when making decisions about the technology in your new space?

 

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Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University

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Northern Illinois University, established in 1899, is a public research university located in DeKalb, Illinois, United States, with satellite centers in Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Rockford, and Oregon. Within the University is the Duke Ellington Ballroom, well known for being the site of the ...

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