The Pulse

The official blog of Sentinel Technologies

Sentinel Gives a School District Extra Credit for Upgrading and Expanding Their Cisco UC Solution

Sun March 28, 2021


A medium-sized school district had largely ignored their existing phone system and collaboration platform, not making any changes or upgrades for several years. As a result, those pieces of their environment became outdated and reached end of support. It was also discovered that two schools were operating on an antiquated Toshiba phone system. The district decided it was time to invest in a next generation solution that made communication and staff collaboration much more robust and could quickly alert staff and authorities during emergency situations.

In addition to an upgrade of the district’s phone system, Sentinel also deployed Cisco Unified Communications technologies including Presence and Expressway to further enhance their collaboration capabilities. The new phone system also enabled each school to connect with its overhead paging system as well as trigger emergency alerts with the push of a button. These features had not been available at any school in the district prior to the upgrade.


The software and hardware of the district’s Cisco phone system had reached end of support, which meant new licenses and handsets could not be purchased and they were unable to expand the system to include additional schools. If a hardware issue were to occur involving the servers, it would be particularly difficult to obtain the parts necessary to restore service.

Furthermore, many schools in the district expressed frustration at the inability to access overhead paging systems from their phones. Each school only had a single paging station used by the front office.

The district also had no real E911 solution. Emergency dispatchers only received the main phone number and street address for the school that placed the 911 call, meaning there was no way to send responders to a specific location inside these large buildings or place a call back to the exact user that made the 911 call.

Lastly, the district needed a way to quickly and easily send broadcast alerts to school faculty and administration in the event of an emergency. 


Sentinel deployed a comprehensive Cisco Unified Communications system on a pair of medium density Business Edition 6000 servers. The solution included the following applications:

  • Communication Manager
  • Unity Connection
  • IM and Presence
  • Expressway Core and Edge
  • Emergency Responder
  • Singlewire InformaCast Fusion

Some of the features and technologies in the proposed solution included:

Cisco 7800 Series IP phones were deployed to the two schools still utilizing the ancient Toshiba phone system. This allowed all schools within the district to place calls using internal extensions. IP phones already in place at schools and integrated with the previous Cisco system were ultimately leveraged and left in place to cut costs.

Unity Connection was incorporated into their premise Microsoft Exchange server to enable Unified Messaging functionality. This allowed users to listen, respond, and delete voicemails from their PC or mobile device through their email client.

Cisco Instant Messaging and Presence servers were installed to provide instant messaging and presence status functionality to school staff via the Jabber client. The Jabber for Windows client was deployed to staff desktops. Users were also able to install Jabber for iPhone or Android to their mobile devices.

Cisco Expressway Edge and Core servers were added to provide phone registration, instant messaging, and presence functionality to Jabber and other Cisco endpoints over the internet without the need for a VPN connection. This allowed employees to collaborate from home or on the road just as if they were at their desk.

Cisco Emergency Responder was deployed for E911 services. It created zones within each building to provide more specific locations to the 911 dispatch center. Alerts also notified on-site security personnel whenever emergency calls were placed. A tracking feature was implemented so phones would be automatically placed in the most accurate zone when moved to a different location. This brought the schools into compliance with Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act.

Singlewire InformaCast Fusion is a hybrid cloud-based mass notification system. It creates alerts for emergency situations such as active shooter, building evacuation, and severe weather. Alerts can be triggered via panic buttons on all IP phones, a web page, or mobile app. Mass notifications were sent as audio broadcasts to Cisco IP phones, SMS text messages to mobile devices, and emails on the network. A virtual Fusion appliance was installed to integrate with Unified Communications Manager, and InformaCast hardware appliances were deployed to each school for remote survivability.

Cisco ATAs were installed to integrate each school’s overhead paging system with the Unified Communications system. This allowed users to access the paging system from any Cisco IP phone. This also enabled the InformaCast system to broadcast alerts through the overheard paging systems.

Barionet 50 door controllers were installed and integrated with InformaCast. These controllers were connected to door sensors at each school, allowing district security staff to receive alerts whenever doors were opened and closed after hours.


The Sentinel team was able to deliver the exact solution the customer was looking for. Products such as Instant Messaging & Presence, along with Expressway, enhanced employee collaboration whether they were at school or at home.

Emergency Responder and InformaCast Fusion improved the district’s ability to alert staff and authorities to emergency situations, greatly increasing the safety of students, faculty, and staff.


Cisco Business Edition 6000

Singlewire InformaCast Fusion