Experience Article in View From the Edge Magazine

Xtel Communications knows a thing or two about staying ahead of the curve. From the start, Xtel embraced innovation and has always focused on emerging solutions, especially in data and voice. With over 25 years of experience, Xtel has been continuously committed to the telecommunications needs of businesses, government entities, and schools by implementing smart communication solutions individually tailored to meet their clients’ budget, goals, and specific needs.

“We have continued to build upon and grow these relationships over the years by providing our voice and data solutions to both single and multi-location clients,” said Liz Sorino, Xtel’s Co-Founder and Executive Vice President. Xtel’s initial involvement with schools started when Xtel began providing regional toll and long-distance services. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed Xtel to become a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC), where it could now provide local dial tone to its customers. In 2006, Xtel implemented a Hosted PBX platform into its network, which enabled the company to evolve from a provider of switched and dedicated Local and Long Distance services to a provider of hosted phone systems that could replace antiquated premise-based systems. Around this same time, Xtel began providing Dedicated Internet service and Network Security service to complement its Hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) services. Explained Sorino, “These solutions include the deployment of Dedicated Internet services, which is a critical component to the successful installation of our Hosted PBX services and now include integration with our Mass Notification features. All of these services have become crucial to the safety of all students and schools.”

As an example of Xtel’s success cases, one of the largest school districts in Burlington County began experiencing intermittent difficulty with their phone system and voice mail. Budget concerns caused the school to delay the decision to replace their phone system. Unfortunately, the phone system died immediately after the school year ended. The cost to install a premise-based phone system for their multi-location campus exceeded 1.4 million dollars, which had not been accounted for in their school budget. Xtel was able to quickly install a new Hosted PBX system for under $60,000, moving from a Capital expenditure (CapEx) to an Operating Expense (OpEx).

Shortly thereafter, Hurricane Sandy decimated areas of New Jersey, which forced schools to close and administrators to work in a remote environment. Xtel’s Hosted PBX system allowed the schools to maintain communications with their administrators, staff, parents, and teachers during this stressful time. “When they had a premise-based system, schools were really behind the eight ball. Hosted PBX is a phenomenal technology that provides endless solutions for schools,” Sorino shared.

Xtel’s Client Services

As a CLEC, the company can offer their clients traditional phone services, including fiber lines, SIP Trunks, and Hosted Fax services to work with all existing phone systems, while incorporating new communication strategies for businesses and schools. As schools make the decision to move away from traditional premise-based phone systems, many institutions are challenged to find a solution that will address today’s needs and accommodate future technology. However, Hosted PBX, also known as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), with its many features cannot be treated as a cookie-cutter solution for all entities. “We take the time to work with each of our customers to clearly define their needs and expectations to provide a customized solution, specifically designed to meet each of their requirements. We consider our solutions vital to each customer’s needs and consider our solution to be future-proof, a critical differentiator considering that the average phone system today lasts about five to eight years,” Sorino shared. Xtel’s UCaaS service combines business phone service with collaboration, conferencing and mobility features, and offers more features than those usually provided by traditional phone systems. Xtel’s solutions free schools from their dependency on expensive, premise-based equipment and costly annual support agreements, which are in some cases, a requirement for necessary phone system upgrades. “What we often find with most institutions is that the cost of maintenance contracts and vendor site visits exceeds the cost of a new phone system,” Sorino added.

Every institution has their own method of communications and their specific requirements are integrated into a unique solution specifically designed for them. The process begins with an extensive pre-sales consultation by an Xtel Sales Representative. Initial questions include the number and types of devices required at each location, current call flow, and auto-attendant requirements. This early phase often represents the perfect opportunity for a school or business to question and change their current call flow process and auto attendant configurations.

A site survey is then conducted to evaluate the capabilities of the client’s existing network infrastructure and the equipment needed to support the number of users at each customer site. As IP phone services utilize the Internet connection, Xtel suggests the entity increase redundancy and diversity into the network, because using multiple Internet connections allow for increased business continuity capabilities. “Experience has shown that IP phone services are more reliable than traditional voice services, as they can provide pre-configured or on-demand routing, allowing for immediate recovery and business continuity from disruptions caused by unexpected power outages, network failures, and fiber cuts,” Sorino said.

Features inherent to UCaaS build efficient communication solutions for administrators, teachers, parents and students. Schools rely on Xtel’s network and UCaaS solutions for their continued success. These solutions have become an essential requirement for superintendents who manage the curriculum and teachers who are responsible for delivering the information to their students. Xtel’s UCaaS services provide administrators, teachers and students with the communication tools and strategies needed to succeed and thrive, leveraging today’s technology to further academic excellence.

Xtel’s UCaaS platform is integrated with an Emergency Notification Service to address ongoing safety and security concerns for all schools, allowing schools to immediately alert authorities of threats or dangerous situations. “We leverage the use of phones, text messages, bells, paging and intercom systems as a coordinated emergency response to send campus alerts or initiate individual school or campus-wide lockdowns,” Sorino explained. Instant messaging to phones or email can alert school personnel, teachers, and students of campus emergencies, and authorities are notified immediately.

“The Edge partnership allows us to share the knowledge and experience we have gained through our 25 years of supporting the Education market with the entire Edge community.”

Liz Sorino
Co-Founder and Executive Vice PresidentXtel

Making the Transition

Migrating from a legacy voice environment to a hosted solution is not a difficult process and can be surprisingly painless. A smooth transition is customized to meet the institution’s needs and designed to eliminate staff confusion or lost productivity. Depending upon the size of the organization and the number of locations involved, the implementation can be scheduled as a multi-stage installation. An experienced Project Manager, who is dedicated to the account, manages any deployment. “An Xtel Project Manager will advise, organize, and control the scheduling of all project components while keeping all involved parties in the loop,” Sorino explained.

After the deployment of phones is completed, the final process includes the porting of phone numbers and proper programming of E911 for each of the school’s locations, as well as training. “We provide customized training, which includes management of a portal designed to facilitate moves, adds and changes for each of your locations from anywhere there is an Internet connection,” Sorino shared. “Our vast industry knowledge, experience and expertise assure our customers that with Xtel, we are responsible for the heavy lifting and their installation experience will proceed in a planned, efficient, and organized fashion.”

Digital Innovative Solutions

Xtel owns, operates and maintains their fiber optic backbone, which is monitored 24x7x365 from the Network Operations Center (NOC) located in Mount Laurel, NJ. The state-of-the-art telecommunications network boasts leading edge digital switching and fiber optic technology for incomparable service delivery. Designed with multiple redundancies and equipped with several disaster avoidance features, the main Xtel Data Center in Philadelphia, PA is well defended against a variety of threats that contribute to network outages. These highly sophisticated technologies include environmental and static control systems, dual power feeds from different power stations, battery-backed power, and gas-based fire suppression. In the event of any network failure, route diversity and border gate protocols deliver instantaneous route changes to keep network activity online. “The bottom line for our customers is that their service continues, uninterrupted,” Sorino said.

The commitment to supporting remote work forces is now even more relevant in today’s digital transformation efforts. In addition to offering Unified Communications and Cloud Meeting services, Xtel continues to support the higher education and K-12 communities with remote or distributed capabilities. The mobility app allows teachers to maintain their relationships with their students outside of the traditional classroom environment, which is critical since the COVID-19 crisis has led millions of students into temporary home-schooling situations. “Our Mobility Application, which can be used via a smartphone, PC, laptop or tablet, provides teachers with all of the tools needed to work remotely,” Sorino explained. “Our Cloud Meeting service is completely integrated with our mobile application and empowers teachers and administrative staff to conduct video and audio conferences with screen sharing, chat, presence, and the ability to record the meeting as needed.”

Ongoing communications between parents and teachers remain essential to a student’s success. Teachers can listen to a parent’s message through their voicemail or receive messages through their email. Real-time calls can be completed through advanced call routing or “find me/follow me” features, which allow parents to reach teachers after hours while protecting the personal cell phone number of that teacher. Xtel’s mobility solution can be deployed in a matter of hours to schools and businesses. “This aspect is a remarkable benefit for schools and students thrust into today’s home-schooling environment,” Sorino said.

The continual implementation of innovative communication solutions is a reason for Edge’s recent contract with Xtel. “We’re very excited about this opportunity,” Sorino added. “The Edge partnership allows us to share the knowledge and experience we have gained through our 25 years of supporting the education market with the entire Edge community.”

Longevity and trusted service in the communications market allows Xtel the ability to provide innovative smart communication solutions for their clients. To learn more about Edge’s Xtel solution offering, visit the EdgeMarket portal at EdgeMarket.njedge.net/home/solution-digest.