ShoreTel is a global unified communication service provider with its US Headquarter offices in Sunnydale CA. However, ShoreTel also has US offices in New York, Rochester NY and Austin TX to cover the entire North American continent. Additionally, ShoreTel has regional offices in Australia, Singapore, and India to service the APAC region as well as offices in all the major European countries such as the UK, Germany, France, and Spain amongst others. ShoreTel then genuinely has a global presence, which is unusual in the highly competitive hosted UC and IP PBX market place, where ShoreTel’s US rivals tend to focus only on the North American market. However, ShoreTel’s different approach to the market does not stop there, as they also have a unique set of services and products aimed at the small to medium business.
ShoreTel’s SMB Products
ShoreTel’s approach is to offer SMBs a selection of deployment options to enable them the flexibility to choose the best options to match their IP PBX and UC requirements. The deployment options are a Cloud deployment, an on-site/premises solution, and a hybrid option. For good measure, ShoreTel also offers a dedicated contact center service for SMBs wishing to host a professional quality call center.
The difference between these products is primarily where the IP PBX is located. With the Cloud solution, ShoreTel hosts all the IP/PBX servers and is fully responsible for providing the service, maintenance, upgrades and service optimization. This is the most common approach, as most SMBs do not have the technical experience, in-house technicians or the inclination to host their own IP PBX servers. Most SMBs prefer to concentrate their efforts, expense and investments in both time and money on their core business and not on IT and telephony services.
However, not all businesses wish to hand over responsibility for their vital services to a cloud service provider some do have the technical experience, the computer room facilities and in-house staff. The assets enable the SMB to run, administer and maintain their own local on-premises IP PBX servers. Consequently, ShoreTel provides these companies with the software and hardware for them to host their own IP PBX servers. The on-site solution is perfect for businesses that already support a computer room and their own on-premises servers for their other in-house applications such as CRM, Finance and Databases. However, the on-site solution also requires IP PBX and telephony knowledge in order to administer and manage the software, so it requires a bit more than just hardware management.
The Hybrid Solution
The solution to the problem of a business having the IT knowledge and skills to host the hardware on-premises but are lacking in IP telephony knowledge and skills is the hybrid solution. With this option, ShoreTel installs, manages and supports the IP PBX software and service running on the on-premises servers remotely whilst the business is responsible for the server’s hardware support and maintenance.
Deciding on which deployment option is best for a business will be down to the individual capabilities and business goals of each company. It goes back to the old Hosted Vs On-premises argument with regards IP PBX deployment. However, with ShoreTel the customer at least has a choice of deployment options that most of their competitors do not offer. Furthermore, choosing between the deployment options will not affect the availability of core IP PBX features and functions, as it is the same software running the only difference is that the software is accessed via the internet or directly from a local server.
ShoreTel’s Features & Functions
So what are the features and functions that ShoreTel’s UC and IP PBX service offer? As we have seen, the features and functions are the same for each of the Cloud, On-premises or Hybrid products so we will consider them as a common feature set.
ShoreTel provides a multitude of features, which they catalogue into functional groups such as automated attendant, call management, call handling, voicemail, messaging, mobility and third party integration.
The notable features in the auto attendant group are the configurable auto attendant with legacy extension support and distinctive dial tones.
The call management features of note are advanced call forwarding, direct inbound -dial, call queuing (call stack up to 16 calls), hunt groups and shared extensions.
The notable call features are amongst others are call recording, web/app dialer, paging and intercom groups, call barging and call monitoring as well as VoIP fax.
The outstanding features for mobility is the advanced call forwarding of find me/follow me which enables a call to ring a list of phones, such as a mobile, desk phone, home phone, in preconfigured sequence or simultaneously. In addition, there are other mobility features such as a Softphone, which enables any computer, laptop to become a phone extension. There is also office anywhere, which enables the system to find any extension number regardless of its location in the network. Additionally, there are join buttons to enable direct access to conference calls without codes, dual persona, which separates business and personal calls, and auto hand-over, which manages the hand-over from Wi-Fi to Cellular networks transparently to the user. One notable feature is that ShoreTel also has an app for the Apple watch.
Third Party Integration
ShoreTel has a wide array of apps and APIs for integration with third party applications such as Microsoft Outlook, Zen Desk, Saleforce, Microsoft Dynamics and many others.
ShoreTel has an array of messaging, conferencing and collaboration tools. There is presence, messaging, peer-to-peer video chat, file transfer and desktop sharing. These collaboration tools are vital for holding group training, meetings and presentations for today’s mobile workforce.
As can be seen from the previous passages ShoreTel has a full set of features and functions that will suit most small to medium businesses. However sometimes, SMBs require a contact center for such things as Customer Care, or Technical Support and this requires features not typically included within a standard SMB IP PBX.
Flex Contact Center
The additional features available with the Flex Contact Center are for advanced call handling and for supervisory control and management. For example, ShoreTel offers advanced call routing, skill based call routing, as well as advanced ring strategies where calls are distributed on a configurable basis such as round robin, least ring, longest idle, linear or ring all. The supervisory features distinguish a call center service from a basic IP telephony service, as contact center supervisors require real time, historical and adherence reporting. There are also features for call listening, whispering and barge as well as supervisor dashboards. Flex supports all the other mobility and third party integration apps and APIs additionally it has a Flex mobility app for smartphones.
ShoreTel Pricing and Service Plans
ShoreTel has five products, Cloud Phone, Onsite Phone, Hybrid Phone and Flex Contact Center. Unfortunately, for the review ShoreTel customizes their prices and services, which they tailor to the customer’s requirements via online quotes.
ShoreTel is a feature rich IP PBX UC service available as either a cloud, on-site or hybrid service, which is available in most global regions. This is in contrast to many of their competitors who limit their services to North America. Additionally, Shoretel offers a service packed with innovative features that will cover the requirements of small, medium and even large company’s telephony requirements. Furthermore, if a business requires specialist contact center features there is the Flex Contact Center product, which will provide all of the advanced call handling, agent and supervisory functions and tools. Comparing ShoreTel to other hosted UC or IP PBX services is difficult as ShoreTel customize their pricing per customer’s requirements. However, simply on a feature and function basis ShoreTel would rank highly with the top 10 service providers.