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7 Questions To Ask Before Selecting an IP Phone

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Reports of the death of the desk phone are greatly exaggerated.

The desk phone is still a workhorse of communications; market research firm In-Stat predicts IP phone shipments will exceed 40 million units in 2015. At the same time, businesses have more choices than ever when it comes to selecting the right phones for their employees and many workers may also have a smartphone in their pocket or a software-based phone on a laptop or tablet.

With so many options available, businesses should weigh their users’ needs and workplace environment before selecting their next-generation phones. Organizations can choose from a variety of phones, including:

  • IP phones. An IP phone, especially when paired with a state-of-the-art unified communications (UC) client, allows workers to be highly productive. They are “always on,” ready-to-go, and ShoreTel’s IP phones are easy to use, delivering high-fidelity sound so communications are crisp and clear. ShoreTel has a wide range of IP phones with features to suit every application, extending from the conference room, to the executive office and down to a lobby phone.
  • Soft phones. Soft phones let people make phone calls over the Internet using their PC, laptop or tablet and a headset or USB phone. ShoreTel Communicator has an integrated soft phone that allows users to turn their PCs into their phones when connected by a suitable broadband connection. Soft phones may be ideal for people who occasionally work remotely or from home.
  • Smartphones. Workers can use their mobile phones in the office, but they may find that in-building coverage is poor or that their cell phone usage charges can quickly add up. Organizations can use ShoreTel Mobility to extend the power of UC and their desk phone to their smartphone by enabling access to either the Wi-Fi or cellular network. Cellular calls are routed over the cheapest path both inside and outside the enterprise, which keeps costs down—and users productive.

With ShoreTel, customers can choose the right phones for their needs. All ShoreTel IP phones interoperate with ShoreTel Communicator, so settings, call-handling rules, presence information, and automatic directory updates can be managed according to users’ preferences. Communicator gives workers a suite of tools to manage real-time communications on their computer or mobile phone and move seamlessly between voice, video and IM as needed.

 

Questions to Select the Right IP Phones

As you determine the right IP phones for your organization, here are some questions to ask to help you select the kind of phones that best fit your business:

  1. Who will use the phones? IP phones have a wide range of features and functionality depending on the typical usage. Phones are designed for a variety of uses, including by executives, professionals, operators and call center agents. IP phones that are used in lobbies, lunchrooms or other common areas may have a streamlined feature set.
    • Executive - An executive or an executive assistant may need a 12-line phone that has an excellent quality speakerphone and a large color display. Support for a Bluetooth headset may be desired for cordless hands-free calling.
    • Professional - Professionals, executives and executive assistants who spend a large chunk of their day on the phone may need a “professional” level phone. Three to six lines may be appropriate, as well as a bright, back-lit color display, a full-duplex speakerphone and an integrated headset jack. Design professionals, media creators and others who work with bandwidth-intensive applications may want their IP phone to provide support for Gigabit Ethernet for higher performance.
    • Essential - For open areas such as lobbies, visitor offices, classrooms and dorm rooms, a more basic phone is usually warranted. In these scenarios, a single-line phone with a two-way speakerphone, and a one-line display to show caller ID is typically sufficient 
  2. How does the phone sound? IP phones with high-fidelity sound (also known as wideband) quite simply sound better. For instance, ShoreTel’s phones deliver seven octaves of range, whereas many phones deliver only three octaves. Hi-fidelity sound is easier to understand and is less tiring on the listener.
  3. How does the phone look? Office phones may be practical, but they are also part of the décor. Do the phones come in different colors? Is it possible to customize the background image on the phone, such as with a company logo or message? ShoreTel’s phones are designed to look elegant and come in both black and silver.
  4. How does the phone feel? Knowledge workers may spend hours on conference calls each day. Contact center agents may spend all day on the phone. Ergonomics is important. At ShoreTel, we strive to make phones that are beautiful, comfortable and practical. Our contoured handset rests comfortably against the ear, which maximizes productivity and minimizes user fatigue. The touch screen enabled IP 655 provides haptic feedback allowing a user to get positive physical feedback when interacting with the screen.
  5. What features are needed? Most IP phones come with a set of basic features, including three-way calling, call waiting, and call-rollover, but there are a broad array of other features and functionality to consider.
    • Hi-fidelity sound (wideband)
    • Speakerphone performance
    • Color or grayscale display
    • Number of Ethernet ports
    • Support for Gigabit Ethernet
    • Power over Ethernet
    • Headset support
    • Support for multiple language 

  6. Where is the person located? If the person works from home or a remote office, consider a phone with an integrated virtual private network (VPN) client for added security. For instance, remote workers can connect a ShoreTel IP phone to a broadband router, and quickly establish a secure tunnel to the ShoreTel VPN Concentrator. The phone will then act as though it was in the office
  7. How do you configure and manage the phones? A phone system that’s easy to manage will keep operational costs low. For example, once a ShoreTel phone is plugged into the network, ShoreTel Director automatically discovers it and adds it to the system. The phone can then be centrally managed as part of the enterprise network. As new software releases become available, all IP phones can be updated automatically, which also simplifies ongoing management.