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An Inside Look at the Enterprise Connect RFP Panel

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Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Enterprise Connect tradeshow. Each year there is a panel discussing the requests for proposals for a mock IP telephony and unified communications client.

The 2014 RPF session at Enterprise Connect was the fourth iteration of this particular panel, as moderated by Dave Stein, principal at Stein Technology Consulting Group. As a provider of both options, ShoreTel highlighted its on-premises and ShoreTel Sky offerings.

Here are the highlights of what we shared:

Architecture:
ShoreTel has over 30,000 customers, and our architecture is designed to accommodate any number of regions/set-ups that our customers comprise. ShoreTel customers enjoy the freedom to leverage the deployment model that best suits their specific IT environment, whether it is centralized or distributed.


  1. Virtualization: Every company has unique needs from their communication systems. ShoreTel provides customers the choice to pick the deployment model that best suits their needs. ShoreTel 14.2 (the most recent update of our core software) offers the ultimate flexibility via mix and match implementation options across a distributed architectural set-up – go with ShoreTel purpose-built appliances, virtual, or a little of both.

  2. Distributed architecture: ShoreTel offers call control on a physical or virtual appliance that can distribute it such that if you lose a WAN link, remote sites continue to operate – no reboots/restarts necessary.

  3. N+1: In addition to the distributed qualities, we’ve also added just one extra switch to make everything redundant. This provides five-nines availability for mission-critical business continuity.


In short, it doesn’t fail. And although this was the first year Enterprise Connect requested cloud RFPs, ShoreTel has believed in the private cloud from the very beginning.

Security
Regardless if we’re talking about a premises or cloud deployment, securing data is obviously key. (In fact, it’s one of the reasons we’re all subjected to the seemingly endless password reboots. Alas, those really are industry best practices to abide by.)


  1. Embedded Platform: All ShoreTel voice switches are embedded devices with no moving parts other than a fan. (Thus providing the desired 99.999+% availability.) IT managers should be wary of systems that rely on any server-based systems with hard disks inside their call-control platforms because hard disks are the least reliable element.

  2. Distributed Intelligence: ShoreTel call control is completely distributed and has no single point of failure. Since there is no single “master” device involved with the basic telephony, the system delivers levels of availability unmatched by even legacy PBX vendors. As with the Internet itself, its distributed nature makes it exceedingly difficult to take down the entire network.

  3. Network-independent call control: ShoreTel call control is independent of many networking elements. With ShoreTel, if a router crashes or becomes congested because of data traffic from worms, viruses, or DoS attacks, the ShoreTel UC system continues to operate, since it is distributed and runs on embedded devices dedicated to telephony.


Mobility
ShoreTel believes in choice. Use the products you love; keep your own device. ShoreTel Mobility turns your preferred devices into UC endpoints, thus enhancing business productivity for IT professionals and end users. Its simplified integration supports continued business success in a BYOD world.

We’ve all heard the variants on the “work anywhere/work is no longer a place, it’s an activity” concept. And it’s true, people can stay connected wherever they are. I remained fully connected while speaking in Orlando (all without divulging my super secret personal number to anyone).

UC Client
Voice is just one of many ways we communicate today. People expect to choose how they want to interact. But eventually we do need to connect on a similar plane – verbal communications is still important for conducting business. So make sure to select a UC vendor with robust, fully featured voice capabilities.

By integrating communications tasks previously performed with separate tools, ShoreTel Communicator's rich media, advanced mobility, and presence features simplify communication, enabling on-site and remote users alike to see who is available, and to choose how best to reach them. Ultimately, what makes ShoreTel stand out is that users like our tool better. Because if it’s easy to use, it will get used.

System Management
ShoreTel Director is a Web-based tool that provides a single management interface for all voice applications, across all locations. Users can manage voice routing, voicemail, auto-attendant, conferencing, instant messaging, and basic automated call distribution (ACD) capabilities for every site in the network. This eliminates the need for multiple management systems for different PBXs, sites, and basic applications.

Again, if it’s easy, it will get used. Sometimes what people don’t include in their cost quote is how much time and people will be needed to manage the system. And people cost money. A recent Aberdeen study found that ShoreTel users required 88% less FTE staff to manage their system on an ongoing basis than other systems. We recently had a customer visit our office who has one single person managing telephony for a company with 54 locations and 4,000 users.

Extremely easy to learn and use, ShoreTel Director helps to improve administrator productivity, lowers ownership costs, and reduces strain on IT resources.

ShoreTel IP Phones
There is a rumor flying about that the desk phone is dead. It’s not. Consider the continued existence of desktop computers despite the prevalence of laptops. ShoreTel provides a choice.

For many end-users, desk phones are simply the easiest and quickest way to communicate and collaborate in the office. A user can make and receive calls on a desk phone while his laptop is still booting up in the morning. Additionally, there are certain users/verticals who don’t really need to be mobile – such as a court house, where phones are not assigned to individuals but rather specific locations.

So what makes ShoreTel unique? How do we stand out?

Choice. You can choose your own adventure when it comes to creating the communications system that best serves your individual needs. Deploy what’s easiest for you.

This was the first year the call was for both on-premises and cloud proposals. I’m predicting that this was also the last year. Cloud vs. purpose-built won’t exist next year; there will be more of a discussion on how the two come together and how solutions interact and integrate so that individual companies can receive the best of both worlds to gain benefits that suit individual needs.

Ultimately, end-users don’t care where the service comes from. They just want to do what they were hired to do. And they need their systems to work. There is no overall right or wrong. So we give customers the choice.