Business Phone Systems Featured Article
ShoreTel Holding its Own in the UC Race with Customizable Virtualization
When our company’s communications sales rep came to talk to us about adding VoIP and voicemail onto our ancient system in 2002, one of our big issues was what to do with the expensive (to us) PBX (News - Alert) system we’d recently invested in. There was no good choice; we either had to dump the old system and invest in this new setup, or get our money’s worth out of the legacy system and keep on handwriting phone messages.
Such has been the downside of some of the advances in enterprise communications; it’s expensive and changes fast, so even if you invest in something today it seems like a whole new idea could pop up in a year or two.
As the field of unified communications (UC) grew, the solutions have looked a bit like Legos. A company chose a platform to sustain their first requirements for call and computing systems, then stacked on blocks as requirements dictated for automatic call distribution, conferencing and other operations. Soon a company had a mish-mash of functions with unique management interfaces all stacked up on their server. The good news is if one function went down it could be repaired autonomously—unless the server needed to come down, in which case everyone was wishing they’d invested in a redundant server.
Thankfully UC providers caught up quickly and started creating integrated packages to give businesses all they needed in one handy kit. Next, those “kits” were thrown up into the cloud, bringing both the attendant relief of reducing on-premises hardware costs and the concerns over security and reliability.
The pendulum has been swinging back now with UC providers determining that most companies need a blend of hosted and local services. ShoreTel is the latest among these to release a customizable solution that can be virtual, hardware based or a combination. ShoreTel (News - Alert) 14.2 works with the users’ existing infrastructure to create options both best manageable and most secure for the company.
Virtual systems take away some of the infrastructure and maintenance costs and provide nice Web-based management portals but some companies just can’t give up that level of control. That’s where the hybrid systems become a great option, allowing for custom configuration that’s a step more specialized than the integrated, but pre-boxed packages. ShoreTel spokesman Blair Pleasant (News - Alert) said, “[ShoreTel] has done a good job of providing options for its customers, whether it’s leveraging their existing VMware environment, using the ShoreTel appliance model, or a combination of both. The virtualized deployment provides increased capacity for calls, conferences, and SIP trunks, which will be appealing to larger customers.”
The bottom line for businesses is feeling in control of their communications setups once again, rather than relying on what a salesperson would call the next big opportunity for communications architecture.