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This site was created as a place to share stories, tips, and troubleshooting help with ShoreTel/Mitel systems. ShoreTel/Mitel is obviously the MOST exciting VoiP platform on the market right now, and we realized there was no centralized place to discuss this platform, but now there is. Please feel free to join and share your experiences.

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  • Considering Shoretel... Need questions answered.

    My company is currently considering going with a Shoretel solution for VoIP, and I'd like to get a few questions answered, especially as Shoretel compares to Avaya. We're dealing with a supposedly agnostic phone vendor, but some of the things they're telling us seem to imply that they may have an Avaya bias. Here are some of the claims for verification:

    1 - Once you buy Shoretel from a vendor, you must continue to buy from that vendor. If you decide to switch vendors, you fore-go your support contract and must buy a new one from the new vendor, which can take up to 2 weeks and can be very costly. Avaya allows you to buy from any vendor.

    2 - Upgrades are free only if you have an enterprise or partner contract, which ranges from 5k-20k yearly. Avaya upgrades are free no matter what for the life of the product.

    3 - You must have a Shoretel VPN concentrator AND a Shoretel gig phone to utilize Shoretel VPN connectivity. In other words, VPN does not work with a Cisco ASA. Avaya works with any VPN endpoint and you can use a 10/100 or gig phone.

    Some of these claims seem pretty outrageous, so I'd like some additional input on whether or not the claims are true, partially true, or outright false.

    Other questions that I have:

    1 - How costly is the Call Manager application in general?

    2 - Does call recording require any additional hardware or software licensing? (We record calls only when we're accepting CC#'s over the phone, not every single phone call.)

    3 - What components of the system require servers?

    4 - Is failover as graceful as advertised, and how quick is it? Can I unplug a voice switch in the corporate office and immediately pick up a phone and place a call if I still have WAN connectivity and another voice switch in another city?

    5 - Any other gotchas that I should be aware of?

    Thanks much.

  • #2
    From a Customer Perspective

    Ok, I'll take a stab at answering your questions, but I'll preface this by letting you know that I don't consider myself an expert, just a ShoreTel admin with 3 years experience on a multi-site system. Our system consists of about 400 extensions, 300 of which are IP phones, 26 switches, 1 server, and 10 sites.

    We are still on version 7.0, but I have installed a test system with the latest 9.1 version, so I have limited experience with that.

    Here are my answers to the questions I know something about. Anyone else, please feel free to dispute my findings.

    Part 1
    Q1. Do you have to stay with the partner you buy from.
    A1. No. If you are unhappy with your vendor, or you simply learn that you like another vendor better (more experience, closer, etc), you can request (through the new vendor) that they become your partner. They have to follow a procedure with ShoreTel to make the change, and I'm sure you have to sign something for ShoreTel. You may only be able to do this at the end of your support contract term.

    NOTE: You can get quotes from multiple ShoreTel partners. ShoreTel may tell you you can't do this, and partners may tell you you can't do this, but guess what? You're the customer, so you can do what you want! And I would recommend that you do so. I've heard that partners get discounts from ShoreTel depending on some combination of their volume, customer satisfaction rating, and seniority, so some may have the ability to give you better pricing than others, and some just do a better job than others.

    Q2. Are upgrades free?
    A2. No. You must have a support contract for upgrades, or you may be able to buy them outright, but they are not free. The cost of the support contract depends on the number of licenses you have, the number of switches, and phones, and whether you have partner or enterprise support. Partner support is generally much less expensive. You have the option of excluding support for phones, but I believe you must buy support for all licenses and switches if you want a support contract. Also, if you want to buy additional hardware and want it covered under your support contract, you MUST buy it from your current ShoreTel vendor.

    NOTE: If you are at all technically savvy, you will find that you can upgrade the ShoreTel system software without much (if any) assistance from your partner. You might consider on the Avaya if you would need to pay for assistance in upgrading the "free" software.

    Q3. ShoreTel VPN question
    A3. I don't know enough about that to answer.

    Part 2
    Q1. How costly is Call Manager application
    A1. Since there are 5 levels (personal, professional, agent, supervisor, and operator) this is hard to answer. I believe I heard that Personal Call Manager now comes "free" with an extension license, but I could be wrong. To get an accurate number on this, you really just need to get a quote from a ShoreTel vendor. I'll give you some "List Price numbers from 2006" that could be totally incorrect today but may get you in the ballpark. And of course, your vendor (hopefully) will not charge you list price. Personal $125, Professional(Did not exist), Agent $495, Supervisor $795, Operator $895, Extension & Mailbox License $200, Extension Only $140, Mailbox Only $90, Softphone $150.
    Again, those numbers are List Price from 2006 and may not be even close to today's prices.

    Q2. Does recording require anything additional?
    A2. No. If you allow it via permissions, any user can record calls. Supervisors can record agent calls on-demand if authorized. Keep in mind that these recordings must be initiated manually, therefore, you will not likely hear the beginning of most calls. There are, however, third party call recording options that you can purchase that allow more robust call recording.

    Q3. What components of the system require servers?
    A3. At a minimum, you just need 1 server. If you purchase Contact Center, you'll need another server. However, quite often, multi-site installs put a DVM (Distributed Voicemail) server at remote site. We chose not to do so, so all of our VM is out of our headquarters site. Also, ShoreTel has new switches that can handle voicemail for remote sites as well.

    Q4. Is failover as graceful as advertised.
    A4. Can't answer this for the latest 9.1 version, but on 7.0, if a switch fails that a phone is connected to, the phone may drop for 30-45 seconds before it reconnects to another switch (at the same site). 7.0 does not have "across-site" failover built in. Although, within a minute or so, I could manually change the IP phone address map to force those remote phones to register to a switch at another site if the capacity is there. Version 9.1 does allow phones to failover to another site, but I don't have enough experience with that to answer.

    Q5. Any other gotcha's.
    A5. There are always other gotcha's with any phone system. What those gotcha's are depends on what you want to do. As a general rule, the big plus with ShoreTel is it's ease of use and resulting lower total cost of ownership. However, because it is easy to use, it sometimes is a little harder to make it "jump through hoops" when you want it to do something in a very specific way.

    I can tell you that we looked in-depth at Cisco, Nortel, Mitel, and Inter-Tel before we chose ShoreTel. We did not look at Avaya in-depth for two reasons. 1) We considered Avaya to be too expensive from the get-go when considering up-front cost and on-going support needs for moves, adds, changes, and upgrades, and 2) We did not have a solid Avaya partner in our area.

    If you would like to discuss anything more, please feel free to contact me.

    Gary Berkemeyer
    IT Manager
    Riggs CAT
    501 [570] [3515]
    garyb [at] jariggs dot com


    • #3
      Free upgrades from Avaya... pretty hard to believe (I used to work for them.) I don't know of any supplier that will provide free upgrades unless you have some sort of maintenance or service contract with them.


      • #4

        If you have a real VPN in place already (hardware VPN), the shoretel solution should work with any phone.

        The shoretel VPN concentrator and the gig phone give you the advantage of not needing to setup a vpn ahead of time.

        For example, you have the shoretel vpn concentrator setup in your DMZ. An employee asks you for a phone. It is pre-configured to connect to your shoretel vpn concentrator.

        Also, your not exposing yourself with a VPN directly into your internal network. All external devices will terminate into the DMZ for more protection.

        They take the phone home, plug it in to internet connection, and the phone connects and works.... it builds its OWN vpn connection from the phone to the switch.

        if you want to take on the pain of setting up true VPN solutions to each house/office then I believe you can. The gig phones have the vpn clients built in..... the lower models do not.

        If you think about it, MPLS is just a fancy name for VPN..... IP is IP.

        We setup recording buttons on our phones so a user can just push the button to record a call. It works well if you dont have any high end requirements.

        The failover options are pretty close to "as-advertised". The server runs a few things like:

        1. voicemail
        2. Workgroups
        3. The phone directory
        4. Interfaces to the Personal Call Manager
        5. Director Access - Make changes

        If you setup hunt group backups to your workgroups, you really only lose voicemail and the phone directory when the server is down........


        • #5
          Sounds fantastic. Shoretel is definitely the way I'd probably go if the choice were up to me. Unfortunately the choice is not up to only me.


          • #6
            Jdd48... I was in the same position just a few months ago. Our top 5 bids were 3 ShoreTel vendors, an Avaya, and a Mitel system. We went ShoreTel.

            -The personal call manager is "free" with an extension and mailbox license. If you fall into a situation that you may need a few extension only and a few VMs box only licenses - save yourself a little cash by getting an extension and mailbox license, they are broken out in the system anyway.
            -The ShoreWare director is top notch (Avaya/Mitel) has multiple interfaces for user management.
            -I had the same concern at being locked into a small vendor that may go under. ShoreTel is actually fairly tough on their vendors, and they assured me that if we couldn't find another vendor we liked - they would offer direct support.
            -The AD integration in 9.1 was big for me, and I do my best to not give our users yet another ID/pass to remember.
            -They have changed the failover process in 9.1. The old way allowed you to define a primary and backup for the phone/user (this was my understanding). The new process allows you to define primary and backup failover switches. This is actually a better failover process, as it allows more layers of backup. If a phone fails, and is under to find open ports on the primary and backup failover switch, then it will hit the soft switch (there may be more options for multi-site setups - we are a single site). The soft switch was something that I wasn't aware of when looking to failover situations, it turns out that ShoreTel server can support phones as well. Obviously you wouldn't want it running phones for an extended amount of time, but it's another layer of protection.
            -As far as the ShoreTel VPN concentrator... the jury is still out. We have had phones drop offline and not come back. It could be in relation to some firewall settings that I am working with the vendor about - but when it works, it sounds great! We picked it bacause we have an office that only needs phones, so no need to build out a full hardware VPN.
            -Call recording. We put a button on the phone, and one on the call manager - works great.

            My only knock so far is that there isn't a graceful way to do a batch update in the ShoreWare director (i.e. phone buttons, CM settings, other settings, etc.)


            • #7
              Can anyone speak to conference features that are included out of the box, and advanced conferencing features that cost extra? I've been told by the same vendor that the Shoretel 12 party conferencing bridge is pretty costly?


              • #8

                We actually just had this question as well ourselves. I believe the out of the box is 3 way. If you need more than that, then you need to convert ports on your switch over to conference ports. You will lose the ability to home 5 IP phones/100 SIP Proxy per port, and you must convert a minimum of 4. Therefore, it will basically cost you the support for 20 phones minimum. In our situation, we installed a 24A switch for analog capacity, and ended up needing less than expected, therefore I just took the analog ports and converted them over to conference ports - thereby not reducing my IP phone support for now.

                For large conference calls we outsource that to Premiere Global, cheap rates and great service.
                PGi | Premiere Global Services USA: Conferencing | Email Fax | Email Marketing | Notifications


                • #9
                  You can have up to 6-way conferences by dedicating 6 ports on a switch as conference ports. As noted, this will mean you can't use these ports for anything else. As I understand it, you will need additional ports (On a different switch perhaps?) if you wish to host more than one conference at a time. In other words, for 6 ports on 1 switch, you can have just one six-way conference.

                  ShoreTel's Conference Bridge is priced somewhere in the $8000-$10000 range, I believe, for a 12-way conference.


                  • #10
                    dont forget to mention that recording via the sup call manager is limited to 8 minutes a session. only manual recording is available.


                    • #11

                      The Supervisor can record up to 3600 seconds. 480 seconds is the default.

                      We have developed numerous ShoreTel Recording Customizations if special recording functionality is needed. These can be used for QA or Agent Training, etc.

                      Bryon Palitto
                      PCS ShoreTel Team
                      Palitto Consulting Services, Inc.


                      • #12
                        can anyone verify the 8 minute recording limitation?


                        • #13
                          No, the recording limit is 1 hour.


                          • #14
                            I too am looking at ShoreTel and like what I see, but need to do due dilegence and looking at Avaya and Cisco (am a Mitel user). If you want to e-mail me rather than post your opinions, I'm fine with that.

                            I like the single interface for admin on the Shoretel, coming from Mitel which had way too many stops, but I hear they are upgrading and simplifying thier software.

                            1. Anybody using Salesforce and how was the interface?
                            2. With the Personal Call Manager any problems installing on desktops or training users? Is it a memory hog?
                            3. Can supervisors or administrators log off Agents remotely?
                            4. Is there a max number of appearances for extensions?
                            5. Anyone backing up server based applications like Voice mail?