The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
UCStrategies.com defines unified communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The definition of unified communications narrows significantly when you can read and hear about real-world examples that other companies are implementing right now—and apply them to your situation.
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ShoreTel just announced general availability of Release 13 of its UCC suite which current customers of ShoreTel 12 will receive as a free software upgrade. ShoreTel 13 maintains its signature N+1 distributed architecture which eliminates any single point of failure while presenting a single system image forsoftware feature operations and systems administration. ShoreTel’s Linux-based Service Appliance 400 continues in its role of enabling integrated collaboration services that are administrated by IT in ShoreTel Director and managed by the end user in ShoreTel Communicator. ShoreTel 13 supports VMware 5 for system administration, enterprise directory/database, UM and enterprise contact center (CC) 7.
Through ShoreTel 13 the company hopes to leverage its inherent scalability and acceptance by larger businesses to continue moving up market, with particular focus on the upper midmarket. These larger companies want easier interoperability options, close alignment of UCC capabilities with user requirements, and scalable deployments. Today, 31% of licenses are now used by businesses with > 500 users. The system, however, scales and grows as needed across multiple sites and geographies supporting 20,000 users and 500 sites on a single system image. And it has always offered APIs and pre-built connectors supporting CEBP integrations.
ShoreTel 13 continues to focus on open standards and familiar interfaces in order to deliver better experience and lower total cost of ownership (TCO). They were among the first UC leaders to join the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF), and continue to work closely with video partners for wider adoption of video standards including H.264 SVC. Today, ShoreTel Communicator for Windows can establish a video session with LifeSize room systems, in a point-to-point fashion using SIP/H.264. By calling into a LifeSize device with an embedded MCU, it can also participate in a multi-party video session. The media path is peer-to-peer for both video and audio streams. Other vendors will be supported in the future via the ShoreTel Innovation Network, including Polycom.
The communicator client has been made self-deploying. Self-service means no IT helpdesk involvement and no training requirement. Among other enhancements to Communicator are simpler options to manage multiple phones and personal call routing, and the availability of a client application server API for faster development of custom client apps. Leveraging the Outlook 2007/2010 API, a new voice mail form has been added that simplifies the upload of personal contacts and adds improved conferencing synchronization with Exchange. It is compliant with both Outlook 32 and 64 bit.
Improvements have also been made to the user experience for the Mac population through deployment of an improved Java module.
With ShoreTel 13, IM/P becomes a standard feature for all users on the ShoreTel system by way of the communicator desktop UC client (Personal Access License required). IM/P is currently supported on ShoreTel Communicator for Windows. All users will have access to the contact viewer within Communicator. Contact viewer displays the IM/P of the users’ contacts. To utilize IM/P, customers will need to deploy an IM server on the back-end (either ShoreTel Instant Messaging Service or Microsoft Lync).
The ShoreTel XMPP-based IM service appliance is a single Linux appliance and supports integrated A/W conferencing and IM. They can be deployed anywhere, including into a corporate DMZ. There’s no administration to it. It automatically gets recognized by the network and adds the user’s services. With ShoreTel 13 users can now download both the shared audio and web recording to their PCs. The download file is a zip file containing a .wav file and a .swf (Flash) file.
Enhancements were also made to ShoreTel’s SIP trunking feature set making it more attractive for the CC professionals that need call recording and other media related services. This includes full feature parity with PRI trunks in terms of such features as Barge-In, call recording, whisper, etc.; G.729 codec support; support for outbound trunk failover and out of service detection; and easy management and diagnostics with pre-defined ITSP profiles.
What This Means to You
To Customers: Over the last two months just about every major IP PBX/UC vendor has announced significant system feature/functionality enhancements consistent with their individual go-to-market (G2M) strategies. According to Kaplan and Norton (Strategy Maps, Harvard Business School Press, 2004), tech vendors tend to build their G2M strategies along four pathways to success:
Customers should carefully assess the plethora of competitive solutions for the right fit – no one size fits all – in terms of the risk-adjusted benefits and TCO. Risk considerations need to cover such items as: the impact of the new system on competitive differentiation; ability to scale to meet demand in alternative geographies; the impact of M&A on interoperability requirements; alignment of future business requirements with currently offered feature/functionality and UCC solution’s technology roadmap, and business continuity – think of uptime, mean time to repair, and availability of SLAs.
To Partners: ShoreTel 13’s new upper midmarket focus will allow partners to leverage their current skill set and compete for richer deals which could easily include hybrid deployments with cloud services for remote and small branches, broader and deeper network assessments and upgrades and more opportunities to cross-sell and support ShoreTel’s new Remote Monitoring service. ShoreTel utilizes a management system to collect system data and to interpret it in a format that can be utilized by the ShoreTel Technical Assistance Center and/or ShoreTel Certified Resellers. This will reduce partner truck rolls, increase their margins, and provide additional touch points for partner/customer interaction.
Overall, we see the IM/P for all users as a net plus for partners. This levels the playing field in bids where Cisco is involved, and familiarizes all users with UC capabilities. This can only add to demand for more UCC feature/functionality over time.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?