4 Redundancy Features that All ShoreTel Customers Need to Know
By Travis Dillard, President & CEO
Oftentimes, we feel at the mercy of technology – will it crash? When, how, and why? And for how long? There’s nothing worse than being a slave to technology and, what often feels like, technology’s whim. Few realize there are several inherent features and design solutions that can make the seemingly unavoidable avoidable. Below are four ShoreTel Redundancy features to put to use now, so you don’t have service disruption later.
Unlike many Voice over IP solutions, with ShoreTel, there isn’t a central “brain” that is responsible for controlling all call processing, phone registration, call flow, and trunking. A ShoreTel system can be made up of many call processing instances called Voice Switches. These Voice Switches can be located anywhere on the network and be hardened appliances or virtual. Many of our customers might install the hardware (ShoreGear) devices at smaller remote locations and use the virtual Voice Switches to handle call processing at the larger locations or data centers with VMware. The hardened appliances can connect to PRIs, SIP trunks, or analog phone service at the branch offices. To take it a step further, we spin up redundant non-production virtual Voice Switches at the main location or data center. Should any production virtual or hardware Voice Switch anywhere on the network go offline, the spare Voice Switches will take over call processing duties.
Since all ShoreTel Voice Switches contain the entire system’s database, remote Voice Switches can be disconnected from the network, thus the rest of the sites, and continue to provide call routing and IP phone registration. Better yet, since they should be connected to local phone service, they will be able to continue to place and receive outside calls. Many of our customers will consolidate the bulk of their dial tone at the data center or main office, and connect the remote Voice Switches to minimal analog phone lines. These lines are reserved for 911 calling and local survivability. Often that location’s main published number will be a DID on the core dial tone service elsewhere. If IP connectivity becomes unavailable, that main number will be manually forwarded to the analog line(s) for inbound calls. This design is especially inexpensive and popular with smaller branch offices like credit unions or clinics.
Much like ShoreTel’s distributed Voice Switch architecture, almost all ShoreTel’s Unified Communications applications can be distributed across multiple servers on the network. An onsite ShoreTel system includes a Headquarters server and Distributed Voice Servers (DVS). These Distributed Voice Servers can be located anywhere on the network and provide production voicemail, ShoreTel Client (including softphone), Workgroup, auto-attendant, and other Unified Communications services. Not only does this provide additional local survivability for remote sites, should a DVS fail, other DVSs and the HQ server can take over those functions. bility to assign multiple transactions to a single agent, where appropriate. It is fairly common nowadays to have the ability to give an agent three or more web chats simultaneously, along with three or more emails. This is a huge benefit for two reasons: 1.) some agents are great at multitasking and have grown up understanding how to “game” applications. This is a great way to put those multitaskers to work in ways that suit their personality and general thought methodologies and, 2.) not all agents are great on the phone. But, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t fit brilliantly in the context of the contact center. It’s about matching skills to processes. Sure, we all want every agent to be proficient at all tasks, but the reality is that successful teams are about recognizing human nature and matching aptitude to the appropriate task. Having a multi-channel platform gives you a bit more freedom to improve agent retention and tenure by matching skills to individuals that can outperform as a multitasker.
o SIP trunk fail-over between sites: A SIP trunk can be terminated into your main location and another “DR” location or data center. Should one SIP trunk connection become unavailable, calls can automatically route to the other SIP trunk in “active/standby” mode. Now, increasingly more SIP providers can load balance inbound and outbound calls over both SIP trunks – the latter being ideal. A company can add enough trunk resources to meet the day-to-day production requirements of the business. But, if one were to fail, the other SIP trunk would continue to route inbound and outbound calls. Keep in mind that the inbound call routing strategy is reliant on the carrier with specific ShoreTel programming. The outbound strategy relies solely on proper ShoreTel programing regarding trunk groups, permissions, and trunk weighting strategies.
o SIP trunk fail-over between different IP network connections: In this scenario, SIP trunks can re-register and route calls over another IP connection. This configuration leverages dual Internet connections or one dedicated circuit like a T1 and a backup Internet connection to service the SIP trunks should the primary connection fail. We have some customers that will use a backup Internet-based wireless connection. production requirements of the business. But, if one were to fail, the other SIP trunk would continue to route inbound and outbound calls. Keep in mind that the inbound call routing strategy is reliant on the carrier with specific ShoreTel programming. The outbound strategy relies solely on proper ShoreTel programing regarding trunk groups, permissions, and trunk weighting strategies.
ShoreTel’s architecture has been purpose-built to be redundant and “self-healing” by nature. Because ShoreTel’s architecture is modular, has distributed call processing, and is truly a single system image, it’s important to note that if this system is designed correctly, most of its services should self-heal in most emergency and outage scenarios. With technology, it’s always better to prepare for the worst, rather than simply hoping for the best.