The Nitty Gritty of ShoreTel Connect
By Chris Mitchell, Vice President of Solution Architecture
Recently, we hosted a ShoreTel admin training about ShoreTel Connect that had an overwhelming response. Not only did we have a massive turn out, we had loads of questions, many of which we couldn’t cover in our 1-hour webinar. ShoreTel Connect seems to be a hot topic for many businesses with contact centers and it’s no surprise. ShoreTel Connect may be a version 15 for on-premise customers but it’s much more than that. While it’s the latest version of both on-premise and cloud solutions, ShoreTel Connect has taken on some major advancements for contact centers. If you’re thinking it’s just a simple upgrade, think again. ShoreTel Connect is showcasing some big changes for contact centers. So we thought, we’d share a little bit from the webinar here, in case you missed it.
Besides being a massive software update, ShoreTel Connect also helps to unify the look and feel of ShoreTel’s on-premise and cloud solutions. As the gaps between these solutions are bridged more and more with the advancement of technology, it makes more sense to carry the same branding throughout.
Inflow has been using the beta version of this for over two years. We have a plenty of history and insight with this new product. We started beta testing in 2015 and began deploying it in 2016. A few months ago, ShoreTel began offering general availability to upgrade. So we’ve been approaching this cautiously and have been waiting for ShoreTel Connect new version which came out a few months ago. Because it’s a big change, we’ve been slowly deploying the product and white gloving it as it’s implemented to make sure we catch any “gotchas” before they snowball.
There’s a lot, but here’s a quick list of some of the biggest changes:
- New Communicator Client – it’s modern look has more white space and it’s a little easier on the eyes.
- Windows/Mac client parity – this is something that has been a growth, from our perspective, in Macs users on ShoreTel for the last several years, which is great.
- ECC client moves to the browser – ECC users get a browser application.
- Admin (Connect Director) browser compatibility beyond IE – Browser compatibility beyond internet explorer makes a lot of the Admins happy.
- Collaboration enhancements (IM, screen sharing, Skype for Business, video) – A lot of these collaborating enhancements have been lacking over the last couple years and we’re happy to see they are including more of this type of tech for users.
- Enhanced softphone – This improves work with client softphone and remote workers. We’ve been using this internally for a couple years and have had a lot of great feedback on it.
- “Hybrid” deployment model – By “hybrid” ShoreTel means you can connect your system (that’s been upgraded to Connect), to another ShoreTel Connect cloud system. So you can connect two disparate systems, premise and cloud. That means you can sync and unify your directories. It’s available once your premise has been upgraded to connect.
- New Switches – the gist of this is simply more horsepower so you don’t have the IP resource trade-off where if you have analog connected, it reduces the number of IP phones and resources you have available. So ShoreTel just upped the horsepower on some of the newer physical appliances.
- Edge Gateway/Remote employee improvements – this is a displacement for VPN concentrator. So having physical phones outside of your environment/network have the ability to tunnel directly back to this edge gateway and be a part of the ShoreTel system. It works from both the physical phone side as well as the Connect client. This offers some great enhancements that allows for more improvements around remote employees connecting back to the ShoreTel system.
- Linux-based DVS – this is nice if you don’t want to manage another windows server for your DVS, this gives you an option to run a Linux-based DVS if you have VMR and you want to run it in there.
What else do I need to know about Connect as a current ShoreTel customer?
- Version 13 + 14 are supported for upgrade path to Connect
- Compatible with most existing ShoreTel phones/switches
- Estimating another 2-3 years of support for v. 14. 2, so there’s no obligation to upgrade right away
- Some good free perks to take advantage (e.g. softphones for all, Edge Gateway) – some of these are less widely known and not advertised
- Connect’s capabilities in VMware > Hyper-V
- New licensing bundles can be ordered – this is something you can take advantage of even if you’re not upgraded to Connect
What costs should I plan for when upgrading?
- End user training
- Edge Gateway Implementation and acquiring any necessary certs
Now to get into some of the nuts and bolts, ShoreTel Connect Upgrade Requirements
- ShoreTel version 13.x or 14.x (x = any build)
- ECC 8.x or 9.x (x = any build)
- Mobility 8.x – there’s a new mobility version coming out in July. They didn’t add a lot of new functionality/features but they have added some new device support.
- 64bit Windows 2008 R2/2012 R2 – this is a great thing to know ahead of time, so you can get your system ready before you upgrade.
- 30GB HDD Free Space
- VMWare ESXi 5.5 or 6.0 (Virtual Switches/Appliances) – you can virtualize your servers in Hyper-V but none of the linux-based appliances are supported in Hyper-V yet.
No Longer Supported (don’t worry, it’s a short list!)
- IP210 (All Other IP Phones supported)
- 32bit Server OS
- Outlook 2007 – it needs to be 2010 or newer
Not Currently Supported
- Extension Length longer than 5 digits (site-prefix) – 3, 4 or 5 digit extensions are fine, but if you are running any site prefixes, you are not eligible to upgrade to Connect yet. They are working on making this available but it’s important to know before you try to upgrade.
- Docking of the Connect Client – Right now, you can dock the client left, right, top or bottom but currently, there’s no capability to dock. They are also working on adding left and right docking (no top or bottom) but currently this isn’t available. They haven’t committed to a date of when they plan to have this feature added but, every quarter there’s a new feature build, so you may see this in a rolling feature within the next year.
- Client Toolbars (Q4 2016) – they will be rolled in Q4
- Citrix / Terminal Services (Q3 2016)
- Doubletake Server Redundancy
- Mobility Video Calls to Desktop Client
- Microsoft Server 2016
This was just a brief snapshot of what we covered in our hour-long webinar. Besides publishing several blogs about ShoreTel Connect updates and a slew of other resources, we frequently host webinars sharing valuable and frank insight about ShoreTel systems, contact centers and we are available to answer your questions live. Check out this month’s webinars here.
Founded in 1997, Inflow Communications is a national leader in unified communications and Contact Centers. With over to 100,000 endpoints under Inflow’s innovative support plans around the world, their dedication to knowledge, innovation, and unrivaled customer support has landed them in ShoreTel’s top 2% in global customer satisfaction, and as a winner of ShoreTel’s coveted Circle of Excellence Partners award. For two years in a row, Inflow is a ShoreTel Platinum Partner, the highest level of partnership, and is their fastest growing partner globally. In addition, Inflow is one of the few Cloud Contact Center providers that offer implementation, ongoing support, and comprehensive consulting and training programs. Inflow services clients across the globe and has local offices in over 10 major cities in the US.