Straight Talk with Mt. Hood Meadows
Inflow Performance Review Series
What is Straight Talk Series?
At Inflow, we’re always trying to set the bar higher for ourselves. That’s why we’ve developed a questionnaire to review with our customers – to make sure we are going above and beyond for them. We already have our live and unfiltered customer happiness metrics on our website but we thought, why not share these more in-depth views of what it’s like to work with Inflow? The Inflow performance review series will give you exactly that – find out what it’s like to work with us, straight from the horse’s mouth.
This round, we’re talking specifically about ShoreTel Connect with one of our early adopters. We learn a lot from our early adopters and know that you will too.
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What led you to upgrade to Connect?
We were struggling with a couple of specific issues, regarding the ShoreTel 14.2 version. I probably won’t be able to go over all of them, but I know some of the highlights. One of them being that the browser support was very limited.
We had an ongoing issue with our service appliance, the SA100, which is the conference bridge. It had some known vulnerabilities in some of the platform infrastructure, specifically the SSO security encryption levels that it was using, and some of the PHP platform was that you had known vulnerabilities if the conference bridge was exposed to Internet on our public‑facing LAN port. We used Trustwave to scan those ports. It would find those vulnerabilities, and we’d be failing our Trustwave security compliance.
We had asked for a very long time, asking Inflow. Inflow was like, “I know. I know. We’re asking ShoreTel to fix it.” ShoreTel was basically saying, “We’re working on Connect. That’s what we’re focusing on.”
So our hope was, “OK, so, if we get onto Connect, you’re going to have to circle back around and make sure that the conference bridge is up-to-date and working properly with the new software.” In the general sense, we were hoping it would all come together like that.
Let’s see. What else? Video calling on our 14.2 system was not working, station‑to‑station video calls. It’s still not working. I don’t know why. We were hoping that that would get fixed in that version, and it just didn’t come around.
Not only that, but just knowing that eventually that 14.2 is going to go away, and so why wait until you’re forced to adopt an upgrade? We’d prefer to stay more up to date and on the latest and greatest version.
Frankly, some of the features and functionality that you would have to pay for licensing for on 14.2 is just inherently given to you in the Connect version, such as the instant messaging is available to all users, rather than having to pay for licensing, things of that nature. It expanded the functionality.
I guess, finally also, is that although we have not completely implemented it yet, we’re looking forward to the Edge Gateway functionality, so that we don’t have to establish a hardware VPN, or anything like that, in order to be able to put phones out in remote locations and have them be able to seamlessly connect back into the system and function properly.
In your eyes, what are the major benefits of upgrading? Is there anything else you want to mention, besides getting IM and different new features and being ahead of the groove?
Just a modern support. I think that Communicator works in Windows 10. I can’t even remember, but just staying up-to-date is primarily one of the goals.
During the upgrade, what were the issues you ran into, or were there any?
Unfortunately, the folks at Inflow forgot to or did not realize that they needed to acquire the upgrade license package to apply to the existing licenses in 14.2 in order to unlock the functionality in the new Connect platform.
A lot of our stuff wasn’t working, because it wasn’t licensed properly. But then, unfortunately, beyond that, there was a pretty major bug in the license display screens in Connect in the Shoreware Director that if you went out of compliance for any reason, it would not warn you.
It would not tell you, “Hey, you’re about to add licenses that are going to throw you out of compliance,” where actually 14.2 does do that for you.
It would happily accept the changes that you made that put you out of compliance and then, it would break the license feature, the list. You couldn’t even see the list. It would, basically, never load. It would just be in this eternal loop of attempting to load and never load.
From that, if you were to attempt to make any other changes in the system while your system is out of license compliance, you could not save those changes. It would give you an error message in the lower right‑hand corner of the Shoreware Director page.
It would say, “Technical details.” You’d click on that, and the technical details were empty. It would give you this nondescript error message, so you don’t know why your system isn’t working, you just know it’s not working.
We even got to the point where we had to get the ShoreTel internal support on the line with us. They said, “Give us a copy of your database and we’ll load it on our system. We’ll see what happens.”
We did that. We exported our data. I gave it to ShoreTel. They loaded it on their system, and they came back and said, “There’s no problem here. This works fine on my system. It must be a problem with you.” The difference there was that on their machines they did have all of the license compliance, apparently, so they did not see the same issue that we were seeing.
That was a bit frustrating. Luckily, there were some entries in the logs of the Connect interface that did report on what problems were happening, “Oh, this throws you out of license compliance.”
Although you couldn’t actually save any changes to allow you to get back into license compliance, what we ended up having to do was get into the My SQL database and undo those changes, literally, in the database tables, and save those, and then it was compliant again. Then, we could start to make changes again.
That went on for quite some time, a couple of weeks, because we did a full upgrade, then found that it wasn’t working properly. The guy from Inflow that was helping with the upgrade went and did a whole brand new upgrade assuming that something went awry.
Went all the way back to 14.2 database, lost a little bit of information in the process, a few days’ worth of voice mails, or whatever, but did the entire upgrade all over again, and found that it landed in the same state that it was in before. It just took an extra long time to understand what the problem was and know how to resolve it.
It seems as though now that we’ve been running on the original version that we upgraded to. There was a newer version that came out, and we upgraded to that. That, actually, appears to have fixed some of the general squirreliness that we’re been experiencing with the system overall. We were also having trouble converting our SA100 appliance into the VMware appliance for collaboration, which is the replacement of the hardware SA100 and I brought that online, but it just never worked properly.
After this upgrade, boom, it just, all of a sudden, started behaving normally. The following day, I was able to decommission the SA100. We’ve been running on the virtual machine all week, and it seems to work great. That’s a bit of good news I can report is that as enhancements and bug fixes are put into a release that we are seeing the positive results from that.
That’s something that we were probably not going to get from 14.2. They were not motivated to fix any of the issues that we had, so we knew it was time to abandon 14.2 and move on.
In regards to our project management in the whole project, how smoothly did that go during the upgrade?
Yeah. There was a lot of communication ahead of time.
As far as giving me adequate attention and knowing that especially this needed to go right just so that the subsequent upgrades would go right, I believe we got sufficient attention as far as realizing, “OK, this is not going smooth. We need to remain involved until we get to a point where this is production ready for our end users.”
Excellent. It sounds like the tech did a pretty decent job once he got in there and took over everything.
Yes. He was attentive and was willing to stay on the line. There was one day where we scheduled a call with ShoreTel TAC, and I think we were on hold for like two hours.
The Inflow folks, it’s good to have a local partner that knows you, knows your business, and is available to actually come on‑site. There is a lot of value in that versus if we were to have to try to negotiate, navigate through the ShoreTel support system, I think we’d still be in a world of hurt right now.
What advice would you give other customers that are looking to upgrade to Connect? Anything to look out for?
I’d say in a general sense, I would recommend it, mostly for the reasons that I stated earlier is that it’s just a more modern look and feel and user experience.
Actually, that’s another thing about the upgrade to Update 1 is that the messages and voice mails were all blended into, what is it called, Events, or something? They split those back out in this latest version.
I think that’s going to go a long way for my end users, because it was an uncomfortable switch for them, with something that looks completely different, works completely different and then some of the features that they were so used to being able to look at their past voice mails and instant messages, and things like that, were all hidden from them.
Now it’s back to being a little more exposed, which is good.
How did the end user experience go?
It runs the gamut. I wouldn’t be able to summarize it in an overall…I guess in the most general sense, once the people that are crabby about it get over that, or whatever it is, I think that by and large, people who get excited about new things like this were pleased with it.
The integration with Outlook for event scheduling and the way that it can end up being if you’re trying schedule a meeting and you want to set up a conference bridge associated with that, that functionality, once it’s set up properly, is nice to have. Some people are taking advantage of that.
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If you’re looking for some accurate, user reviews of what it’s like working with Inflow, then keep up with our series as we talk with more clients in the coming blog posts.