announced version 6.1 of their IP-PBX which delivers feature-rich IP key system functionality to branch offices and small businesses. Many competing IP-PBXs, Cisco included have neglected or have limited "key system" functionality in their IP-PBX line, which is why ShoreTel does well in the retail and service industries. Also very unique to the ShoreTel product is that it's a single product that targets small businesses all the way up to large businesses with 10,000 employees. Competing solutions have separate products often with separate development divisions and code that is not easily integrated and a migration path that requires a forklift upgrade. In fact, ShoreTel is the only IP-PBX that I am aware of that scales from 10-10,000 seats simply via a licence software upgrade. It's an impressive system that TMC Labs hasn't reviewed in a long time. I'll have to add them to the TMC Labs review queue. I spoke with ShoreTel last week to learn more about their announcement being made later today.
Foremost, ShoreTel 6.1, a new version of their flagship product, and three new ShoreTel IP phones were launched today. With this introduction, ShoreTel claims to offer the only key system emulation that is part of a single hardware and software platform that spans all levels of key system and PBX functionality - again addressing the needs of organizations with 10 to 10,000 employees. As I previously explained, other solutions include distinct products for different sizes of companies, forcing folk-lift upgrades when customers move between platforms, and impacting customer service levels by requiring partners and customers to support multiple, complex products.
“Being able to emulate the key system that our employees are used to in one integrated IP phone system with all the PBX capabilities is very important to our business,” said Jason Reed, IT manager at Grubb Properties. “The scalability across multiple sites and ease of installation of the ShoreTel system is also necessary because we frequently set up temporary offices. For example, we will be setting up an office in June for six months for a new real estate development and need to extend ShoreTel 6.1 with the new key system capabilities to that location.”
ShoreTel 6.1 introduces new key system capabilities that combine the features users in this market expect with the flexibility, manageability, usability, and cost-effectiveness of ShoreTel’s unique VoIP technology. The star of this latest release is the ShorePhone IP 212k, an ergonomic IP key system telephone with 12 programmable buttons, exceptional audio quality, and big LCD display.
“ShoreTel 6.1 is an ideal voice platform for many branch offices, retail chains, and small businesses that require key system behavior from their phones,” said Steve Timmerman, vice president of marketing. “The ShoreTel platform offers attractive price points for all sizes of offices and continues to feature the ease of use and management that keep our customers satisfied.”
Other features debuting in this new ShoreTel release include a gigabit IP phone, the IP 560g; a new staff IP phone, the IP 230; expanded support of international requirements; Centrex flash capabilities; personal-assistant and Caller-ID enhancements.
Here's an image of the IP 560g:
The new ShorePhone IP 212k key system phone has 12 self-labeling programmable buttons that use tri-color LEDs to make paper labels a thing of the past. There are eight hard keys—for Transfer, Conference, Intercom, Redial, Voicemail, Hold, Options, Directory—and two soft keys. A high-contrast LCD display is vertically oriented to mimic the look and feel of a key system telephone.
Here's an image of the ShorePhone IP 212k:
The ShorePhone IP 212k key system phone enables very fast call handling through a new type of extension called a bridged call appearance. Designed for businesses with shared call answering requirements, this extension is programmed onto buttons on multiple phones, with a button for each call. As a result, calls can be answered, held and retrieved among multiple phones very quickly.
“We are using the key system capabilities and multiple call appearance on the 212k for our warehouse facilities so that anyone can answer a call,” said Ernie Maheu, network engineer at Quaker Fabric, one of the largest producers of upholstery fabric in the world. “This is the best way to handle calls in a warehouse environment because we can answer a call from any phone, and other people will know the call is active. If another person in the warehouse needs to handle the call, it can be placed on hold and picked up by that person.”
The brick-and-mortar constraints of other key system solutions are eliminated by ShoreTel’s unique distributed call control architecture, which allows bridged call appearances to span locations and thus virtualize key system behavior across the enterprise. The bridged call appearance extension can also be programmed on the ShorePhone IP 560, IP 530, IP 230, and BB 24, and docked in the Operator Call Manager interface to allow key system behavior on PCs.
Designed as a branch office solution or for single-site businesses, the ShorePhone IP 212k accommodates up to 12 lines. If more lines are needed, the solution can be expanded to an impressive 108 lines by using it in combination with as many as four ShorePhone BB 24 button boxes.
Small offices can also benefit from a new Centrex flash feature in ShoreTel 6.1 that reduces trunk requirements. One of the buttons on a ShoreTel IP ShorePhone can be programmed for Centrex flash, and then users simply push it to flash an ordinary analog loop start trunk and access Centrex service features. This includes initiating Centrex conference calls.
With Centrex flash, external calls can be transferred to external numbers without tying up trunks for the duration of the transferred call. Without this capability, a small office with four trunks would have to tie up two of them—half the office’s trunk capacity—to accommodate these external transfers.
Another new ShorePhone model being introduced with ShoreTel 6.1 is the IP 230, which offers complete functionality for a very reasonable price. Targeted at general office workers and ACD agents, the ShorePhone IP 230 features 3 programmable buttons supported by green LEDs, and a high contrast LCD display providing four display lines plus a fifth line for four soft keys.
The ShorePhone line is also being extended at the high end with the IP 560g, a gigabit phone aimed at graphics-intensive desktops equipped with gigabit Ethernet drops. It is built upon the existing IP 560 with an upgraded Ethernet switch that supports 1 Gbps operation. The IP 560g ShorePhone features six programmable buttons with tri-color LEDs, and a backlit LCD screen that accommodates six lines of display plus four soft keys.
Like the IP 212k, the ShorePhone IP 230 and IP 560g have eight hard keys, self-labeling buttons that eliminate the need for paper labels, and PoE support. All three are available in black or silver with an optional wall-mount kit, and feature the same ergonomic design and high-quality audio with integrated speakerphone as the entire ShorePhone line. International Enhancements
ShoreTel 6.1 adds Ireland to the growing list of international dialing plans supported by ShoreTel. Thanks to ShoreTel’s unique distributed architecture, a company with offices in the US and Ireland can have a single system image spanning the globe.
Another enhancement in ShoreTel 6.1 exposes the QSIG interface to the ShoreTel Director, ShoreTel’s system management tool, making it easier to configure PRI tie lines to third-party devices such as legacy PBX systems. This addition is driven by requirements in parts of Europe where QSIG, rather than Euro-ISDN, is the standard for PBX-to-PBX networking. Pricing and availability
ShoreTel 6.1 and the ShorePhone IP 230 are available now. ShoreTel 6.1 is a free upgrade for customers with a maintenance contract. The new ShorePhone IP 230 lists for $259 US. The new ShorePhone IP 212k key system phone lists for $299 US and is scheduled to be available at the end of May. The ShorePhone IP 560g lists for $429 and is scheduled to ship in August. Through a separately-priced advance replacement program, customers can purchase the IP 560g now and get regular IP 560s to use in the interim until they can be swapped with IP 560g’s.