ShoreTel phone system: Product overview

The ShoreTel VoIP system boasts several voice switches, simplified administration and automated backup. The premises platform is ShoreTel's replacement for PBX telephony.

Editor's note: This article is part of a buying guide on voice over IP (VoIP). The features in this series describe the evolution of VoIP, its use cases and important criteria to consider when buying a VoIP service. The series also compares the top VoIP products in the marketplace. This article gives an overview of ShoreTel's VoIP systems.

ShoreTel Premises platform is an on-site IP PBX and unified communications (UC) service for the enterprise. The Premises platform has four main components: voice switches, IP phones, ShoreTel Director and ShoreTel Communicator.

The ShoreTel phone system has an interesting approach and, according to ShoreTel, its main advantage is simplified design, administration and high reliability.

The product's core is the ShoreTel Voice switch. These are devices that integrate voice functionality, communication, call routing, IP phone registration and SIP trunking or telecommunications provider termination (ISDN-PRI/PSTN) in one box.

The ShoreTel phone system currently supports 14 different voice switches, each with its own characteristics, providing a wide range of deployment choices and telco connectivity capabilities.

Depending on the amount of IP phones to be supported at a location, customers simply stack multiple voice switches until the desired amount of IP phones has been reached. The highest capacity switch is the ShoreTel Switch 90V, which provides support for up to 90 IP phones, 90 voicemail boxes, up to 12 analog ports and SIP trunking to the Internet service provider. Companies that require more connectivity can purchase and stack multiple switches.

Additionally, companies can add redundant voice switches anywhere in their network. These additional switches serve as a backup for the local or remote site. If a primary voice switch fails, the backup switch will automatically take over and users can continue working without disruption. ShoreTel is one of the few VoIP PBX vendors to offer this self-healing feature.

The ShoreTel phone system has an extensive range of IP phones with several features for ease of use. All the phones support Power over Ethernet and have Fast Ethernet (10/100 Mbps) or gigabit Ethernet ports, depending on the model.

The higher-end models include features such as large color touch displays, conference capabilities, multiple line support, integrated VPN client support and more.

ShoreTel Director facilitates network management

ShoreTel Director is a unified management tool that allows for administration, setup, diagnosis and reporting of all ShoreTel equipment. The software can automatically discover and configure any ShoreTel devices and supported services, including voice switches, IP phones, voicemail and call routing.

ShoreTel Director is installed on either a dedicated server or virtualized platform, and is managed via a Web interface. With ShoreTel's IP PBX solution, a voice switch can be connected at a remote branch and the administrator will immediately see and configure the new device through ShoreTel Director, regardless of physical location.

ShoreTel Director also provides real-time status of the whole ShoreTel phone system. If a problem is detected, a yellow or red light will blink next to the site or device affected. The administrator can then find out more detail about the problem.

If the software's host server crashes, the whole ShoreTel infrastructure will continue to run and function without any interruptions.

ShoreTel Communicator is a user-based application that integrates IP telephony features, messaging, conferencing, video, mobility and other capabilities. The interface allows users to respond quickly to calls and messages, and check online presence of colleagues and much more.

The application supports a variety of users, and depending on users' roles, it allows them to perform a number of different functions.

Pricing for ShoreTel VoIP products depends on a number of factors, including the features chosen. ShoreTel offers a one-year standard warranty that can be extended to multiyear agreements, backed up by its technical assistance center and advanced hardware replacement. More information on support and warranty services can be found on ShoreTel's website.

Next Steps

Learn how to manage quality in VoIP.

Discover how VoIP can benefit small businesses.

Explore how VoIP and unified communications work together.

Learn how PBX and VoIP work together.

Dig Deeper on VoIP and IP telephony