ShoreTel Adds New Productivity Features To VoIP Platform

ShoreTel5 Release 2 adds new features to the vendor's platform that are commonly found in legacy key systems, but with a VoIP twist, said Rich Winslow, senior director of product management at ShoreTel, Sunnyvale, Calif.

"We're often replacing key systems, so users typically have a certain expectation of feature behavior," Winslow said.

For example, the upgrade adds a new group paging feature that enables users to page a number of employees simultaneously across multiple locations. Key systems typically offer group paging but only to users within a single location, Winslow said.

"If [a customer] calls the branch office of a credit union, you can do a simultaneous page to all loan agents in all regional offices to get someone right away," he said.

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For at least one customer, the new feature is a deal-breaker, said Nicole Hibbard, director of telephony operations at Xtelesis, a Burlingame, Calif.-based solution provider.

"We've installed it already at one customer that saw a need for group paging. They have a warehouse facility where people are walking throughout the building all the time," Hibbard said. "It was a must-have feature for them. We wouldn't have won the deal without it."

The latest release of ShoreTel5 also adds a new expanded hunt group feature that enables an incoming call that's not immediately answered to bounce across locations to find an appropriate agent.

Another new feature, whisper page, enables administrative assistants to break into an ongoing phone call to alert executives of other incoming calls without the other party hearing the conversation.

The upgrade also adds new multilingual capabilities.

With the new release, ShoreTel has also expanded its migration strategy, Winslow said. Added support for the Simplified Message Desk Interface enables ShoreTel's voice-mail system to operate with legacy PBX systems from vendors such as Avaya, Nortel Networks, Mitel Networks, NEC and Siemens, he said. The ShoreTel gear could later be repurposed as an IP-PBX when the customer makes the transition to VoIP, he said.

The company also launched ShorePhone IP210, a new IP handset that includes an integrated Ethernet switch, making it possible to daisy-chain the phone to a PC so both devices can share a single network connection. The new phone is available now for $249.

ShoreTel5 Release 2 is slated for availability in March for approximately $650 to $850 per user. It will be available as a free upgrade for existing customers with a valid software support agreement.