We all want the same thing - boatloads of cash, world peace, and of course, successful tech projects. Unfortunately, these can all seem like distant realities, but at least one of them is attainable. Planning and good decision making are critical to the success of IT projects, but without experience, it is difficult to know what to prepare for. I am no expert in the deployment of a new NAS solution or printers, but I do know a thing or about new phone systems.
The ShoreTel UC solution is leading the charge for a reason. It is simple to deploy, easy to support, and powerful. Despite the simplicity, preparation and experience are critical for getting the results we need.
Prepping the Network
Ensuring your network gear is ready to support a VoIP solution is the first step to avoiding disaster. There are really two main pieces to the network hardware puzzle: your data switching infrastructure, and if you choose to deploy SIP, the session border controller or SBC. To ensure QoS you will need to provide a core Layer 3 switch that can tag, prioritize, and segment VLANS. All other switches should support VLANs and respect packet headers to ensure this prioritization continues throughout the network. These switches will also need Power over Ethernet (PoE) to power the IP phones on the far end. With this configuration you can daisy chain your existing Ethernet drop through the phone to the PC. Don't forget that the speed to the desktop will now be capped by whatever speed is supported by your IP phone, if you want gigabit speed to your computer, you will need a gigabit capable phone.
In addition to the data switch you will also need a Session Border Controller if you choose to deploy SIP trunking with your ShoreTel. The Session Border Controller will handle NAT, something SIP doesn't play well with. The Session Border Controller you choose will sit in the DMZ and allow your external SIP trunks to connect to your internal PBX. You will want to make sure that your partner, the carrier providing the SIP trunking, and ShoreTel are ready to support the solution. If this part of the project goes awry, it's going to be a bad time.
Choosing the Right ShoreTel Partner
Selecting ShoreTel as your on-premise solution is simple; there are not many quality competitors left in the on-prem market as Cloud continues to disrupt. A more problematic decision is selecting the partner you want to work with; this partner is Gold, this partner Platinum, this company says her customer satisfaction is through the roof.... Arrgghhh! The experience your users and team have with the ShoreTel Phone System will be largely dependent on the partner you select. I have a 6-year-old who loves to draw; she loves using colored pencils, and Dad loves her art. However, she uses the same pencils my cousin uses to create the art she sells on Etsy. The tools are the same, the results are...well quite different. This principle holds true when describing deployments of phone systems: acquaintance with a set of colored pencils does not make you an artist.
Project Management is a key component of evaluating a possible partner for ShoreTel deployment or support. The Project Manager should have a well-defined process for gathering and confirming the information needed for programming a system properly. This should include everything from user details to broader concepts like voicemail settings. Your PM will also likely be the bridge between using the legacy phone system you own today, and the new ShoreTel UC platform you are deploying. Adoption of technology always goes swimmingly.... well it goes pretty good.... ok it usually really sucks. Training from your PM should give people not only a comfortability with using the platform, but excitement in what it can provide.
Technical and deployment expertise are the other components we must weigh carefully. Every ShoreTel Partner will offer at least one "plan." Look for a ShoreTel Support plan that fits your IT model and needs. Are they 24/7? Do they provide end user support or just admins? Do they provide offsite backups of the system? Your partner should provide ongoing training for end users and administrators alike to make sure you stay current with the features and tools. The partner you select should be monitoring your phone system and proactively addressing issues before they fester. ShoreTel's tool sets are diverse, so making sure your partner has many resources skilled in the applications of your system like Contact Center and Mobility is important. Many partners are only certified on the base platform, have a limited number of techs, or exposure to ShoreTel's more complex integrated applications.
No matter your business, phone system downtime is a painful experience. Building some simple redundancy into your system can help prevent frustrations in the event a piece of your system fails. The most important things to back up on a ShoreTel phone system are the voicemail, voice processing, and carrier trunking.
To back up your voicemail I suggest you deploy a Distributed Voice Server as your primary voicemail server, preserving the Director for failover and administering. If deployed properly, voicemail users on a DVS automatically fail up to the Director in the event they can't connect to their primary voicemail destination. There is a temporary loss of whatever voicemail is stored in the DVS, but all other setting are preserved by the Director.
For your call processing, ShoreTel makes it very easy to provide a high level of redundancy. ShoreTel supports a N+1 architecture, meaning that every voice processing appliance (ShoreGear Appliance) on your network can be backed up by a single appliance of the same size. If your largest device supports 100 users, you will need a switch that can support the same size left as a spare to eliminate any single point of failure. With the addition of ShoreTel virtual switching, this switch can be spun up on a VMWare image quickly. The licensing for redundant VM switches is free, and the resources required are relatively small - a major advantage when compared to building redundancy with most solutions.
The most complex of the steps I suggest is setting up redundancy for your SIP trunking. This is typically done in tandem with your carrier, offering a failover IP address in the event your primary path is unavailable. If possible we advise clients to setup mirrored deployments with enough capacity at both locations to handle failover. In the event you are at a single site, the use of a cloud based SD WAN service can provide failover and performance enhancement.
The deployment of any phone system, regardless of the relative simplicity, is going to require planning and investment. The keys to success are both simple to understand and relatively hard to execute. The industry is littered with failed IT deployments that often cost the IT team dearly in the form of lost employment, raises, promotions, and overall career success. This is avoidable when deploying a ShoreTel phone system by building a voice ready LAN, choosing the right partner, and preparing for possible failures. Matrix Networks has 30+ years of experience making our clients voice and data experiences smooth and simple. Let us know how we can help you with your ShoreTel situation!
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Author: Kyle Holmes