Best Practices and Considerations when Performing a ShoreTel Upgrade.
Imagine buying a computer and knowing that whenever the manufacturer improves the software, you can ask for an upgrade. And imagine that the computer company only makes one kind of computer, so they are focused on making the best damn computer on the market. That’s the situation with ShoreTel on premise UC solutions. The hardware may stay the same, but the brain that runs the whole show? That is constantly getting improved. Running Office 2016? No problem. Using Gmail instead of Outlook? No problem. Using Windows 8.1? Ouch, sorry about that.
This post is meant to demystify the upgrade process for end users and IT staff. You can find information online about how to upgrade, the pitfalls and processes you need to master. But what if you have a partner who will do the upgrade, and you just want to get a handle on the whole process?
I have helped shepherd hundreds and hundreds of customers through the upgrade process, so relax – you’re in good hands. First, in case we need to review, why should you bother to upgrade your on premise ShoreTel system? See opening paragraph.
Before I say anything else, I want to suggest that you confirm with your ShoreTel partner that they have tested the build of software they are about to put on your system. Hard to believe, but sometimes when they are fixing a list of bugs, programmers create new and exciting bugs that will bring your phone system to its proverbial knees. You don’t want that; I don’t want that; Willard G. ShoreTel doesn’t want that either.
Best Practices for a Successful ShoreTel Upgrade
On to the main event: The evening of your upgrade (because your phone system will be offline for about 90 minutes, so plan to do the upgrade after business hours) the first thing we will do is create a backup of the current configuration, in case for any reason we have to roll back to your current build of software. This is incredibly rare – in our experience a rollback happens less than 2% of the time.
Once the backup is complete, the software on the server will be upgraded. Your ShoreTel server is the brains of this brainy phone system, and when we get under the hood, we want to be in and out as quickly as possible. To that end, we take time earlier in the day, or the day before the upgrade, to download the newest version of the software and perform any sort of required Windows updates to the server. This seems like a good time to remind you that ShoreTel cautions against keeping your server slavishly updated with the very latest Windows patches because sometimes those patches break the ShoreTel. So before you go all commando and let your Server upgrades hang free, check with your ShoreTel partner. This could save you much worry and strife.
* A quick note about servers and the latest version of ShoreTel software – ShoreTel Connect. When we go from ShoreTel version 14 to Connect, ShoreTel requires a security certificate for the main server and any DVS servers. A wildcard certificate can be used.
The server portion of the upgrade usually takes around 45 minutes and during this time voicemail, auto attendants, and workgroups will be unavailable. The Communicator clients will also be unavailable during the server upgrade process.
Once the server upgrade has been completed, the server will be rebooted and then the software will be pushed out to the ShoreGear switches and phones. This usually takes 30-60 minutes, depending on your system size, and during this time all services will be unavailable and any existing calls in progress would be interrupted.
If we’re going to have any issues during the upgrade process, this is where we usually see it. The beauty of the ShoreTel system is that we’re doing your upgrade remotely. Did I mention that? We don’t need to be there in person, except that sometimes, really, really rarely – like 5%-of-the-time rare – we need a hand. Well, just a single digit really. Thumbs are allowed. Because every once in a blue moon, the server or one of the ShoreGear switches will ignore our remote reboot command. And when that happens, we need a human to press the power button for us. For this reason, we like to have a site contact for the night of the upgrade. You don’t have to be there staring at the server. You can be out enjoying a microbrew and a basket of hand-cut, artisanally salted, deep fried heirloom potatoes* (*Results may vary if you are not in the Portland Metro area), and we’ll call you if we need help.
When all that is done – about 90 minutes – we come to the final step, which is to upgrade the Communicator client. The system will prompt the end user to upgrade when they log on for the first time after the upgrade, or if you prefer to push the software using group policy we can provide an msi for the installation.
*Another note regarding ShoreTel Connect: The Connect desktop client requires a free license to be installed on each workstation.
The Importance of a Good ShoreTel Partner
Once all that is done, we'll run diagnostics and ensure that everything is running well. We also have a "first day live" task for the following morning, where one of our Pro-techs reviews the system, makes test calls, and generally ensures that the board is all green.
It sounds scary, upgrading the operating system for your phone system, but that's why you use a trusted partner – to minimize the scary. You want to use the latest office applications; you want your employees to harness the efficiencies inherent in updated productivity tools; you want seamless connectivity from office to car to home. Keeping your ShoreTel software up to date will give you that. Let us help you stay at the top of your game. See Matrix Networks ShoreTel Partner Support Offerings here.
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Author: Beth Lyons