Mitel MiVoice Business Review – Server or No Server, It’s a Question of Choice
Mitel Enterprise Phone System – On-premises, in the Cloud or Both?
The world of business telecommunications has changed quite dramatically over the past two decades or so, what with the steady onslaught of digital, internet, wireless and mobile technologies transforming the way people interact and collaborate at work.
But for an experienced market presence like Mitel, none of this has been enough to knock the business out of its stride. The Canadian vendor may have started out in the days when public and private telephone networks were all analogue and there wasn’t even such a thing as ISDN. But through all the changes, Mitel has stood firm as a specialist in the market, responding to and indeed thriving on the new challenges faced.
So the business which made its name making PBX systems has joined in with a very 21st century concept – a telephony and UC server which does not need its own hardware to operate.
At the core of MiVoice Business is what some argue is the future of business communications solutions – a software based server platform. While arguments rage over the comparable merits of on-premises or cloud based solutions, MiVoice Business can operate as both.
If you prefer to run your own communications system from your own offices, you can run MiVoice Business in the traditional way via a Mitel 3300 server, or you can use VMware servers to virtualise the whole system and run it from a PC. Alternatively, for end users and service providers alike who favour the hosted model, the MiVoice Business software suite is fully cloud-ready.
Amongst the benefits Mitel claims for this ‘server independent’ software approach, it claims that MiVoice Business frees customers from “walled garden architectures”. This translates into offering platform agnostic solutions which open the door to straightforward, free compatibility with other IT and communications systems and products. Or, in other words, no more being locked into the product range offered by a single vendor – MiVoice Business allows end users the freedom to configure their telecoms infrastructures at will.
In the following review, we will look at what sort of flexibility MiVoice Business offers in terms of deployment options, mobility and system integration. We will ask what the advantages of offering physical, virtual and cloud deployment options side by side are, and whether this ‘server independent’ software model does indeed look like the future.
Before we start, a quick reminder that the views expressed in this review are those of the author only. UC Today is an entirely independent service providing news and insight to the UK Unified Communications industry, and does not endorse or promote any particular products or brands.
How Does It Look?
The MiVoice Business Console is the primary point of access to the MiVoice Business software stream, a browser based UI and administration application.
If you choose the physical server option, the Mitel 3300 server (controller) is broadly available in three versions. The CX II and MXe III are both 19” rack mountable chassis, and the AX is a 17.5” box. All three are black with silver trim and Mitel branding to the front.
Of course, if you choose to virtualise your MiVoice Business, you’ll see very little! Just your VMware Host or Microsoft Hyper server that was there before. If you deploy it in a data centre far away, you’ll see even less.
What Can It Do?
Depending on the version, the Mitel 3300 servers have maximum user capacities of between 100 (the AX) and 1500 extensions (MXe III expanded). However, as a virtual server or cloud solution, MiVoice Business can support up to 65,000 endpoints, putting it firmly in the Enterprise category.
A wide range of Mitel desktop phones are supported, including advanced IP, SIP and DECT options. But with legacy analogue and digital line support through the Mitel 3300 server, customers are also able to plug in the most cost effective two line and traditional button phones.
The core USPs of the MiVoice Business system revolve around the number and flexibility of its deployment options. The standards based architecture means MiVoice Business will operate across any LAN or WAN infrastructure. As well as on Mitel’s own 3300 physical server, the MiVoice Business software suite can also be run on industry standard servers such as HP and Dell hardware. Virtualisation is available either through VMware’s vSphere or Microsoft’s Hyper V platform, allowing customers to run their communications as they would any other application in their data centre. Then for hosted service options, providers can offer MiVoice Business through either the private, hybrid or public cloud.
In terms of application features, the MiVoice Business Console provides a wide range of screen-based call handling and management functions, such as transfer assistant, call history, busy lamp field, incoming calls lists, call answering priority and so on. It provides the main interface for core built-in features such as hotdesking, log in and unified messaging.
UC application features and tools are shared between those embedded within the MiVoice Business system and those available as additional software platforms. For example, the MiVoice Business embedded messaging tool offers straightforward voicemail and auto attendant solutions for up to 748 users. But from the expanded software options, users can also access MiCollab Unified Messaging, which offers a broader range of unified messaging options for up to 2800 users, or the Mitel NuPoint Unified Messaging suite, which offers a sophisticated range of industry specific messaging solutions for up to 120,000 users.
The software suite includes a range of core mobility features intended to deliver an “in-office experience anywhere”. Dynamic Extension allows users to integrate up to eight different devices on the same extension, allowing them to use the same number for desk phones, mobile, DECT handsets, home IP phones, softphones and more. Deskphone twinning and in-call hand off between devices is also supported, as is device sharing or hotdesking.
Further UC tools are accessed via the MiCollab application suite, which delivers integrated voice, video, IM, presence, file and application sharing functions. MiCollab applications are accessible via the MiCollab Client, a separate GUI to the MiVoice Business Console which is available on PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone, further extending the mobility options. On Android and iOS devices, the MiCollab suite also includes a SIP softphone which offers voice and point to point video over WiFi and 3G/4G. A separate MiCollab Audio, Web and Video Conferencing platform is also available.
The latest MiCollab softphone edition is now available on MacOS and via a web browser using Web RTC technology (no software to install).
In keeping with the customer range MiVoice Business caters for, it offers three types of contact centre software, covering basic contact centre solutions, full enterprise grade multimedia contact centre tools and an outbound progressive dialling platform.
What do we like?
It is hard to look beyond the sheer range of deployment options – dedicated server, third party server, virtualised platforms in VMware and Hyper-V, public and private cloud. The wide open integration options with third party software are also very impressive. The tendency for many IT and telecommunications companies has been to purposefully create ranges in isolated silos of their own, so customers have to stick with one brand once they make their decision. But Mitel is right in its observation that such ‘walled garden architectures’ are not what customers want; they are looking for the convenience of ready compatibility between systems whoever manufactures them.
Who is it for?
MiVoice Business is an Enterprise-grade solution aimed mainly at large businesses, although smaller organisations can get in on the act with the Mitel 3300 server options. It is a particularly good solution for businesses looking to rationalise how they operate networks across multiple sites, for example by moving from a distributed server architecture to a single control point using a virtualised data-centre or cloud service option.
What is it compatible with?
The Mitel Open Integration Gateway (Mitel OIG) means MiVoice Business software is compatible with a wide range of third party platforms, including major back office applications from the likes of Microsoft and Google and CRM software like Salesforce. With its modular, platform agnostic architecture, it can be run on a range of hardware systems from the likes of HP, IBM, and Dell, and sits comfortably alongside other UC applications as part of a broader data network infrastructure.
UC Today Opinion
While debate over on-premises vs cloud communications platforms will rumble on, products in the MiVoice Business class are quietly delivering their own answer. You cannot really argue with the choices such ‘server independent’ software solutions offer – on-premises, virtual, or cloud, distributed or centralised, you can have them all, and in whatever blend of combinations you wish.
And there really is the whole point – at enterprise level, large businesses demand the flexibility to be able to shape telecoms systems to their will. That is what MiVoice Business delivers, right down to the platform agnostic architecture and Open Integration Gateway which invite customers to use the system with whatever existing infrastructure and applications they choose.
Have you worked at a company which operates MiVoice Business? Are you an IT technician who has helped configure the system? Or are you a reseller or service provider offering MiVoice Business? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences, your your opinions generally on issues of ‘server independent’ software solutions, virtualisation and the cloud. Please leave your comments in the section below, and share this article with friends and colleagues on social media.