ShoreTel Connect CLOUD Review – Enterprise Class UCaaS
ShoreTel’s Cloud Phone System
In the space of two decades, ShoreTel has established itself as one of the world’s largest manufacturers and vendors of digital communications systems for business.
A good deal of its success has been down to its ability to embrace new innovations and changing market demands. With the development of its hugely popular Connect software platform, it was able to make the transition from IP telephony products to unified communications solutions with great success.
Now, with the introduction of Connect CLOUD, it has embraced the next phase of development in the telecommunications market – offering an end to end fully hosted UC service based in the cloud.
In this review, we will test out some of the key claims ShoreTel makes about Connect CLOUD, namely that it is ‘practically plug and play’ technology ready to hook up with your existing IP telephone and mobile system, immediately offering a full suite of accessible, easy to deploy UC and collaboration tools.
Just before we start, a quick reminder that Comms Trader does not endorse, market or have any role in the sale of any product. We are a completely independent news and reviews service, and we share our opinions on products only to help our readers make informed choices with their UC purchases.
How Does It Look?
The ShoreTel Connect client is a very small, very unobtrusive interface – just a thin rectangular box with white on black ShoreTel branding at the top and bottom. In this ‘ready state’, it shows the user’s availability through colour coded presence indicators (green, orange and red). There is a search menu and dial pad option above, and below three menu options – People, Recent and Events. Below this are a list of recent conversations, with presence indicators for the other participants.
All functions are accessed from this very simple, intuitive hub. When you click on People, for example, you open a directory with presence information for all contacts, and icons to launch IM, video, a voice call, email and so on. Whenever an action is taken, whether it is to launch IM or a video call, or to share a file or screen, the main interface simply expands to accommodate the new operations. It is a very smooth, very manageable way to navigate without endless pop out windows to trawl through.
What Can It Do?
Connect CLOUD is built on the existing Connect client, so people who have already used Connect should not be surprised that there is no difference at all in how its cloud based sibling operates. The difference is in deployment, with Connect CLOUD offering hosted and managed UCaaS as opposed to on premises installed software.
ShoreTel markets Connect CLOUD as ‘end to end’ communications software because, well, that’s the level of business they want from you – from your desk phones all the way through to your customer service. Of course, you need some other products for that – telephone hardware, for example – and ShoreTel is quite happy to sell you all of it. It therefore promotes how Connect CLOUD makes for easy compatibility with its other products.
The software itself includes the full range of IP PBX call management services you would expect from an enterprise class service plus directory, calendar and events scheduling. For those who don’t want to use desktop telephones, there is a fully integrated softphone app. It also offers a full suite of UC and collaboration tools, including IM, video, conferencing, web collaboration, screen and file sharing, plus productivity apps like operator, web dialler, and app dialler.
There is also a mobility app available for Android and iOS devices, taking the full range of Connect capabilities mobile. This is fully protected by Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP), so communications are always secure, even when using public WiFi.
Connect CLOUD makes all of this available as a subscription service. There are no installations, no upgrades, no downtime for maintenance – just full UC and collaboration capabilities managed 24/7 on your behalf from a remote server. Because of the symbiotic relationship with the Connect client, there is also full flexibility for hybrid deployments, whether because there are specific services you want to handle on site or to allow for gradual cloud migration.
In addition, there is also a full multi-modal contact centre solution as an additional product which plugs straight into Connect CLOUD.
What do we like?
It is hard to find something we don’t like about this. Connect CLOUD is as comprehensive a piece of UC software as you can find, with an outstanding range of features built into an incredibly responsive and pleasing to use interface. If we had to pick one best feature, it is the fact that this is UCaaS, so offers unbelievable scalability, efficiency and value.
Who is it for?
Connect CLOUD offers enterprise class UC functionality as a hosted service, so is definitely an option for mass deployment – especially with the contact centre add on. However, as an off the shelf, all in one product, it possibly appeals more to ambitious mid-market companies looking for an easy route into cloud communications and plenty of scope to scale up in the future.
What is it compatible with?
Connect CLOUD integrates fully with Microsoft Outlook and ICS calendars for meeting and scheduling management. It is also compatible with major operations and CRM software products, including Salesforce and Netsuite.
It is difficult not to be impressed with Connect CLOUD, especially if you have already used and enjoyed the Connect software client. From the simple to navigate, seamlessly smooth interface to the comprehensive range of UC and collaboration features, Connect delivers.
Aside from the separate contact centre add on, the cloud version adds little in terms of functionality. But what it does offer is a very simple, straightforward way to access enterprise class UC as a hosted service. This is a great option for businesses looking to gain the value, ease and scalability of cloud communications without the complexity of a bespoke, modular deployment. Some businesses will want more flexibility than an off-the-shelf service like this can offer, but for those it suits, this is as good as there is available.
If you would like to share your experiences with ShoreTel Connect or Connect CLOUD, we would love the read them. Have your say in the comments section below, and why not share this article with a friend and get them involved in the conversation.