ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Sites offer single user experience for cloud and on-prem

The new HYBRID Sites complete the integration of ShoreTel’s cloud and on-prem solutions which began with the new ShoreTel Connect branding last year. They improve partners’ selling ability with the single solution, and its suitability for larger deployments.

ST Connect-Online meeting with video and preso panes and ID photos

The ShoreTel Connect interface

Unified communications vendor ShoreTel has announced the availability of their ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Sites. These allow, for the first time, the full integration of the company’s Connect ONSITE (traditional on-prem) and Connect CLOUD services to allow the mix and match of both types, with the same user experience, in a true hybrid solution.

Historically, ShoreTel’s traditional on-prem solution and their cloud solution, which was acquired from M5 in 2012 and initially branded as ShoreTel Sky, were two very different products with different code bases. Last August, ShoreTel announced the two had been united under new ShoreTel Connect branding.

“We took the best assets of the on-prem and cloud solutions and wove them together,” said Rich Winslow, ShoreTel’s senior director of product management for platforms. “In August we also announced two hybrid applications and had them available – ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Fax, a fax service in the cloud, and ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Scribe, which transcribes voice mail messages. Now we are adding the full Shoretel HYBRID Site capacity.”

ShoreTel HYBRID Sites have automated directory synchronization, a common dial plan that allows extension-to-extension dialing, Caller ID, and feature parity between cloud and on-prem for mixed deployment models. Winslow said the new offering is of critical importance in allowing customers to mix and match on-premises and cloud locations.

“For the install base, the hybrid sites allow them to migrate over time to cloud, and are particularly valuable for acquisitions, where they can use cloud for the new locations,” he said.

“We also have new customers who have large locations where they have headquarters, which is on prem, and a bunch of remote locations at the edge, and for those they get cloud.” Winslow continued. “We are working with a food chain whose HQ will go on-prem and whose restaurants are cloud.”

Another use case suitable for larger customers is those who have facilities in areas where local networks aren’t up to cloud.

“SaaS and UCaaS aren’t available globally,” he said. “With this, we can target customers with a mix of cloud where it is available, and on-prem for areas where the network infrastructure isn’t good enough to support anything but on-prem.”

The hybrid position also positions ShoreTel better in a market where cloud UC is clearly growing, while on-prem is not.

“We see the market for UC globally as fairly flat, while UcaaS is growing about 25 per cent year over year,” Winslow said. “The expected crossover point is about 2016-2017, when half would be cloud and half on-prem.”

For ShoreTel partners, who are their route to market, Winslow said the new offering means a great deal.

“The Connect story is great for our partners, because they now have a single solution to sell, not two,” he said. “The channel had a very positive reaction to ShoreTel Connect for this reason. Customers often aren’t certain what they want to buy. The partner would try and sell the cloud solution, and found that the customer would really prefer on-prem, or the reverse. Now they are the same. We’ve had deals where the customer flip-flopped at the very end about what they wanted. Now it doesn’t matter. The partner can engage either way, and also offer the hybrid role.”

Having the single user experience is also important, Winslow said.

“Now, because it’s a single solution, it’s a single user experience,” he said. “That wasn’t the case before, where the cloud and on-prem experience was very different. The same phones worked on them, but that was about it.”

ShoreTel’s strength has always been in the SMB space, but they have a midmarket presence, and Winslow said that ShoreTel HYBRID Sites will make them more competitive in the larger accounts.

“Our traditional market is up to 5000 seats, but we have some customers who are much larger than that,” he said. “We aren’t going to win Bank of America or the U.S. Navy, but give us an opportunity at a mid-size enterprise and we are formidable.”