Brents IT Blog

Random thoughts by an IT GOAT


Shoretel 14.2, conferencing and virtualization

So for the past year we have been running on Shoretel version 13.3 and have only had minimal problems with it, maybe 3-5 support calls all year and no system down issues.  Shortly before that we were on 13.2 which was not stable and 12.3 which was.  Seems that history is telling me that i need to wait for the .3 version of what ever major revision they are on.  

So as you would probably guess it, we upgraded to 14.2 and low and behold, we had issues.  Starting the following week of the upgrade, the main incoming IVR would just go offline and initially the only way to fix it was to reboot the server.  We later found out that simply running the stop all services and then the start all services also fixed the issue.  Stopping individual services had no effect at the time.  This past week after several reboots and service restarts, TAC finally found that a voicemail that had been deleted was somehow "ghosted" in the system which was causing the voicemail services to use up resources and become stuck.  I say stuck because the services would still be running, but the IVR, voicemail, account code systems were offline and not usable by users.  The only way to fix the issue was to remove voicemail from the workgroup with the ghosted email(their words not mine) and recreate it after restarting all the services.  We are a few days in since this fix and all is well so far.

There was also an issue with bridged call appearance, apparently shoretel added a call order to the system and that was not set by default, thus breaking our one and only bridged call appearance setup, the MIS security door phone.  Once this was figured out, all was well, we just needed to set the order.

As a whole, the new 14 version has many great benefits and my favorite one so far is the Diagnostics panels.  From a remote machine, you simply log into director and then load up the panels.  You can see call volume throughout the day, issues with that call volume, call quality and many more.  Its also customizable.  There is also a new area where you can add music on hold to the server, so no more plug in devices!  It also allows you to play music for internal staff who put each other on hold, which folks have been asking for.  The only thing with the music on hold is that you must go into the system parameters and finalize the system setting for hold music, otherwise it wont play.  This is not listed in the admin guide for setting up on hold music, so consider that a quick tip.

We use vmware for virtualization and with shoretel, thus far, things have gone quite smoothly.  We virtulalized both our director and call center server when we went to version 13.  Not once has anyone blamed virtualization for any issues and we have not seen anything cause problems with shoretel.  The only thing we have noticed is that if we migrate our call center server from one host to another, it logs all the agents off and will sometimes drop a call.  Since we have both set to manual, its never really an issue unless we need to service a host.  With our call center piece being outsourced shortly, this will not longer be a worry of ours.

So the final piece of the version 14 upgrade is the fact that it comes with two virtual appliances you can install in your VMWare environment.  This was the area i was most excited about.  The first one is a voice switch.  Depending on the hardware you assign it and the role you assign it, it can handle up to 1000 phones!  The best part is that its completely free.  This means you have a virtual phone switch that you can use as is or as a backup.  You of course must have licensing for the users you attach to it, but beyond that, its free.  The second appliance is a shoretel conference bridge.  This is the thing i had been waiting for.  Ever since we bought their original conference system they were selling back in 2009, i had been asking for them to virtualize it.  Anyhow, they did and it works just as great as the SA units we upgraded to.

So before i go any further, i want to note that i appreciate the fact that shoretel as a company went the hard road and virtualized these items and is providing support for them.  Its easy to complain about someone else's creations, but i want to note that i have been impressed year over year with the improvements they have been making.  With that said, i am now going to complain about the conference system.  First, it works great and is easy for my users to use on a daily basis.  We are currently using it to create recording and have users play them back for training.  This works great.  The problem is that when they created the virtualized appliance, they never created a way to move the recording from the hardware SA bridges to the virtual bridges.  The WHOLE point of virtualization is to get away from having to rely soley on a single piece of hardware.  We are able to export the recordings, but users dont want that, they want them where they were, how they use to access them.  Being that both systems are essentially the same, i find it hard to believe they never created any way to migrate the old server settings and information.  I have voiced this complaint to everyone who will listen, so hopefully, they will create the migration functionality ( or provide a one time service where someone does it manually ).  New users dont have this issue to worry about, so this only affects existing users, but i would think the first people they would want to service would be the users they already have...  and this particular issue seems silly to me.  Migration should of been included at some level, lets hope in the coming year, they get the message and rectify the situation.  I cant imagine it being that difficult to program being that the physical and virtual systems are almost exactly the same and we are talking about a file method both system employ.