Mobile Call Manager for the iPhone?

One of the benefits of a successful blog, is the talented people you meet and the ideas that you exchange with other industry professionals. Through an earlier blog on the subject of connecting an Apple Iphone to a ShoreTel System as a SiP extension, I met such a creative talent: Matt Vlasach of Pacificswell! Matt was both an excited ShoreTel user and a Iphone aficionado. Thought Matt was happy to play with SIP his real interest was in creating a ShoreTel App for the Iphone!

As a result of Matts talented development team at Pacificswell, I have had the pleasure of playing with a beta version of StreamLine, a mobile call manager for the Iphone! If you have always wished that ShoreTel could work on your Iphone, your wish has been granted! Pacificswell’s first release of the App is a useful, easy to master, technically brilliant mobile call manager! Using Streamline you can remotely connect to your ShoreTel server and setup your call handling modes and activate your Office Anywhere feature. The App is intuitive and graphically obvious!

Even using the Apple developers platform to obtain the beta version ( an Apple strategy for enabling developers to offer the App before it appears in the App store), the download and install was remarkably simple. It downloads and installs using the already familiar App Store process! Configuration was a breeze and I had the App up and running in under five minutes.

Clearly there are some server side issues that need to be addressed and license compliance issues for the ShoreTel Mobile Call Manager, but technically, the App is brillant. More importantly it just works! I was able to select either my Office desk phone or my Iphone as the primary answer point. Each of the Call Handling modes can be accessed in a visual graphic that is experentially compatible with the ShoreTel user interface for setting up Call Handling Options.

Product Development is a process, not an event! Matt assures me that he will continue the development and enhancement of this App adding more features in future releases. The product can be explored in detail on his site at Pacificswell and I have included some screen shots below!

Keep the cards and letter coming! The App will be available at the Apple App Store on January 4th!

Find Me Locations
Find Me Locations

Call Handling Modes
Call Handling Modes

Select your Desktop or Iphone as prmary answering point!
Select your Desktop or Iphone as prmary answering point!

ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center Call Routing based on Schedules!

If you have been following our tech tips, you know that route points in the ShoreTel IPBX have a matching IRN in the Contact Center. If you want to route a call to a different destination based on the date and time that a call hits the Contact Center, how and where would you apply the schedule? Technicians familiar with the ease of creating schedules in the ShoreTel IPBX, might immediately apply a schedule to a route point. After all, each call to the Contact Center hits a route point first, why not apply the OnHours/OffHours call handling directly to the route point?

At the end of the day, Contact Centers are designed to provide management, detailed information to facilitate staffing, allocate resources, decrease call holding time and increase customer satisfaction. Candidly, it is all about REPORTS! My personal prejudice is that contact centers should be designed by starting with Reports! What is it that Management wants to see? If we want to know how many callers are hitting the Contact Center during Off-Hours, for example, we can not apply the schedules to the Route Points. If the Schedule applied to the Route Point deflects the caller to a Voice Mail box, that call will not appear in the total Calls presented to the Contact Center.

If you want the call to be counted, it must actually enter the Contact Center! For this reason, most Contact Center deployments are deployed with the Automated Attendant functionality being defined within the Contact Center. In this way we can accumulate accounting information on all calls that hit the Contact Center, regardless of how they are ultimately routed. The ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center has a very powerful configuration capability as it relates to defining Schedules. Schedules are defined as “types of days” and “shifts”. At first this concept is a bit difficult to digest, but once you play with it you will realize just how powerful and impact this configuration strategy can have on your overall Contact Center call flow.

The Working Times facility enables you to define a type of day and then associate shifts to that day type. The normal ShoreTel Schedule works on a binary On-Hours Off-Hours call handling model. What happens if you want to build a call flow that needs to have calls routed differently between specific hours of the day. For example, between 12AM and 8PM, we want incoming calls to be routed to the Guard Station. Between 8AM and 12 Noon we want a live answer point at the Reception Desk. Between Noon and 1PM calls need to be routed to an outside answering service; and between 1PM and 5 PM they need to be routed back to the Reception desk. Now any technician that has been working with the ShoreTel IPBX for any period of time has developed several strategies for handling this often required call flow. The strategy usually involves cascading Hunt Groups in combination with Workgroups to achieved the desired result.

The Working Times facility within the Contact Center would handle this complexity with ease. You would define a Day Type (i.e. WeekDay) and the define the various Shifts that comprise that day. In the example above, the ticking of the clock would transition through the various “shifts” resulting in a different destination based on the time of day. This is advantageous in a call center environment and significantly less demanding to administer than the cascading Hunt group strategy. Contact Center call flow is often managed on a time of day, day of week and holiday basis at a level of sophistication that goes way beyond the On-Hours Off-Hours approach to call handling. The ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center Working Times facility is a power strategy for achieving maximum call routing control.

VoIP QOS Network Monitoring and Pathview Cloud!

Trouble Shooting VoIP issues in a multi-site deployment is a challenge to even the most talented network engineer. It is often difficult to determine what is a voice equipment issue and what is an issue aggravated by a network conditions. As network engineer troubleshooting an issue, having access to network monitoring tools is essential. Sometimes we have to use the basic ICMP tool sets and ping our way through a trace route, but network connectivity is only one element of QOS related areas in a VoIP deployment. (Actually, it would be great if clients invested in putting network monitoring tools in place, but they only seem to appreciate their networks when something goes wrong)!

What is that we need to monitor anyway? We split the monitoring world into two basic camps: Flow based accounting and Health checking software. Flow based monitoring enables us to check the source/destination IP address; source/destination port; IP protocol; TOS and Ingress interface. This is helpful when you are trying to figure out what applications are running on your network and who is streaming real time media. Clearly important stuff, but at the end of the day, when it comes to logging into someone’s network remotely and trying to figure out why some remote user has garbled phone calls, there is nothing like an in place Health check!

When we talk about the “health” of the network we are interested in knowing about Bandwidth capacity, Loss, Jitter, Mean Opinion Score (MOS), latency and tagging.These are the words that make a VoIP engineer smile!Would it not be wonderful to log into your clients network and have this kind of history available between key end points of a multi-site deployment?Rarely, do I ever publically endorse a product but the folks Apparent Networks have gone out of their way to make their product available, useable and free!You need to stop what you are doing and download Path View Cloud, a host based network monitoring solution from Apparent Networks.

Not only is this software as useful as a button hole, but you can download a fully functional 5 node solution for absolutely no money! In previous posts, I have discussed the fact that, despite best practice, clients continue to attempt VoIP phone deployment over DSL through VPN tunnels! Path View Cloud enables you to collect real-time network health information about key endpoints in your network. Typically, it is the remote user or the WAN points that you are going to want to study. Path View Cloud enables you to create monitoring solutions that regularly report on health checks and trigger alerts when “violations” have been detected. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and you can see packets!

Path Preview status

Clearly Apparent Networks believes that offering 5 free nodes will get you to order more!The offer is, however, compelling and I can tell all you cheap, penny-pinching, tight wads that will not invest in network monitoring software, that you will sleep better at night with this Path View Cloud solution in place.Network and VoIP engineers and technicians, you need this arrow in your quiver to make troubleshooting more visual!