All telephone systems have to deal with the same key architectural issues regardless of who manufactured the equipment. All phone systems have to provide for the definition of a system "dial plan"; trunk groups, call flow options, phone devices, gateways and user profiles. The dial plan, for example, not only has to identify the patterns used to route callers between system extensions, but as is often the case in a VoIP deployment, between geographically distributed corporate locations or "sites". The dial plan identifies the legitimate patters that define system end points and also include system extensions. System extension define various facilities and features with in the system. The Automated Attendant, for example, has a system extension number that can not be used by another extension in the system. Likewise so does the conference bridge, park feature, hunt groups and paging groups.
The phone system defines Trunk Groups which in turn contain individual telephone lines. Permissions are defined within the system to enable access to these different trunk groups and also define what other facilities a user might have access to. Devices are defined within the system, typically consisting of phone instrumentation, media gateways to the PSTN or Remote Sites and collaboration facilities like conferencing and presence. Other application servers are also defined in the system to provide for advanced functionality like Contact Center.
The entire subject of User configuration is contained within the system database as both a comparatively static form as well as a run time representation. A user name and extension number, is an example of a relatively static configuration data parameter. Which mode or state that users is in, would be an example of a "run time" state. Which phone the user is currently assigned, where do their voice message reside and what restrictions have been placed on them are all examples of administrative options that need to be configured.
Both ShoreTel and CISCO have developed Web based interfaces to enable system administration. ShoreTel argues a single "brilliantly simple" portal to all system configuration facilities. CISCO argues a level of control over configuration details that enable laser like configuration options. For example ShoreTel operates on the concept of canonical dialing. If a user dials 123-4567 ShoreTel will translate that into +1 (123) 456-7890. CISCO anticipates "dial-patterns" that make it possible to strip +1 (123) 456-7889 out from +1 (123) 456-7890 and route it differently. The System Administration portal is the interface that is used to configure, define and revise all system options and for this reason it is as important as the phone set itself!
Over the next few blogs we will look at the actual web portal interface of both of these solutions. In this first video, we will go over the portal interface in general, comparing both systems. In subsequent blogs on this subject we will compare different administrative activities such as adding users, phones, gateways, sites and configuring call flows including automated attendants and hunt groups.