Use your iPad as a SIP extension on your ShoreTel iPBX?

We have been experimenting with mobility options for some time now, setting up SIP phones on mobile devices like the iPhone.    ShoreTel has a range of mobility options, most of which we have discussed here in previous blogs, so setting up a softphone is nothing  new for ShoreTel.    Recently, I discovered a new SIP softphone by CouterPath Corporation the company that brought you X-Lite, one of the most popular free phones on the net.    The new offering is named Bria and is ideally suited for your iPad.   Bria is a more of a “carrier grade” softphone enabling both voice and video calls over IP, the ability to send IM messages and transfer files to your contacts.  I particularly like the option of downloading additional Codecs like G729 which is really useful for a ShoreTel remote phone.   Bria  also has Enterprise features like LDAP/Active Directory integration and some Workgroup capabilities like a Busy Lamp Field.  Most importantly it seamlessly integrates with your iPad VPN which brings me back to ShoreTel.

We have configured a bunch of different SIP phones to work with ShoreTel.    Candidly, they all work really well internally, on the Enterprise WiFi.   Setting SIP up on ShoreTel is a relatively straight forward process.   Pick an ShoreGear switch in the site you are planning to register with and set up a port for SIP.  You do this through the drop down menu on the SG switch through ShorewareDirector.   Set the port for 100 SP Proxies.  Note the IP address of the switch.  Now you have to set up your USER and note the SIP password for that User.    When you setup your softphone you will need this information so keep it handy!  (In the library there is a Video Cheat Sheet that shows you how to set up SIP in ShoreTel). The Bria setup is also very straight forward.  Remember that when it asks for Account Name it wants the Extension number of the USER you created in ShoreTel.  Put the IP address of the ShoreGear switch that provides proxy services as the Domain and enter the SIP password you created for the USER.   The Display Name can be whatever you want.

The Bria phone should register if you have WiFi and you should be set to use your iPad as your ShoreTel extension.    This is great for wandering around your own facility.  If you have the ShoreTel ”WebAgentDashboard”  you can wander around  your Call Center with  a Supervisor Real Time display and have a ShoreTel extension with you the entire time.   Kool stuff,   but what about when you are at Starbucks or some other location?   How will your Bria connect with ShoreTel?   We have successfully created a L2TP VPN back to the ShoreTel Server from both the iPhone and the iPad.   Apple cleverly built a VPN client into all devices.   Once the VPN is operational, you can bring up your Bria softphone and extend your ShoreTel extension to any location that has WiFi access.  Optionally, you can bring the Bria connection up over your G3 data network.  You can extend that Supervisor Real Time Display as well!   The Bria comes up and completes a SIP registration with the ShoreTel and the performance is remarkable.

At first I had some reservations about using the Bria on an VPN over G3.   Establishing the VPN tunnel, then running a Ping back to the Server, indicated Latency in the 425 ms range!   Not exactly within the recommended target of 150ms mouth to ear.  None the less, it worked and was very usable.  We are fooling around with using the Bria as an IM agent on the ShoreTel Collaboration server (see previous blog) and I guess we will figure out how to make use of the Bria video and presence.

At the end of the day,  you have a range of Mobility options on the ShoreTel and you should figure out which option is the most effective for your mode of operation.   It is very possible to take your office extension with you, in fact we think the Desktop is dead!  Your cell phone is your desktop!
Setting up the Bria on an iPad

Install your ShoreTel Call Manager on your Apple iPad

On more than one occasion I have actually had to telnet into a clients router or switch using nothing more than a mobile phone!  Now, that is either an example of superior customer service or an indication of creeping insanity.   When you have to, you have to!   Sometime ago I moved to an Iphone and that actually makes RDP, VNC  or Telnet actually usable on a mobile phone in a pinch.

To say I think the Ipad is a game changer is an understatement.  If you analyze your computing habits you will find that you have two basic modalities: work and play.  At work, you are bent over and leaning in to your computer using a keyboard.  At play, if you could, you would be sitting in your favorite armchair surfing the web, watching yourtube and reading electronic books while updating your Facebook status.   This last mode, does not really require a lot of keyboard.  In fact the user interface that makes the Ipad so exciting is beginning to make you want to touch your Windows screen before you reach for you mouse.

It is the 21st Century and we are still keyboarding and mousing around?   The Ipad is redefining how the man machine interface will work.  Human gestures are much more effective than highlighting, dragging and dropping.  Ever consider how people use a phone?   They really want to poke buttons and lift handsets.  Mousing around is OK and many of us gravitate to all the features available to us when we integrate our phone system to our desktop computer.  The issue is, that word “desktop”.   The level of mobility that exists in business today, especially among knowledge workers and dispersed work groups is phenomenal!  Thus a growing dependency on Mobile devices.

Enter the Ipad. I admit it, I am a fanatical fan of the Apple family of computing devices, but I love this Ipad!  I finally took delivery on my Ipad 3G and am trying to figure out what I can and can not do with it.   I am able to do PowerPoint presentations on my Ipad using the Keynote App.   I am telling you, if you have to do a one on one presentation and you do it on an Ipad, you are going to get the order!

I found a great application named iTapRDP which I had on my iphone and it is now available on my Ipad.  This is a full blown RDP client that takes advantage of the “big screen” and additional real estate of the Ipad.   Now if i have to log into someones ShoreTel on the fly, I can do it with only the pain of a 3G connection, but with a full screen.    The next step was to just RDP into my own desktop and make use of my own ShoreTel Call Manager!  Now  using the “external assignment” feature, I have full ShoreTell Call Manager control from wherever I am, using my Ipad through and RDP session.

Come on, it is impressive to say the least!   No application required other than iTapRDP and I was running both ShoreTel 10.1 and an the Integrated ShoreTel Call Manager with ECC Version 6!    Sorry for the really bad video, but I am VoIP engineer not Oliver Stone (if anyone has a good Ipad Screen capture app, let me know)!