April 22, 2016

Shortel vs Avaya: A VoIP Software Comparison

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We’ve come a long way from copper landlines and fax machines. Modern communication tools give businesses the ability to engage with customers and collaborate between teams across multiple channels from virtually any location.

Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) platforms and all of their accoutrements might not be as sexy as, say, marketing analytics, but they’re nonetheless a critical piece of IT infrastructure.

If you’re shopping for VoIP solutions, communications hardware and infrastructure, or “unified communications” (UC) platforms, you’ve probably come across ShoreTel and Avaya — two of the biggest players in the market. Both offer powerful tools to help businesses communicate and improve the customer experience.

But how do how do you decide which vendor offers the better platform for your needs?

In this article, we’ll compare Shoretel vs Avaya based on systems and pricing, communication and collaboration features, telephony capabilities, and horizontal integration to help you decide.

ShoreTel vs Avaya: Company Overview

Avaya has been around since the early 90s — originally part of AT&T, then acquired by Lucent Technologies, and eventually spun off as an independent company. Avaya filed an IPO of $1 billion in 2011. More recent data places Avaya’s annual revenue at about $4 billion. They provide service to over a million locations across the globe.

Avaya’s user base leans toward enterprises, although they offer solutions for companies of any size. Notable customers include Ticketmaster, British Airways, and the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Shoretel is about the same age — founded in 1996 as Shoreline Communications and rebranded in 2004. With roughly $361 million in annual revenue, ShorTel lags behind for market share. But part of that is because Avaya offers a broader range of services and hardware (private cloud services, networking, customer experience management, etc.).

Systems and Pricing

For the most part, this article will focus on each vendor’s flagship product, though they both offer a variety of tools and services for managed business communication.

Avaya’s IP Office is a “simple, powerful unified collaboration solution” designed to help businesses manage telephony, messaging, conferencing, contact center, and video in a single platform.

The system is flexible and scalable, accommodating as few as five users or as many as 3,000 per site for up to 150 locations. Avaya lets customers choose from cloud or on-premise deployment. Their Contact Center Select product adds enterprise features (advanced self-service and intelligent customer routing) to IP Office.

Pricing will depend on the number of users and locations you outfit, as well as features, support level, and deployment. To get a quote, visit our Avaya product page.

ShoreTel’s flagship product is ShoreTel Connect, which comes in three deployment models: cloud, onsite, or hybrid. The cloud version, of course, is a fully hosted, managed VoIP phone service with features for phone, conferencing/collaboration, mobility, and more. Connect ONSITE offers most of the same features, but is configured to operate on your own servers.

Similar to most VoIP solutions (and to Avaya), ShoreTel doesn’t offer an out-of-box pricing guide. Instead, you’ll need to get a quote based on your plans for implementation. Visit our ShoreTel product page to get started.

Of course, both vendors claim that their solution is cheaper than the other’s (Avaya here, and ShoreTel here). ShoreTel goes so far as to guarantee a lower TCO (total cost of ownership) than any solution on the market. A bold promise, but in reality, your licensing and ownership costs will depend on the way your system is configured and the scale of your deployment.

Unified Communications

Unified communications is an approach in which all corporate communication channels (voice, chat, video, mobile, email, fax) are part of a single integrated suite.

When connected to the right business processes, UC can dramatically improve productivity and provide greater flexibility to customers. Many VoIP vendors, in an effort to maintain competitive edge, have expanded their services far beyond the bounds of voice. Avaya and ShoreTel are no exceptions.

Let’s take a look at each.

Avaya UC Features (for IP Office):

  • Voice
  • Email
  • Conferencing
  • Instant messaging (Microsoft Lync integration)
  • SMS
  • Geolocation and presence tracking
  • Native mobile applications
Avaya's native iOS app.

Avaya’s native iOS app.

ShoreTel UC Features (for ShoreTel Connect):

  • Voice
  • Fax
  • Conferencing
  • Instant messaging
  • Presence tracking
  • Video
  • Desktop sharing
  • Native mobile apps
ShoreTel native iOS app.

ShoreTel native iOS app.

As you can see, both platforms cover the gamut of communication channels, with the exception of SMS. Avaya’s system provides a built-in feature for call-center SMS communication. ShoreTel does not.

That said, ShoreTel’s platform may offer an advantage in terms of user experience since all of its UC features operate from a single server and a single SA-100 communication appliance, where Avaya often requires multiple servers (onsite or virtual) to support its various functions (video conferencing, messaging, etc.). But then, dedicated servers for separate channels can enable higher bandwidth and more endpoints. It’s a classic question of usability vs scalability.  

IP Telephony

Most VoIP platforms are still built around telephony. When you select your VoIP or UC vendor, it’s important to make sure the depth and breadth of their telephony features match your business needs.

Will their solution allow your business to engage with customers efficiently over the phone (place, receive, and reroute calls)?

Will your users be able to access corporate voice channels remotely, from mobile and desktop devices?

Can you monitor and record calls to analyze performance and manage compliance?

Avaya’s IT telephony features are designed to help businesses process calls and serve customers through contact center communication, IVR (interactive voice response), and mobile. IP Office offers the following features:

  • Auto extensions
  • Caller ID
  • Fax transport
  • Out of band DTMF
  • Silence suppression (reduces volume of voice packets)
  • SIP Trunking
  • Hold and retrieve
  • Call transferring, conferencing, forwarding
  • Hunt groups
  • Music on hold
  • Auto attendant/IVR
  • Skills-based routing
  • Voice recording
  • Coaching intrusion (designated users can discretely interrupt a live call)
Avaya's one-X portal

Avaya’s one-X portal runs on a web server connected to the IP Office telephone system.

ShoreTel offers the following IP telephony features out-of-box with ShoreTel Connect:

  • Auto attendant/IVR
  • Caller ID
  • Music on hold
  • On-phone presence monitoring
  • Hunt groups
  • Call waiting, conferencing, transferring
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Find me, follow me
  • Mobile softphone (Connect app)
  • Wearable device support (Apple Watch)
  • VoIP Fax
  • Call recording
  • Web and app dialer
  • Monitoring Barge (similar to coaching intrusion)
  • Dual personas (users can separate their business and personal communications on a single device)
Screenshot of ShoreTel CONNECT Cloud

Screenshot of ShoreTel CONNECT Cloud.

Both platforms can expand functionality depending on the features, services, and add-ons you purchase; these are by no means the only telephony features available. Contact one of our VoIP Technology Advisors to learn more.  

Integrations/Add-Ons

Make sure the platform you select can exchange data and connect with other critical business systems, either through native integration or API (application programming interface).

Avaya’s WebRTC applications provide click-to-call functionality for Google For Work, Salesforce, and Microsoft Office 365. They offer a number of proprietary add-ons for video collaboration, contact center features, and border control (remote IP phone access). Other notable integrations include Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Lync. You can use Avaya’s software development kit (SDK) to build custom apps and integrations, if needed.  

ShoreTel was built from the ground up as an IP-based system (as opposed to Avaya, which was adapted from legacy technology), so they tend to offer easier integration with a greater variety of cloud apps and systems. According to their applications page, ShoreTel supports native integrations with ACT!, Desk.com, Skype, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Dynamics, Netsuite, Salesforce, Zendesk, and several other systems. Information about ShoreTel SDKs is available here.

Making Your Final Decision

As you can see, the choice between ShoreTel vs Avaya is anything but simple. Both vendors offer full-featured platforms, flexible deployment, and the ability to customize solutions for just about any need. If their current customers are any indicator, Avaya is the king of scale. But if user experience and horizontal integration are priorities for your organization, you might have a better experience with ShoreTel.

In the end, your decision should come down to communication channels, how many users and locations need access, and what products/services you already use. If you’re still having trouble deciding, give us a call. We’d love to help.

To explore other business communication tools, visit our VoIP product selection tool.

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