Cisco and ShoreTel are two providers of Unified Communications systems. Each offers their own set of hardware to increase productivity, putting communications into the hands of each employee. But which is better?

Both companies make extensive use of VoIP systems. This means that any business adopting either system will need to invest in cloud management infrastructure to avoid saturation of data pipelines. VoIP is a serious challenge for cloud systems, as it requires huge amounts of bandwidth to function well. The data demand is only increased with the addition of video. As such, managing resources to ensure as close to 0 percent VoIP downtime as possible is a tricky affair, and serious cloud management investment is required to make sure it works.

ShoreTel offers a distributed communications platform, unified communications and contact center capabilities. Cisco offers similar benefits, but ShoreTel’s strength is in its unified UI. Workers using UC systems must be able to communicate freely, regardless of device specifications – only ShoreTel offers this holistic approach.

The problem with Cisco’s UC system is that it has been cobbled together from a number of companies that Cisco had previously acquired. As such, there’s no strategy or cohesiveness to the offering- it’s an amalgamation of every system Cisco had. Typically, moving between product packages involves lengthy retraining – and the purchase of more than one UC solution requires scaling-up training as well.

ShoreTel, on the other hand, follows the Interaction Design convention of Familiarity, employing UI features consistently across its range of products. If you know how to use VoIP, you’ll know how to deploy their email solutions. There’s a deep integration between products, and a natty front-end that gives users an easy route into any communication medium.

Furthermore, Cisco as yet offers no redundancy solution – if the system goes down, the system goes down. In larger businesses, where communication directly impacts on bottom line, this is an unacceptable risk. ShoreTel provides ‘five nines’ redundancy, which allows for as much redundancy as you have switches.

ShoreTel also has the advantage on price. Despite initial costs being higher than a Cisco installation, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is far smaller. In a 10-year study of 1,500 users across 3 sites ShoreTel’s TCO was $6.72 billion, in comparison with Cisco’s $19.60 billion. That’s almost a third of the cost of the more established brand.

So which is better? It’s pretty easy to see. For Cisco, UC is just another division – it’s another service they offer among their enormous range. For ShoreTel, it’s their raison d’être. Unified Communications Management is what they do. Just make sure you have the infrastructure, and their product will be ready-to-deploy with very little hassle.

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