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Did you know that your five-year-old IP phone system may be considered a dinosaur?

It’s true. IP telephony systems have changed the lifecycle of communications equipment. Traditionally, phone systems have been considered long-term investments with a useful life far exceeding that of most computer equipment. However, IP phone systems are made up of servers, software and networking equipment — indeed, the phone sets themselves are special-function computers that happen to look like a phone. As a result, IP phone systems generally need more frequent upgrades than legacy telephone equipment.

Not all phone systems vendors take the same approach to product upgrades. As a result, it’s important to consider the upgrade path and support lifecycle when choosing or upgrading an IP phone system, as well as total cost of ownership (TCO). These factors play an important role in the return on investment (ROI) of your communications infrastructure.

ShoreTel and Cisco provide a useful comparison. ShoreTel is currently on Release 13 of its unified communication platform. Without exception, each ShoreTel release has been backward compatible with previous versions. In other words, if you purchased a ShoreTel system 10 years ago, you can readily upgrade it to the current version today.

Cisco is another matter. Cisco has been moving aggressively away from its original Microsoft platform and onto Linux, making upgrades difficult and complex.

Furthermore, under Cisco’s product lifecycle structure, products are no longer supported five years after they reach end of life. Several older versions of Cisco Unified Communications Manager are both end of life and end of support, creating serious risk for customers that continue to rely upon these products. If a problem were to arise, an emergency upgrade would be required with potentially significant cost and disruption.

Furthermore, ShoreTel has been shown to deliver a 35 percent lower TCO than Cisco, with savings across all metrics:

• Capital cost for telephony system
• Capital cost for network upgrades
• Implementation
• Training and support
• Moves, adds and changes
• Management
• Networking
• Power
• Tax savings

When considering whether to upgrade an existing IP phone system, the TCO calculation is as important as it is during the initial purchase process. This is especially true for customers facing a “forklift” upgrade of an outdated Cisco solution.

Bottom line: ShoreTel is cheaper to own and operate than Cisco and provides a clear upgrade path for the future. Add to that ShoreTel’s reputation for simplicity, and you have solid metrics to support a move from Cisco to ShoreTel.

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