This article stacks up ShoreTel Sky (Formerly known as M5 Networks) versus Fonality. ShoreTel Sky is managed and hosted, while Fonality is hosted, and offers hybrid PBX service. Does being “managed” make a difference?

Let’s first explain what “Managed” means. As we explained in greater detail in our other article, a managed PBX system is owned by the consumer, and managed by the VoIP provider. It’s sort of like the difference between owning and leasing a car. ShoreTel Sky has a number of features that I hadn’t seen before: classes of service; customer logos, message envelope information; fraud monitoring; view/add service request; voicemail broadcast (I did see broadcast on one residential provider). These are the sort of features your can expect from the more hand-on approach of a managed PBX.

Fonality Exclusive Features – Fonality HUD Desktop Software

ShoreTel Sky Exclusive Features – 900/976 Outgoing Call Blocking, Authorization Codes, Call Hold Beep Timer Interval, Classes of Service, Client Matter/Billing Codes, Entry Buzzer Integration, Fraud Monitoring, Phone Alerts, Voicemail Transcription,

Shared Features – Call Rules, Caller ID Rules, Privacy Rules, Directory, Presence, Auto Attendant, Enhanced Voice Mail, Call Transfer, Call Park, Call Monitoring Tools, E911, Address Book, Skills-Based Call Routing, Find Me/Follow Me, Cloud Integration

Fonality and ShoreTel Sky are two of the only major VoIP providers that allow, let alone encourage, on-premise equipment. ShoreTel, although they provide little transparency in the way of their pricing schemes, lists, in real time, all the uptime, downtime, and incident reports on a special web site.

There’s no question that Fonality and ShoreTel are known for their reliability. Reliability is measured by Fonality claims 99.99% uptime (~53 minutes of unavailability per year) and ShoreTel Sky claims 99.999% reliability (~5 min and 30s of unavailability per year). These are pretty astounding claims, which both beat out “The Phone Company” (and many VoIP providers) claim of 99.9% reliability (~9 hours of downtime). Considering how many things can go wrong, it’s in impressive claim.

One important distinction is that Fonality has Fonality HUD, and ShoreTel Sky has the Sky Portal, which is completely based on the cloud. ShoreTel offers a number of solutions, but this review focuses on ShoreTel Sky. M5 developed its own softswitch, and gave its subscribers a private internet, which ShoreTel acquired when it bought M5. ShoreTel Sky does not rely on the public internet, but its own network and bandwidth. Fonality, on the other hand, uses the public internet, but their blog has several tips on how to get the most out of your ISP.

For better or worse, ShoreTel Sky has a suite of six different Unified Communications software: The Sky Communicator, an IM client; Scribe, a voicemail transcriber; Fax, an e-fax; Application Integration, which links programs like Salesforce and Outlook; a Softphone; and a Mobile App; Fonality has promised “Fonality Five,” but so far, they’re doing fine with just the Mobile App and Fonality HUD. Fonality HUD has more eye candy, and the HUDDY list keeps your top contacts in easy reach, while ShoreTel Sky Communicator looks no different than Skype.

Both Fonality PBXtra and ShoreTel Sky have impressive call center packages. They both feature “hot desk,” which handles call overflow by making new phones temporarily part of the call center; they both feature priority skill—based routing; they both have detailed call analytics and call recording software and recorded call management; Fonality has more flexibility to add cell phones and softphones to the call center system.

I think it is fair to say that ShoreTel offers a slightly more powerful suite of features. Fonality and M5/ShoreTel are both major innovators in business and internet technologies. But managed VoIP is not for the feint of heart. ShoreTel can take 30-45 days for standard implementation, which is certainly different from Fonality, which works practically out of the box. Ultimately, Fonality is at the peak of what you can get with hosted VoIP, and ShoreTel Sky offers just that much more. But is it worth the larger upfront investment? And can too much information be a bad thing? That is up to you.

Related Articles:
ShoreTel Announces New Solution, ShoreTel Sky
Fonality Expanding Roster of Retailers
Fonality Features for Call Centers