Issue 2 - InterTel S8602 IP Softphone for PC's and Laptops

 

This article has since been updated as the ring issue has now been resolved,
click here to see the latest article regarding the fix. 

 

 

Using the InterTel S8602 Softphone
By someone who uses it.

My role within PSU and the fact that I'm field based means that for practical reasons I choose to use a laptop rather than a desk based PC. Even though applications are delivered to my desktop by Citrix, it still avoids the requirement to have an available PC in every location I may be working from. I may find myself in the London office on a Monday, working from home on Tuesday, at the Camberley office on Wednesday, at a clients on Wednesday before finishing up at our head office in Cheltenham on a Friday, grimmacing at the thought of the journey back to Weybridge in Surrey at the end of the day. This sort of scenario is not uncommon and for many 'nomadic' workers like myself, the laptop with WLAN or 3G connectivity and a blackberry is regarded as standard issue.

Although I login as a hot desker via a hard IP phone whilst at our Camberley or Cheltenham offices (more about hot desking later), I still make good use of my InterTel S8602 IP softphone  installed locally on my PC. (We haven't tried delivering this as an application over Citrix yet, but to be honest I can't see the point as it's only a small application and just requires a license to run)

What are the benefits?

 

The benefits for me are as follows:

I don't have to rely on my mobile

Callers don't end up in my voicemail so often

Staff know that my extension number is 138, irrespective of where I am.

Calls can easily be transferred to me

My calls outbound go out from our main Inter-Tel system at head office

Calls to any of our offices are free

I have all the functionality of the system wherever I am

I can still use my phone when out at clients

I can log into call groups even if I'm in McDonalds (with VPN client)

The comapny don't have to provide me with a plastic phone at all the locations I might be working from.

  1. The downsides as I see them:

If you want to know the phones ringing if you're not wearing a headset and you're not looking at the screen, you have to carry around and use a Plantronics CS50 USB DECT Cordless Headset and base unit which has a built-in ringer.

You need Xarios Professional for each person who wants to use the hot desking feature as I use it.

What's the voice quality like?

Obviously the quality is dependent upon many factors such as bandwidth available, network conditions, voice prioritisation, who is downloading large files, etc. but I have seldom experienced problems and certainly not had to suffer with the lack of quality that can often be experienced with lesser products or services such as Skype.  

 

  This is a .wav file of a recording made to a personal voicemail box made from an InterTel Softphone with a Plantronics DSP100 wired headset in Weybridge, Surrey - out across the internet via an ADSL line to the telephone system in Cheltenham, then outbound across the PSTN to a voicemail box located in Manchester.


Can you use it with Xarios Phone Manager?

Although the Xarios Phone Manager is a separate software suite, I felt it wise to mention it in this section as it works extremely well with the Intertel softphone. There a myriad of features and benefits that I've never used but I especially like the DSS showing the staus of other staff members spread across the company and the company WAN (is it still called a WAN if it's all across the internet on VPN's?)

 

 


 

I have been told that when I login as a hot desk agent, I am in fact logging into the Xarios server, but the InterTel and Xarios are so closely linked and integrate so well that it's hard to know where one starts and the other finishes.


 




This screenshot shows the Xarios call banner that slides out onto the desktop when a call arrives. You can either control the call from the phonemanager or from the InterTel softphone.  You can find out more by reading the Xarios Phone Manager page. 


 

Continued below ..........

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Which headset should you use?

When I read the recommendation that the only headset that InterTel said would work in all ways was the Plantronics CS50 DECT headset with USB connection, I found it hard to believe, so I ignored it and tried the Plantronics Voyager 510 which I use with my blackberry and has a convenient USB plug-in transmitter / receiver. It had led me to believe that it was ideal for PC based softphones.

 

No - Plantronics Voyager 510 Bluetooth Headset with USB plugin. Unfortunately adding bluetooth into the equation of WLAN connectivity, the internet and it's implication on voice over IP was a step to far. I could hear them and the headset rung in my ear when the phone rung, but the person at the other end of the line invariably complained about the voice quality. Maybe I should have listened to InterTel.

 

Sort of but.... - Plantronics DSP100 with USB. This is the headset I opted for in the end as it's not too big to carry about in a laptop bag. Quality of build and speech quality is good due to it's noise cancelling abilities and Plantronics experience in the production of proper business quality headsets.

 

  Yes - the best - Plantronics CS50 USB. This is the one InterTel recommend and has the benefits of DECT so you get better range and clarity, plus most importantly, an external built-in ringer so you can hear your softphone ringing.


Warning
- InterTel recommend the CS50 for a number of reasons.

  1. Most importantly when you setup the phone you can select whether the audio and ringing goes through the speakers and microphone on the computer or whether it goes through the headset. Naturally you set it to headset but as the headset has no outside ringer, you'll only know if someone is calling you if you have the headset on and hear the ringing in your ear, or you happen to spot the PC phone pop up into focus on your screen. This applies to the DSP100 but I've learnt to live with it although I do miss a few calls here and there.
  2. The CS50 is DECT based and hence has a much longer range and better audio quality than their bluetooth counterparts.
  3. The CS50 has a mains powered powered charger and transmitter / receiver unit that plugs into the USB port. This unit also has a built in ringer meaning that you can still hear the softphone ringing even if you don't have the headset on or aren't looking straight at the screen.



Now I understand why they only recommend the Plantronics CS50, and to be honest it is the only real option unless you're like me and prepared to live with it.

 

In my opinion

Bearing in mind that what you really need from a softphone is the ability to easily make and receive calls from wherever you are, the Inter-Tel S8602 IP Softphone for PC or laptop is an excellent solution. Of course it relies on the PC being switched on whereas a physical Inter-Tel IP phone will always be on and hence ring whenever a call comes in. The best solution (and it's the one I have) is to have both. In our offices I logon to a hard phone and when I'm out I use my softphone. I love the way it works with Xarios Phonemanager as I can watch the DSS screen and watch everyone else working. I also like the way that people can get hold of me wherever I am and I can dial other users by just dialling their extension number. Of course the accounts department like the way that all my calls go out through the main system and hence are billed from a central single bill.

All in all, it gets a thumbs up from me, but I still wonder whether I should have asked for the Plantronics CS50 DECT headset and hence had the external ringer. Saying that, I would have had to order a bigger laptop bag.

 

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S8602 Images

 

 
The softphone remains minimised until it rings at which points it pops up to the front. The keyboard can slide down but I use the keyboard on the laptop


The appearance of the phone can be altered so that it could sit on top of all windows and take on a semi transparent state 

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Which headset?


Plantronics CS50 USB, good signal, range, clarity and most importantly, has an external ringer.
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Screenshots


The red lamp flashes and the phones jumps to the front of other windows. I like the options to answer the call, deflect the call to voicemail or send it to another destination.


If you miss a call, it'll display on the front screen.


Click on 'Missed and it'll display the details of the missed calls and give you the option to call them back


By clicking 'Logs', you can view all your calls by category


There is a feture key slider on the right hand side but I've never used it

Links you may find of interest: Mitel Phone Manual | Mitel phone System