• Thu. May 13th, 2021

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    Mitel MiCloud Connect – Review 2021

    We reviewed an earlier version Mitel’s cloud PBX several years ago and it seems time has been good to this business voice over IP (VoIP) platform. The company says Mitel MiCloud Connect focuses on delivering the best voice experience for its customers and bases this claim on its long years of building PBXes for small to midsized businesses (SMBs), though its design shows it’s definitely focusing on midsized or even larger organizations. The platform tries to replicate and improve on the features of traditional, on-premises PBXes. This takes the form of new capabilities, like an easier interconnect between remote offices, though it takes a toll when it comes to feature integration and cost.

    For example, even working as a cloud service, MiCloud Connect likes a central office target, mainly because it wants the more robust underlying network. That could be a negative for less sophisticated SMBs. It might also be a problem since working from home is looking like a permanent trend for many companies. Remote work means IT pros will be dealing with a multitude of home networks, not just a single, large office LAN.

    Even once you start sending employees back to the office, MiCloud will prove a little pricey compared to other SMB offerings. With so many companies forced to support a large number distributed workers, these drawbacks keep it slightly behind our business VoIP Editors’ Choice winners, Intermedia Unite for small business phone service and RingCentral Office for larger organizations.

    Mitel MiCloud Connect: Pricing and Plans

    One area where Mitel’s more traditional PBX roots show clearly is pricing. While it does have a desktop softphone client as well as dedicated apps for Apple iOS and Google Android, the service strongly pushes customers towards the physical SIP desktop handsets for which it’s a reseller. Since the exact number of handsets and how they’re configured will vary per customer, there’s no transparent pricing tiers available on the Mitel website like those we found with most of its competitors. Additionally, tacking on fifty or a hundred handsets to your initial installation costs and your ongoing subscription rate will definitely have an impact on overall price.

    However, a company spokesperson did share some basic cost data that you can use as a starting point. Mitel has a basic plan, called Essentials, that starts out at $20.99 per user per month. This includes telephony plus collaboration and conferencing capabilities. The next stage is the Premier plan, which costs $26.59 per user per month and adds customer relationship management (CRM) integration plus call recording. Finally, the Elite tier costs $38.49 per user per month and adds top-tier features, like call archiving plus additional operator functions.

    Those prices put MiCloud Connect in the middle-to-high pricing bracket when compared to the other competitors we reviewed, depending on which tier you buy. However, those costs could go up once you add desktop handsets, professional services for installation, and any of the other features Mitel sells as extra-cost add-ons, like custom reporting or high-end video conferencing.

    The MiCloud Connect User Experience

    The MiCloud Connect softphone app is nice and simple on the desktop. According to the company, this is mainly because the app was built using a mobile-first design, so the desktop app is meant to resemble the mobile user interface (UI) as much as possible. Once you’re signed up with Mitel, you’ll have download access to both an Apple macOS and Microsoft Windows 10 desktop app.

    Once you’ve installed the desktop client, you’ll find a minimal mode that displays links for Contacts, Recent Calls, Voicemails, Teamwork, and Events. Terms like “Conference Bridge” pay homage to Mitel’s PBX roots. Any user can host a conference call using a dial-in number or a web link. User defaults, like which devices they’d like to ring, are configured by clicking on the gear icon.

    The mobile app has basically the same features as the desktop UI. You can even start a call on your desktop handset and then flip it to your mobile device should you have to move while still in conversation. The process is just a simple keypad sequence that works in either direction.

    Mitel’s online training provides a comprehensive set of videos to help get administrators and users up to speed quickly. Having a robust selection of training materials will make the onboarding process easier for your staff. We went through the Visual Call Flow Editor training and found it to be well laid out with sections covering all the steps required to create or modify an existing call flow. Using this tool we had an easy time creating a call routing configuration requiring multiple steps in just a few minutes.

    System Administration

    While it might be focused on replicating on-prem PBX features, Mitel has done a good job designing its web-based administration portal. This has a nicely organized series of function menus and dashboards that are both intuitive and usable with a minimal click count. That said, it’s a little sparse when compared to other products aimed at larger organizations, like Vonage Business Cloud or RingCentral Office.

    On the call quality side, we had no connection issues during our evaluation. Then again, our test network was small and dedicated to the testing process. We did notice that the Mitel administrator portal provides relatively few tools for diagnosing and fixing any network-related issues, like jitter, which can definitely impact call quality on larger networks. You’ll need to rely on your own network monitoring tools to detect those issues should they crop up, and if they do, you’ll likely be on the phone with Mitel customer support to fix them.

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    Still, as far as enabling or disabling features goes, the web portal did a good job when we were setting up our test instance. All user-related functions, such as changing permissions or roles, happens through the web portal. The Phone Manager role is assigned to someone who’ll be responsible for day-to-day system management, and this gives them full access to all MiCloud features. However, these primarily consist of user management, though it also adds MiCloud’s more advanced call routing and reporting features.

    Mitel MiCloud Connect Live Answer reporting sample

    We found that reporting is focused mainly on phone functionality with stats like the percentage of calls answered by a person instead of an IVR or simply voicemail. You can also measure total talk time for both inbound and outbound calls among other things. You can export these reports as Excel or CVS files, and if you “subscribe” to one, the system will automatically generate and email it to you on a periodic basis. As part of your web dashboard, Mitel keeps this analytics data for 25 months and then deletes it. That means you’ll need to export your data regularly should you need it for a longer time.

    The real downside to Mitel’s reporting is customization. While you can get a customized report, you can’t build it yourself. You’ll need to sit down with your Mitel sales or professional service representative and build the new report together. Mitel will then incorporate it into your account, and charge you extra for the process. Having a customizable reporting template would be a boon here, even a limited one like you get with Dialpad.

    Mentioned above, the MiCloud Connect Visual Call Flow Editor is one of the more innovative features of the system. Much like RingCentral Office’s Visual IVR editor, you’ll find a step-by-step UI that lets you add whatever system components you need to build your own, automated response system. This makes it easier to implement some of the more sophisticated capabilities, like a Pickup Group, which just requires an Extension List component. You’ll find a total of nine call flow components for features like groups and schedules, the Auto Attendant, and more.

    Mitel MiCloud Connect Visual Call Flow editor

    Mitel Teamwork and Integrations

    Mitel Teamwork is a collaboration platform that’s a separate app, but part of the MiCloud Connect platform, so you can opt to enable the integration or not as your needs dictate. Designed similarly to RingCentral’s Glip, Teamwork isn’t quite as robust, but it does add all your basic collaboration features. The app provides direct and group chat plus a task or to-do list for handing out and tracking assignments to team members. You can attach and share files for other team members, and conduct web meetings and video conferencing, too. Together that’s a nice set of team-oriented capabilities. However, we found Teamwork to be missing some key capabilities around granular team thread organization and more advanced collaboration features, like whiteboarding tools or a meeting assistant. So while it nicely rounds out a VoIP platform, this isn’t a one-to-one replacement for a dedicated team messaging app, like Slack.

    On the more traditional side, MiCloud does have an email-to-fax feature that lets you send and receive faxes via email. There’s also a browser extension for Google Chrome so you can integrate MiCloud with Google Workspace for email and scheduling. This is a fully bi-directional integration, so you can do things like search through both your Google Workspace and Mitel contacts when scheduling. Mitel Connect for Chrome also gives you the option to add a phone bridge when scheduling a conference call.

    Mitel also has a freely available plug in for Microsoft Outlook, but this isn’t quite as deep as the one for Google Workspace. It allows a click-to-dial capability that lets users dial an Outlook contact on their Mitel-provided phone even while they’re inside Outlook.

    A PBX in the Cloud

    Overall, Mitel delivers a very functional VoIP system, but one that feels a lot like a traditional, on-premises PBX. That can certainly be valuable, but probably more so to larger organizations that are used to what a PBX can offer rather than smaller businesses that have never used anything other than VoIP. While it covers all the basics a PBX administrator might be seeking, more work on its productivity integrations, web-customizable reporting, as well as more transparent pricing are all things that would make MiCloud Connect more competitive with other small business VoIP platforms.

    If you’re a buyer for a larger business, however, Mitel MiCloud Connect has a lot going for it. Good support for physical handsets, options for higher-end features like video conferencing for smart meeting rooms, and especially the company’s attention to compliance requirements, like HIPAA, all combine to make this a solid contender for midsized and larger organizations.

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