Microsoft Teams and Direct Routing right is a hot topic right now, and it’s becoming clear that many businesses who have already adopted Microsoft Teams are finding it useful and effective. The only hitch is that businesses would love to be able to connect voice to make Teams a fully functional solution.
In this interview with Charles Rickett, V12 Telecom co-founder and MD, he answers the most frequently asked questions to help businesses and resellers to develop a clearer understanding of Microsoft Teams and Direct Routing, to dispel the myths and to help businesses make informed decisions about their voice functionality.
What is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is the newest, most widely adopted product allowing better and more efficient collaboration in workplaces. Microsoft describes Teams as:
“The ultimate messaging app for your organization—a workspace for real-time collaboration and communication, meetings, file and app sharing, and even the occasional emoji! All in one place, all in the open, all accessible to everyone.”
Microsoft Teams was made more generally available to businesses in 2018. It offers rich functionality, allowing forward-thinking businesses to change the way they work.
Businesses can use Teams to quickly increase their productivity and drive more collaborative working.
One important requirement that some businesses have found with Microsoft Teams is being able to easily and cost-effectively integrate their phone systems to the platform. This is where Direct Routing comes in as an excellent solution.
What is Direct Routing?
Businesses can use Direct Routing to connect Microsoft Teams to the PSTN, allowing them to connect telephone facilities. Companies can now merge call functions with collaboration facilities, making internal and external communication more seamless.
With Direct Routing your business can migrate seamlessly to Teams from your existing PBX product, which might currently be Skype for Business. Once the migration is complete, you can decommission your old PBX and other outdated PSTN circuits.
Direct Routing is not being sold widely by resellers yet because it’s such an innovation and some businesses, including resellers, are yet to fully understand the opportunity it presents.
Why is Direct Routing different?
If you have a Microsoft E5 licence or E3 plus phone system licence, you are already ready to go ahead with Direct Routing; you can use Direct Routing to call internally and externally, nationally and internationally, with an unlimited UK minutes allowance.
By contrast Microsoft’s own Calling Plan is more expensive, it doesn’t provide unlimited UK minutes and international calls are only available on a per user basis by substantially increasing the costs of the monthly licence fee.
Direct Routing allows you to bring your own telecoms company with you and bolt this onto Microsoft’s licence. It’s a complementary product to allow you to get a better experience.
With Direct Routing you can achieve a complete telecommunications service from Office 365.
What are the benefits of using Teams and specifically Direct Routing?
By using Microsoft Teams alongside Direct Routing you can have a single, industry standard, integrated platform for data and voice, all in one place. With the right licence, you can extend your voice platform across a global WAN. You can achieve centralised control and management within your Office 365 portal.
Are desktop phones and physical handsets still needed with Direct Routing?
You will no longer need to have desk phones in place. You can choose to have these if you want to, or you can take the softphone option via your smart phone or a headset connected to your computing devices.
What about conference calls, call transfers and voicemail functions?
All the normal features of a standard PABX are incorporated into Direct Routing – everything your business is used to having with your traditional PABX can be delivered via Teams. You can make call transfers with ease, including connecting inbound external calls to another external party, utilise enterprise grade Conference Phones for meeting rooms and set up voicemail for individual users.
Is the Microsoft phone offering better than it was on the Skype for Business platform?
Yes, the functionality using Direct Routing works, and works well. It’s reliable, consistent and user-friendly. It’s also important to note that Skype for Business is set to be discontinued in 2021, so many organisations are already searching for the best alternative solution. We firmly believe that Direct Routing is not just the best, but the only viable alternative.
What business opportunities does Teams and Direct Routing offer?
Teams and Direct Routing allow us to offer businesses a single platform solution using just Microsoft Teams. This is beneficial for businesses who are currently using a mix of solutions, for example on premise PBX and VoIP as well as Teams.
Microsoft wants Teams to become the industry standard, and it’s fast becoming this. It’s the next big revolution in the communications sector with 13 million users already. It’s the fastest selling Microsoft product to date.
Lots of companies are already using Teams, however many are not yet using voice and if they did, they would see huge benefits in productivity from this additional function. Joanne Swift, senior director at O2, has identified that companies are getting three hours per week back thanks to improved productivity. Voice has a material impact.
What misconceptions do you think exist about Teams and Direct Routing?
Teams is sometimes being thought of as a corporate collaboration client and not yet as a voice platform. This perception needs to be changed because voice is not just possible, it’s quick and can be initiated straight way with minimal disruption to your network.
Do all users need the same Office 365 licence?
No. One of the great benefits of Direct Routing is that you can pick the relevant Office 365 licence to suit each user’s needs. So, if some of your team members don’t need to dial outside the organisation or don’t need to dial internationally, you can choose smaller licences. This way you only need to pay for what you require and there’s no wastage. You can also move licences between users when your employee circumstances change.
Is Direct Routing competitively priced?
Yes. Direct Routing is significantly less expensive than Microsoft’s Calling Plan. Providers who offer Direct Routing to the channel have adopted different ways of selling it. V12 chose to take a Direct Routing service to market that is priced on a per user basis because it is nice and simple an and it comes with fully inclusive, unlimited, UK minutes.
How can a reseller be sure of quality and reliability?
Make sure your Direct Routing solution is delivered via a Tier 1 carrier grade infrastructure. Also check the service is fully compliant with Microsoft requirements. If you have overseas customers, check that the International SIP trunks are designed for high volume wholesale use and can be terminated anywhere in the world. Resellers who are less experienced with challenges like number porting should also make sure their Direct Routing provider has this expertise. You are going to need it!
What’s involved in the transition?
Resellers should work with their Direct Routing provider to make sure they understand exactly what’s needed to migrate their customer’s existing solution because this will ensure a seamless transition. Your provider should be able to help you connect your customers’ Microsoft Teams to voice whether they are using an onsite PBX, an alternative VOIP product or Skype for Business. No onsite hardware is needed.
Can businesses keep existing numbers and add new ones?
Yes, businesses can keep their existing numbers and add new ones. If your customer wants to keep their numbers, you can ask your Direct Routing provider to port the numbers for you. International numbers can also be added. Expect a setup and monthly rental cost for each number, along with a cost to receive calls. The cost may vary depending on the type of number and whether the caller is calling from a landline or mobile.