Remote working has been essential for businesses over recent months and for many, it’s something that has been adopted as a more permanent working arrangement. This presents business owners with several challenges for supporting colleagues that want or need to continue working away from the main office so we have put together this handy guide for staying connected.
As a quick solution, many businesses opted to use Microsoft Teams due to it being included in their Office365 (now Microsoft365) licencing. However, as they now start to look at ways for a more permanent solution that integrates their business telephones with their new collaboration requirements, many people are considering using Microsoft Teams for everything. But is it as simple as it sounds?
Microsoft promotes Teams as a full-service collaboration suite, enabling users to stay connected through online chat and meetings, the ability to share work and collaborate, as well as the ability to make and receive calls. However, whilst there is a PBX (or phone system) function within Teams there are a few things that users need to know about it first that means it might not be suitable for all applications.
- Prepaid calling plans – To use Microsoft Teams PBX functionality directly a user needs to buy a Microsoft calling plan. This is a pre-pay plan and will require topping up with a credit card if the credit runs out. You can just imagine having to drag the MD out of an important meeting to top up the credit so the sales team can continue making calls.
- Analogue devices – Many businesses use analogue devices such as basic telephones in hotel guest rooms or communal areas such as warehouses. These devices are not supported by the Microsoft Teams PBX feature.
- Microsoft Support – Microsoft has a reputation for being difficult to speak to when there’s a support issue. Everything is online and ticket driven so you won’t have the ability to call somebody to get an update. This might work for email and Office applications but when your phone system isn’t working, not being able to speak to someone could be frustrating.
- Vendor lock-in – Once you’ve gone ‘all in’ with Microsoft it may be difficult to migrate away again. Will you be able to take your numbers with you? What is the exit migration process? These are definitely questions you’ll want to ask before you commit all your eggs to the Microsoft basket.
- Missing features – Microsoft has come a long way with their PBX offering but ask any telephone engineer and they will tell you that there are still a number of features people use that are missing. Extension numbers, for example, aren’t available in Microsoft PBX so if you are used to dialling 1002 to speak to Bob in purchasing then your users will have to learn the Microsoft way of looking up Bob in a directory and calling him that way. Other features you may miss include telephony reporting and user paging.
- Teams hardware ‘Premium’ – For users still wanting a physical desk phone, Microsoft are insisting that manufacturers such as Poly and Yealink adopt specific firmware to ensure the Teams feature accessibility both now and on future releases. This has lead to some manufacturers creating specific Teams handsets that are essentially the same as the non-Teams equivalent but at an increased cost.
- Confusing licencing – Microsoft licencing has gone through a number of changes but it is still very confusing as to what a user needs to get the features they want. This makes it difficult for laymen with limited technical understanding to get the right licencing.
As you can see, there are several factors to consider when deciding whether Microsoft Teams is the right thing for your business but you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not just an either/or decision. Whilst Teams might work for you at one level but not at another, there are ways to get a solution with the right mix of technologies for your business.
The simple way to think about it is that with Teams and any telecoms solution there are essentially 4 major components and you need to decide what elements you want Microsoft to provide and which are better delivered by another solution.
These components are:
- Endpoints – the interface the users use to access the telephony features
- Call Control – the brains of the telephone system that is used to control how calls flow through the business
- Calling Plan – what and how you pay for the calls you make
- Collaboration – webchat, online meetings, desktop sharing are all examples of collaboration
In short, Microsoft can provide none, one, two or all three of these components depending on what you need. For example, you might want to use the Microsoft Teams desktop application as your phone but you don’t want to prepay for your calls and you have some analogue devices which Microsoft does not support. In that case, Microsoft would just provide the endpoint experience and your other telephone provider will provide the rest.
The following matrix has been created to help you understand the options open to you.
- Full Microsoft – Microsoft provides everything for you. Users will use the Teams interface (or Teams compatible handset), Microsoft PBX will manage your call flows and routes, and you’ll subscribe to a Microsoft pre-pay calling plan.
- Direct Routing – This option means that we will plug one of our SIP trunks into your Teams installation meaning that you can now make calls over our network, without the prepay limitations, and receive a bill in the usual way.
- Call-To-Teams – Through the application of our middleware connector you’re able to deploy the Securus CallSwitch cloud telephone system with the inclusive call bundle and seamlessly utilise the Teams desktop application as the user interface. When a user dials a number, they will automatically place the call on our platform giving you access to full PBX features with the Teams collaboration and chat tools.
- Securus CallSwitch – The Securus CallSwitch platform is a complete Unified Communications & Collaboration solution in itself. Not only does it provide an award-winning and industry-leading full-featured telephone system, but you can also chat, meet and collaborate through a single interface.
What about Microsoft licencing?
The licencing required to make Microsoft PBX work is complicated and what you need largely depends on what subscriptions you already have and what you want to achieve. Our Microsoft Specialists are always happy to conduct a free audit and put forward a proposal for a solution if Microsoft Teams is the right solution for you.
Do I have to use Microsoft Teams?
Absolutely not. Teams is a powerful collaboration tool, but it isn’t the only option. Zoom, Slack and a whole host of other collaboration tools are also available to help your colleagues remain connected in these strange times.
What’s more, as stated earlier the Securus CallSwitch hosted telephone system is a full collaboration solution in its own right with a much simpler licencing structure and, more often, a more cost-effective pricing structure.
Why not let us audit your estate, make some recommendations? There is no obligation to buy from us, and you’ll get the benefit of discussing the options with one of our experts. To get a free audit please complete the contact form and we’ll be in touch.