Organizations are increasingly embracing cloud-based unified communication platforms to streamline their operations and enhance collaboration in the hybrid workplace. One platform that has gained immense popularity is Microsoft Teams, with an offering that is going from strength to strength. And to harness the full potential of Microsoft Teams, businesses are bringing their telephony infrastructure into the mix with Microsoft Teams Phone for external calling (traditionally known as PSTN connectivity).
Microsoft Teams Phone offers a powerful telephony solution, combining instant messaging, video conferencing, and calling features in one unified platform. However, as with any technical migration, the process of transitioning to Microsoft Teams Phone requires careful planning and execution. In this blog, we’ll outline 5 must-dos when it comes to migrating to Microsoft Teams Phone.
- Plan for your analog and legacy IT equipment
- Plan for E911
- Choose the right Microsoft Teams Phone license
- Weigh your options for external connectivity
- Ensure network readiness
1. Plan for your analog and legacy IT equipment
Analog equipment such as door access systems, gates, overhead paging or elevator phones etc play a crucial role to business operations and also represent significant historical investments. In moving to Microsoft Teams Phone, analog equipment should be an important consideration in the decision-making process for several reasons:
- Cost-Efficiency: Upgrading or replacing all analog equipment can be a financial burden. By integrating existing analog infrastructure, businesses can alleviate the upfront costs associated with a complete overhaul, making the migration to Microsoft Teams Phone more financially feasible.
- Functionality retention: Legacy analog systems may offer specific functionalities that are integral to an organization's operations. These functionalities might not be readily available in the digital realm. Integrating analog equipment allows businesses to preserve these critical capabilities while benefiting from the modern features offered by Microsoft Teams Phone.
- Business Continuity: Analog equipment often provides a level of reliability that has been established over time. In the event of network outages or technical issues with the digital system, analog components can serve as backups, ensuring uninterrupted communication and business continuity.
- Compatibility Concerns: In some cases, certain legacy systems or hardware might not be fully compatible with digital platforms. Integrating analog equipment can act as a bridge, allowing for seamless communication between new and old systems.
- Regulatory Requirements: Some industries have strict regulations concerning communication systems. Analog equipment might already be compliant with these regulations, and transitioning away from them could pose legal challenges. Integrating analog components can help businesses maintain compliance without sacrificing modern communication tools.
Moving your telephony to Microsoft Teams doesn't have to mean abandoning your analog and legacy IT equipment entirely. By carefully considering the role of analog equipment in your organization's communication landscape, you can make a well-informed decision that balances innovation with the value of existing infrastructure.
Ready to move your analog equipment to Microsoft Teams? Here’s how to do it >>
2. Plan for E911
Enhanced 911 (E911) is a crucial feature for users in the USA and Canada that automatically transmits a caller's location information to emergency services when dialing 911.
Note: In the USA there are two federal laws, Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act, which define minimum standards for E911. There are further rules at a state level that are more stringent, so advice from legal counsel on your specific requirements is crucial.
While traditional office phones have dedicated physical lines that provide location details, VoIP and cloud-based systems like Microsoft Teams Phone rely on IP addresses, making it challenging to pinpoint a caller's location accurately during emergencies, especially with employees working from home in different locations.
The good news is that Microsoft Teams can be configured to ensure emergency preparedness and meet legal requirements with Dynamic Emergency Calling (Dynamic E911) for Microsoft Calling Plans, Operator Connect, Teams Phone Mobile and Direct Routing. Dynamic E911 uses location data from the Teams client, which is vital for the emergency service provider to identify the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The call is then routed to the designated PSAP, allowing the dispatcher to access the caller's precise location. This seamless process ensures that emergency responders can swiftly reach the caller's location, providing timely and effective assistance during critical situations.
To ensure compliance with E911 regulations, and a safe working environment for users, emergency locator information should be inputted and configured in the Teams tenant early-on. Additionally, your voice provider should be able to support this process and offer guidance to ensure your E911 is configured correctly and compliantly.
3. Choose the right Microsoft Teams Phone license
Microsoft offers several licensing plans for Teams Phone, each with its own set of features and capabilities. Take the time to understand the differences between these plans and select the one that best meets your organization's needs.
To enable calling in Microsoft Teams you must subscribe to one of the following licenses:
|Teams Phone Standard (which is included in E5)
|Enables basic control and PBX features like:
• Caller ID
• Call park
• Call forwarding
• Auto attendants
• Call queues
• Call transfer
|Teams Phone with Calling Plan bundle
|All the above plus a Microsoft domestic Calling Plan.
If you are on a Microsoft 365 E1 or E3 plan, you can request Teams Phone be added and Microsoft will quote custom pricing for this.
It’s important to note that the license will enable you with the PBX capability, but you’ll then have to choose a PSTN connectivity option via Microsoft Calling Plans, Operator Connect or Direct Routing (read below).
4. Weigh your options for external connectivity
In order to make and take external calls from Microsoft Teams, you’ll need to connect to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). Microsoft Teams offers three ways to do that with Microsoft’s own Calling Plans, Operator Connect or Direct Routing.
Microsoft Calling Plans: This option is suitable for organizations with minimal requirements who are looking for an all-in-one solution, in a limited number of countries. Microsoft provides Calling Plans through its own network, eliminating the need for a separate telephony provider. This option is great for smaller businesses or those seeking simplicity, as it streamlines billing and support with Microsoft.
Operator Connect: This option allows you to directly connect your existing telecommunications provider or connect with a new provider to deliver your external call connectivity. It offers flexibility and allows you to tap into the benefits of using another provider, whilst providing a straightforward migration process. The integration is managed through the Microsoft Teams Admin Center, simplifying the setup and management. In most cases Operator Connect is available in more countries than Calling Plans (although this depends on what provider or operator you choose to work with), which satisfies the needs for most global businesses.
Direct Routing: For larger enterprises or organizations with more complex telephony set-ups, Direct Routing is the ideal choice. It allows you to use Microsoft Teams with your existing telephony infrastructure. This flexibility ensures a seamless migration while retaining investments in current systems. For businesses requiring coverage in hard to reach areas, an onsite SBC with connectivity enabled via Direct Routing may be the best solution.
It may be the preferred approach in some circumstances to mix and match these options. For example, you could use Operator Connect in the regions covered by your chosen voice provider, and use a combination of on-site SBCs with Direct Routing for regions not covered. Or, if an organization needs to incorporate Contact Centre, or integrate analog equipment, a blend of Operator Connect and Direct Routing might be the best solution.
5. Ensure network readiness
With the modern workforce relying heavily on virtual communication, subpar call quality can lead to frustration, miscommunication, and lost opportunities. Ensuring top-notch calling quality is an investment in the success and reputation of any business leveraging cloud telephony solutions. For Microsoft Teams Phone, there are a number of things that can be done to make sure calls are crystal clear:
Quality of Service (QoS):
QoS is a network management technique that prioritizes specific types of data traffic, ensuring critical applications, like Microsoft Teams, receive the necessary bandwidth and low latency. Implementing QoS for your Teams traffic is crucial to prevent call quality degradation due to network congestion.
To set up QoS, identify the ports and protocols used by Microsoft Teams and prioritize them on your network equipment, such as routers and switches. By giving priority to those ports, you guarantee that voice packets are delivered promptly, resulting in clear and uninterrupted calls.
Click here for Microsoft’s guidance on implementing QoS >>
Proxies are intermediaries that can sometimes hinder the direct flow of network traffic. While in some scenarios, they act as a trusted intermediary between the user and the internet in Microsoft Teams they don’t enhance security because the traffic from Teams is already encrypted. By bypassing proxies, you reduce the chances of latency and packet loss, leading to a more reliable calling experience. This configuration also simplifies the network path, allowing voice traffic to reach its destination with minimal interference.
Split Tunneling on VPNs:
When employees work remotely, they often rely on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access corporate resources securely. However, routing all traffic through the VPN can lead to performance issues, especially for real-time applications like Microsoft Teams cloud telephony.
Split tunneling allows you to segregate VPN traffic, directing Teams traffic directly to the internet instead of routing it through the corporate network. This approach reduces the load on the VPN and optimizes call quality by minimizing potential bottlenecks.
Before implementing split tunneling, ensure you have a robust security policy in place to safeguard against potential risks. By carefully configuring split tunneling, you strike a balance between network security and optimized call performance.
The Pure IP team can help you move your legacy telephony to Microsoft Teams. Get in touch with us for more information on how we can support your migration >>