The proliferation of Microsoft Teams in the workplace has really skyrocketed since the new remote workforce has come into place over the last year. That's in part because Teams, as a collaboration tool, was either already available to organizations using Microsoft 365 or it was quite affordable to quickly add on to their communications toolkit when COVID hit.
Making Phone Calls to non-Teams Users
Option 1: Buy Microsoft Dial Plans
The first option to voice-enable Microsoft Teams is going right to Microsoft in buy your dial plans. This comes with licensing costs and some other considerations.
How Microsoft Licensing Works:
For purposes of Teams, whether you have an M365 E3 or just Office 365 E3 license, you will have access to the Microsoft Teams application. Now, in order to turn Teams into a softphone that your business can use to make and receive phone calls, you will need to purchase a phone license.
Think of the phone license as turning Teams into a car. You have the car, but now you need gas to make the car go. That's where calling plans come in.
Again, you can buy calling plans directly from Microsoft. They have three different options, starting at a list price of $8 for domestic calling with 1200 pooled minutes of calling for all your users. For $12 you can upgrade from 1200 pooled minutes to 3000 pooled minutes. Finally, if you want to spend a little bit more, for $24 you can get 3000 minutes of pooled domestic calling and 600 minutes of pooled international calling.
Limitations with Microsoft Calling Plans:
Further, when you crack open Microsoft's online service level agreement, you might be disappointed to see that the SLA is limited to three nines (99.9%) for both the Teams application and any Teams desk phones. The SLA is worded in a way that implies it is only applicable in situations where the end-user is using a wired connection and a Teams certified desk phone. This raises a question as to what the SLA covers for users who are using just the softphone and a headset as your author does daily.
Option 2: Do It Yourself Direct Routing
We're not seeing a whole lot of demand for the DIY option so I won't go into great depth here but just know that it is a path that's available to you. If you choose the DIY approach to voice-enable Teams, there are capital expenses involved -- you need to purchase Microsoft Certified session border controllers. Then you have to worry about managing and maintaining that infrastructure and of course you need to be prepared to follow Microsoft documentation to facilitate number porting.
If you're looking at Microsoft Teams and its telephone capabilities with the goal of getting out of owning telephony equipment this model does not adhere to that 100%. You may really want to outsource this entirely.
Option 3: Managed Direct Routing (Cloud PBX)
What you're getting in this model is Microsoft Teams and all of its great native features but you're also getting extra features that Teams doesn't give you with your dial tone being provided by somebody other than Microsoft. In this model, your supplier spins up Microsoft Certified session border controllers in their cloud, so you avoid that capital purchase.
So, what's cool about managed direct routing for Microsoft Teams is when you go to make or receive a phone call in Teams -- the data can go across whatever network connection you have to the Microsoft Cloud. That means you can run it from your home network connection or that fiber connection back at your office.
Microsoft Teams is a great tool and has proved very useful in interoffice communications but if you want to explore making it into a softphone there are additional costs and a variety of ways you can go about it. We're happy to help you evaluate the best avenue for you to go down. Twinstate Technologies works with an expansive community of suppliers that includes the industry big names as well as smaller niche players, to truly give you the best option for your needs. And while Teams has been an amazing tool to use for our company, after further evaluation with us, you might find that it's not the best tool for your company.