Microsoft Teams is now used by over 60% of organisations, and has been a lifesaver for businesses adapting to social distancing and remote working. Teams is a business collaboration platform with excellent chat, video conferencing and file-sharing capabilities that improve organisational structure and communication, while seamlessly integrating with other Microsoft applications like Office/Microsoft 365.
While Teams provides an integrated and seamless business collaboration experience, it doesn’t natively support the ability to place a standard phone call — to and from standard telephone numbers. However, there are a number of integration options that expand your collaboration capabilities to encompass PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) calling. The most sophisticated of these options involve full PBX (Private Brand Exchange) integration, delivering the same level of sophistication and control provided by a standard PBX.
56% of customers still say that the telephone is their preferred form of communication. For both internal and external collaboration, phone calls are more relevant than ever. By integrating PBX capabilities with Teams, you not only improve access to this important channel, you create a unified communications platform able to streamline your entire communications infrastructure. Here, we are going to explain your options to do just that.
Suggested Reading: If you want to learn more about unified communications and the importance of phone calls in business collaboration, check out our blog — Is It Possible to Use Just One Collaboration Tool for Business?
What is a PBX?
PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is a private telephone network used within an organisation. Users can communicate both internally and externally over a variety of different communications channels like the internet’s Voice over IP. These calls can then be connected out to the public telephone network — the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
A PBX delivers the control tools that businesses use to manage incoming and outgoing calls. For example:
- Call queue management
- Creating interactive voice response (IVR) menus to interact with callers
- Voice mail, caller ID and number assignment
- Call forwarding and call routing (including capabilities like skills-based routing for menu options that might be done in a call centre)
- Call recording
- Residual management and control benefits
Microsoft Teams PBX integrations can be the tie-breaker for a faster, more seamless communications network. It places the power of a business phone system inside of Teams, allowing users to switch seamlessly between placing phone calls and other forms of communication — such as file sharing, chat, video conferencing and more. This simplifies access (critically important for remote collaboration), centralises communication histories and contact details, and streamlines workflows. The result is a more agile and efficient system able to improve collaboration and communication.
Suggested Reading: 5 Ways Callroute Improves Microsoft Teams
Your Options for PBX Integration with Teams
There are two ways to achieve PBX integrations with Teams. Microsoft offers an in-house solution that enables users to place phone calls from Teams and provides some PBX control capabilities. However, third-party solutions offer more sophistication.
Option 1: Microsoft Phone System and Calling Plan
If you want to place a phone call through Microsoft Teams, your gateway to many telephony capabilities is the Microsoft Phone System. This is included in the Microsoft E5 package, but needs to be purchased as an add-on licence with the Microsoft E1 and E3 plans. The diagram below should help, but there are a wide range of purchase possibilities depending on your specific Microsoft package.
Phone System doesn’t allow you to place calls on it’s own. For that, you need Microsoft Calling Plan (or Direct Routing — see option 2). Calling Plan encompasses a number of minute packages (both international and domestic) that enables you to place calls using Phone System from Teams.
Suggested Reading: If you want to learn more about Calling Plan specifics, check out our blog — Microsoft Calling Plan Pricing Explained.
With Microsoft Calling Plan, Phone System becomes your PBX. In fact, Microsoft directly compares Phone System to a PBX — stating “Phone System gives you PBX capabilities, but without the complicated and expensive equipment.” Realistically, Phone System leaves a lot to be desired as a PBX. While it does have standard menus to route callers using call forwarding and transfer/caller ID and voicemail, Phone System lacks the following capabilities:
- Standard call recording: This can be a problem for quality and usage monitoring and controls as well as proof of compliance.
- Call usage and individual statistical reporting: There is no current way to manage users and costs, and monitor system use/abuse on an individual level.
- Limited high-volume call management: The call queuing system is limited in the number of callers in the queue and wait times. Routing options are limited, and callers cannot be linked to IVR response, resulting in caller frustration and disconnects.
- Microsoft compatible devices required: Microsoft Phone System and Calling Plan limit users to selected compatible devices.
The bottom line is that Phone System enables you to place PSTN calls like a PBX, but does not offer the same call control capabilities you would expect from a PBX. If you simply want to add calling capabilities to Teams, Phone System and Calling Plan will deliver. But Phone System doesn’t offer the full spectrum of capabilities that businesses need to replace an existing business phone system and PBX with Teams.
Option 2: Direct Routing
Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams enables you to by-pass Calling Plan and integrate Teams with a standard PBX and PSTN carrier. You still need a Phone System licence. However, it simply becomes a prerequisite licence, rather than the actual control tool used within your system. What this delivers is a fully functional PBX integrated with Teams.
Direct Routing is the best option to deliver all of the capabilities and features you would expect from a standard PBX, allowing you to fully unify your communications infrastructure. But Direct Routing can be complicated, and requires making the right third-party choices. Realistically, the specifics of your Direct Routing solution are going to vary based on the provider. Traditionally, integration and set-up can be complex and lengthy — taking up to a week to configure. However, this is something that we, at Callroute, set out to change.
Selecting the Right Direct Routing Provider
At Callroute, we provide a Direct Routing solution for Microsoft Teams. However, we’ve transformed the simplicity of Direct Routing integration by being both the PSTN carrier and Direct Routing provider. This allows us to pre-configure backend integration, cutting the integration process from up to a week to literally minutes. It also allows us to offer a number of flexible benefits for a range of business needs that are not present across the market. These include:
- A free channel for life: Your first phone line with Callroute is free, and you can keep it for life. Get started without providing any card details and experience the power of unified communications with Teams today.
- Per-channel pricing: We charge per line, rather than per-user. This provides more flexibility, matching usage with demand and keep costs low. Autoscaling ensures no one ever hears a busy tone, and you can scale back down on-demand.
- Instant integration: Traditional Direct Routing can take up to seven-days to configure and install. By managing the whole process, end-to-end, we can guarantee quality and reduce integration time to literally a few minutes. This lets you get up and running at a moment’s notice and allows you to deploy without disruption.
We also provide 24/7 technical support, a number porting service and simple to use cloud-based tools that enable you to control costs, users and numbers with the click of a button. These features are all capabilities you should look for in any Direct Routing provider. With that said, we encourage you to try out calling with Teams for free today.
Unified Communications is the Future
Integrating PBX with Teams makes it possible to unite all communication channels for your organisation. It brings benefits to workflows, removes barriers to collaboration, simplifies infrastructure, and has a potential for significant cost savings. The best choice for PBX integration with Teams is via Direct Routing with true PBX solutions that make Teams a fully functional and centralised collaboration and communications tool. At Callroute, we can deliver that outcome in minutes. All you need is a log-in to Teams with a Phone System licence. Get started today, for free.