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Microsoft Teams Direct Routing: Everything You Need To Know

At present, Microsoft Teams is the most popular business collaboration tool. Teams now has more than 300 million monthly active users, and our own research shows that 70% of large organizations and 60% of all businesses use the platform.

But only 5% of those users have opted for Direct Routing. 

Although Teams is used by a majority of businesses, only 39% of businesses use it as their “main” platform—which is still the top spot. We use too many collaboration tools, and that damages communication with disjointed notifications, access, and data storage.

Furthermore, with the future business environment combining a flexible remote and office working pattern, the importance of both a hybrid and unified communication strategy is critical to efficiency and saving costs.

This article is about helping you understand the power of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, and explaining how it can help unify your entire collaboration system with Teams. Let’s get started.

What is Microsoft Teams Direct Routing?

Microsoft Teams Direct Routing is when Microsoft supports connecting session border controllers (SBCs) to Teams. This could either be your own SBC or a vendor’s environment. 

The physical or virtual SBC connects telephony (on-premises or virtual) on one side to the cloud (Teams). There’s no certification for vendors or end customers to become ready-to-use for Teams. Only the physical equipment can be Teams-certified. 

When you opt for Direct Routing, you get Teams access to unique functionality that an SBC enables. This includes traditional PBX features that you can’t (yet, at least) replicate on a Microsoft Calling Plan deployment. 

So, if you need any/all of the following PBX features, Direct Routing is likely the best choice: 

  • PBX interop 
  • Least cost routing 
  • Media bypass 
  • SIP trunks 
  • Analog devices 
  • Fax  
  • ISDN connectivity 
  • Local site breakout 
  • Survival branch appliance 
  • Complex routing 
  • Extension support 
  • Disaster recovery 

Here is a basic topology diagram of how Microsoft Teams Direct Routing works:

Microsoft Teams Direct Routing topology diagram

What are the benefits of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing?

The benefits of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing are:

  • Makes it possible to achieve feature parity with your previous phone system
  • Provides a consistent user experience as there’s no third-party calling app
  • Removes costs for hardware, software, and maintenance
  • Covers regions outside of Microsoft Calling Plan
  • Allows users to make calls directly from Teams
  • Enables integration with line of business apps
  • Lets you keep your existing phone numbers
  • Scales easily by adding and deleting users
  • Enables complex routing setups

With the wide number of business collaboration tools in use (even within a single organization), standard phone calls are a unifying communication tool.

Collaboration with external stakeholders still mostly takes place on the phone. Fundamentally, integrating this communication option into your business collaboration tool is the only way to deliver full-spectrum coverage across every necessary collaboration channel.  

How much does Teams Direct Routing cost?

Direct Routing pricing differs from provider to provider.

As a guide, we have included our own pricing, accurate as of August 2023:

  • £1.82 per user per month pay as you go (including a DDI)
  • £3.32 per user per month inc 300 minutes per user

Microsoft Teams Direct Routing providers

It’s important to understand that only the SBC is Microsoft Teams-certified. Therefore any provider with the right equipment could provide you with Direct Routing. Or you could look after the infrastructure yourself in-house.

Verified Direct Routing SBC providers include:

  • Microsoft 
  • Audiocodes 
  • Ribbon 
  • Thinktel 
  • Oracle 
  • TE-SYSTEMS 
  • Metaswitch 
  • Cisco 
  • Avaya 
  • Nokia 
  • Ericsson 
  • Italtel 
  • ULTATEL 
  • Cataleya 
  • Atos 
  • Sansay Inc 
  • Enghouse Networks 
  • Patton Electronics Co 
  • M5 Technologies 
  • Ekinops 
  • 46 Labs LLC 
  • Frafos 

Is Direct Routing the only way?

Direct Routing is not the only way to make and receive calls within Microsoft Teams. There are two other options for making and receiving standard phone calls with Teams.

However, Direct Routing is by far the best option for placing a phone call with Teams.

Let’s explain: 

Cross-launch apps

Several tools provide in-app cross-launch overlays that can be used with Teams, including RingCentral, Zoom, and Cisco Jabber.

All these provide the ability to place standard phone calls, and cross-launching them from Teams delivers an effective way to place that call quickly from the Teams interface.

But it’s not an integrated solution.

This means no centralized access and no data storage. It also means that incoming calls won’t ring the Teams client.

Most importantly, using an app means using yet another outside application to place a call, contributing to the ‘too many tools’ issue.

Once again, we’re talking disjointed workflows and complex costs and management. 

Microsoft Phone System and Calling Plan

The other alternative to Direct Routing is connecting to the PSTN network through Microsoft’s in-house option.

Microsoft Calling Plan and Phone System deliver an integrated solution, but not a very sophisticated one. The problem with this option is that you do not get the same level of call control that a standard business phone system (using a PBX or SBC) can provide.

That means that although this option will let you place calls with Teams, it’s unlikely to let you migrate your entire business phone system to Teams. A lot of this comes down to the weakness of Phone System as a control tool. Calling Plan can also be an expensive choice. 

What is the difference between Microsoft Calling Plan and Direct Routing?

The difference between Direct Routing and say Microsoft’s Calling Plan is that Direct Routing connects Microsoft’s Phone System to the PSTN via a telephony provider, rather than Microsoft.

This means introducing complete PBX capabilities to your Teams calling solution, and avoiding the shortcomings of Microsoft Phone System.

Microsoft Calling PlanDirect Routing
Activate quicklyRequires planning and setup
Access in Teams Admin CenterPossible to integrative with line of business apps
Good for basic calling requirementsGood for complex requirements
Regular monthly billingCovers regions outside of Microsoft Calling Plan
Per user billingAchieve feature parity with previous phone system

Direct Routing also introduces a wider range of device compatibility and an overall greater degree of customization and control—including price flexibility. 

Pro tip: Direct Routing can either be provided by a third party, or by the PSTN carrier.

For example, at Callroute, we provide both the PSTN service and integration capabilities. The latter option delivers faster integration and improved quality controls because back-end integrations can be pre-configured and the entire process is controlled by a single provider.

The bottom line: We should state upfront that Direct Routing has the potential to be the better solution, but not all Direct Routing solutions are the same.

In some cases, Calling Plan will be the better option. Check out these pros and cons of Microsoft Calling Plan:

Microsoft Calling Plan ProsMicrosoft Calling Plan Cons
Activate quicklyLimited changes
Access in Teams Admin CenterRestricted integration
Good for basic calling requirementsRestricted telephony features
Regular monthly billingExpensive when scaling
Per user billingLimited regions

Pro tip: You need a Microsoft Phone System license to enable Direct Routing. However, with Direct Routing, this is simply a prerequisite license, rather than the central control tool that it becomes with Microsoft Calling plan. For more information, check out the two blogs below.  

Suggested Reading: For more information on the pros and cons and price comparisons of in-house Microsoft calling options, check out our two blogs: 

How Microsoft Teams Direct Routing changes collaboration 

For the overwhelming majority of teams, Direct Routing is the smartest and most outcome-driven option. Unlike the alternatives, Direct Routing lets you go above and beyond merely placing calls with Teams.

It enables you to replace your entire business phone system with Teams by integrating a fully-capable phone system within Teams. This is what we mean when we talk about delivering real unified communications. 

As you’ve probably worked out, unified communications is exactly what it sounds like—running all communication channels through a single platform.

With today’s employees spending 50% more of their time engaged in collaborative work, it’s essential to deploy tech tools that allow teams to work together seamlessly.

This is especially vital for businesses with a remote and distributed workforce. 50% of organizations have also reported the need for increased collaboration.

Why migrate from multiple tools to just one?

Using a single, unified communications platform for all of your business needs can help:

  • Boost productivity and efficiency
  • Promote better internal communication
  • Simplify collaboration with outside stakeholders 

We already know that Microsoft Teams is the best choice for most businesses looking for an all-in-one platform.

Unifying your communication through Teams brings benefits like: 

Ease of access

An all-in-one system means everyone has easy access to what they need, as everything related to your workforce is kept in the same virtual space. Unifying your communications with Direct Routing also means a single phone number, no matter where you are.

Centralization of records and information

For employees, this means less time wasted jumping between applications and trying to keep up with what’s happening on each one. When conversations, meetings, and shared files are available within a single shared user interface, productivity will naturally increase as a result of fewer mixups, missed messages, and ‘sorry, can you resend the file?’ requests. With Direct Routing and Teams, this even extends to external collaboration.  

Federated presence

This refers to the ‘status’ symbols that indicate whether or not you are available. Ensuring that each team member’s status is present (and consistent) across every communication channel boosts internal communication and transparency. In simple terms, a federated presence means employees won’t be interrupted when they’re on an important call with a client or presenting in a meeting. 

More efficient workflows

Ultimately, unifying your communications is about making your workflows more efficient. Microsoft Teams was designed to enable flexible working, with access to tools from whatever device your employees are working from. Teams also offers better communication options, with instant messaging, video, and voice. Using Teams as an ‘all-in-one’ suite enables your business to continue without interruption, no matter where in the world your team is working.

Shifting your communications to a single platform—Microsoft Teams— is an essential step to delivering the business outcomes you want in the new normal and beyond. For the majority of businesses, this means using Teams to its full potential by harnessing the unifying power of Direct Routing.

How to set up Microsoft Teams Direct Routing today 

So what’s the best way to set up routing for Microsoft Teams?

You need a Phone System license. If you have the E5 version of Microsoft 365, that license comes standard. Otherwise, you will need to buy it separately.

The next step is to find a provider that can deliver a sophisticated Direct Routing solution capable of meeting your business requirements.

For this, you have two options:

  • Stand-alone Direct Routing: The traditional choice is a managed service provider able to integrate your existing PSTN carrier with Teams. This requires communication across multiple stakeholders, slowing down and complicating the process. 
  • Integrated Direct Routing: The simpler option is to find a PSTN carrier able to deliver Direct Routing themselves. 

At Callroute, we provide an integrated Direct Routing option.

Suggested reading: 5 Ways Callroute Improves Microsoft Teams.

What makes Direct Routing the better choice (most of the time)?

Every Direct Routing solution will be unique to the provider and integration.

A lot of Direct Routing solutions are let down by slow integration times—often up to seven days—and inflexible pricing with long-term contracts reminiscent of traditional telephony.

But neither of these problems is inherent to Direct Routing, and finding the right provider can remove them entirely.

With Callroute for Direct Routing, you get:

  1. Number porting: Keep your existing phone numbers with a fully managed number porting service
  2. New numbers: 10m+ numbers available from all around the world.
  3. On-demand support: 24/7 customer support, migration, and regular maintenance.

There’s no question that unified communications is essential to the future of business. The best option for a streamlined strategy is Direct Routing, which gives you the advantage of sophisticated telephony directly from Teams.

With Callroute, you can harness the power of Direct Routing, unify your phone system, simplify workflows and future-proof your calling capabilities in a matter of minutes.

To learn more about how Direct Routing can benefit your team, book a free 30-mins demo here.

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