Microsoft Teams is a chat-based internal communications and collaboration platform, complete with file sharing, online meetings and useful features for businesses. Microsoft developed a way to convert Teams into a business phone system by adding voice and PBX capabilities. There are two ways to do this: Microsoft Calling Plans and Direct Routing. But which is best?
First, let’s explain how calling in Microsoft Teams works. Teams supports the ability to make VoIP calls to other Teams users, to and from landlines and mobiles on the PSTN. What you need to start making phone calls and using call functionalities is PSTN connectivity, a phone number and phone system license.
To enable users to make and receive inbound and outbound phone calls, you have two options. The first is Microsoft Calling Plans where Microsoft provides a phone number to users and PSTN services. The second is Direct Routing where you connect your existing PSTN connectivity to Teams via a Session Border Controller and SIP Trunks.
Microsoft Calling Plans are offered by Microsoft on a per-user license. Calling Plans include phone numbers, a bundle of minutes and PSTN services. These plans are maintained by Microsoft via Office 365 with no additional PSTN carriers and they turn Teams into a ‘light-touch’ hosted PBX.
Microsoft offers Domestic and International Calling Plans. A Domestic Calling Plan is where licensed users call out to numbers located in a country or region where they’re assigned in Microsoft or Office 365. An International Calling Plan covers the same thing as the domestic plan but can also call out to international numbers and countries. Whichever plan you choose covers a certain number of minutes.
Calling Plans are managed by Microsoft, which can be both positive and negative. Microsoft is the provider of Teams with Calling Plans and since it’s within Office 365, there’s a top-level of security, services and support. However, many organisations prefer to choose their own third-party carrier instead of Microsoft due to other providers’ flexibility and costs.
Microsoft Calling Plans are sold per plan and per country. Microsoft offers these plans in 10 countries but hasn’t added a country since 2018. This is restrictive for many businesses who aren’t included in the country list.
In addition to Calling Plans only being available in select countries, they can be quite expensive and restrictive. For example, the Domestic Calling Plan starts at $12 per user per month and the International Calling Plan is $24 per user per month. The second and more popular option is Direct Routing.
Direct Routing routes Teams to the PSTN using an SBC and SIP Trunks. It allows you to connect Teams to a range of telephony providers. Direct Routing is designed to convert Teams into a business PBX, which makes your business telephony stronger, easier and unifies your communications. Direct Routing is an attractive option to many businesses due to its flexibility and costs.
Direct Routing is a very flexible and supportive service. With Direct Routing, you can choose your own telephony provider while retaining a verified integration with the Teams platform. You can choose a range of providers which give you different levels of support, costs and features in addition to the Teams software. If you’ve already entered in a contract with a provider, you can move to Teams and stay in your existing contract, enabling you to mix and match your chosen applications.
Direct Routing is a more cost-effective option than Calling Plans. It allows you to take advantage of cheaper call rates and per user licenses. With Gradwell, we help you source everything you need to get started with Direct Routing, including licenses, SBCs and SIP Trunks.
Number porting with Calling Plans can be difficult, confusing and more time-consuming than it’s worth. On the other hand, telecom providers are more experienced with number porting and provisioning. It’s a simple process that your third-party carrier takes care of for you when you choose them to look after your Direct Routing process. This makes the transition to Direct Routing quicker and easier.
By converting Teams into your PBX via Direct Routing, you can take advantage of voice calls and traditional call features. When you add voice and calling functionalities to Teams, you unlock an extensive variety of PBX features. These features include call transfer, holding, queues, routing, auto-attendant, simultaneous ringing, speed dial, voicemail, Microsoft Meeting Rooms and more.
In comparison to Calling Plans – which are restricted to a certain number of countries – all countries are covered by Direct Routing.