In light of the movement restrictions imposed by the ongoing pandemic, and the transformation of working practices that’s taking place as a result, organizations across the globe are turning to platforms like Microsoft Teams and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), for their collaboration, teamwork, and communication needs.
Telephony still plays a central role in business communications. However, users often find navigating their way through the Microsoft Teams calling options and pricing structures a confusing affair. That’s where integrating Microsoft Teams with a comprehensive UCaaS solution can make the picture much clearer, while expanding your global reach.
What Microsoft Teams Voice Features Have To Offer
The Microsoft platform offers Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP calls from one Teams client to another, via its Phone System with Microsoft Calling Plans or Direct Routing for PSTN services. This incorporates features like call answering and initiating (by name and number) with integrated dial pad, call holding, history, forwarding, and simultaneous ringing.
Features that are currently lacking (but may be addressed in future updates) include Dynamic 911, which automatically routes emergency services calls to a public safety answering point (PSAP) call center operated by the local government, based on the caller’s current location, and interoperability between Teams and the consumer level Skype app. This would enable users of the two app platforms to communicate via both chat and calling.
Negotiating The Price Maze
There’s really no simple answer to the question, “How much does a Microsoft Teams phone system cost?”
Under the current Microsoft Teams pricing mechanism, an organization with an E3 license has to budget on paying $8 per internal user for the Phone System feature. An additional $4 per month per user is required for the Conferencing Feature, bringing the running total to $12 per month per user. Ancillary equipment such as kitchen or common room phones attract a charge of another $8 per month per phone.
However, a Microsoft Teams Calling Plan (which brings unlimited calling within the United States) costs another $12 per month per user. An international Calling Plan bumps the price up to approximately $24 per user per month
Enterprises with an E5 license get the Phone System and Conferencing features included, but not the Calling Plan feature per user. So organizations in this position must either pay $12 per month or $24 per month per user, in order to get a dial tone.
How UCaaS Integration Expands Your Calling Options
Microsoft Teams Calling puts its main focus on compatibility with Office 365, and integrates with all the tools from that productivity suite that many businesses require. This is especially true for small offices that don’t have complex phone system requirements. Larger organizations, or enterprises with more complicated communications demands, may need something more.
Unified Communications as a Service or UCaaS platforms typically base their phone systems on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), delivered via a hosted or cloud PBX model. This makes them ideal for any business which relies on call centers, ACD Groups, or advanced calling vectors, or which requires the benefits of a flexible and fully featured phone system.
For organizations at all levels, Microsoft Teams is typically employed as an internal communications tool. A UCaaS platform with cloud PBX can make those communications capabilities external, thereby extending the functionality of the platform.
At a basic level, while Microsoft Teams assembles Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneDrive in a single place, more complex functions are not immediately available within the platform. For example, information shared during conferences or other important verbal exchanges can’t be easily archived, since call recording isn’t a standard feature, as it is with a VoIP-based UCaaS solution. The chat, video conferencing, and telephone capabilities of UCaaS also contribute to rounding out your communications and collaboration potential.
While Teams requires an Office 365 / Microsoft 365 license, a Unified Communications as a Service platform with hosted PBX lets you use any phone that you choose — whether that be a desktop unit, softphone, or mobile device. This means that with a UCaaS solution, you can use Microsoft Teams as a softphone, with your own business line.
We’ve already seen how the pricing structure for Microsoft Teams can introduce complexity and additional costs to a deployment. As an added complication, organizations wishing to implement Direct Routing with MS may need session border controllers (SBCs) and gateway servers, along with connectivity directly into Microsoft Azure. But using Teams in conjunction with a UCaaS platform can reduce both costs and complexity.
Finally, since Microsoft takes a “hands off” approach to customer service, Teams users must rely on Microsoft’s online databases and their own initiative, for technical support. This is not the case with a reliable UCaaS provider, who will typically be available 24/7/365, with proactive support and assistance.
net2phone offers a native integration into Microsoft Teams, which gives the Teams user added capabilities. These include a calling plan with International calls, which provides truly unlimited calling rather than a set allocation of minutes. Subscribers can unbundle the Teams 1:1 offering and model after the call path seat / call path channel PRI / shared lines model.
The net2phone Cloud PBX provides a comprehensive set of features such as auto attendants, ring groups, hunt groups, welcome greetings, call recording, eFax, SMS / MMS Messaging, Live Chat, video conferencing, and user analytics. All of these features can be automated and configured with a single click.
If you’d like to know more about how net2phone’s UCaaS integration can enhance your Microsoft Teams calling experience, reach out to us at net2phone!