August 11, 2020

Reducing Microsoft Teams Complexity Through UCaaS Integration

By Admin

Though the Microsoft Teams platform has been helping organizations to collaborate and stay connected during the current crisis, its reliance on PowerShell and a complex set of underlying rules can make configuring and deploying Teams a complicated and frustrating endeavor. However, integration with a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution with easy configuration can simplify matters, and expand your range of options.

 

The Microsoft Teams Configuration Conundrum

 

On the one hand, with its Teams offering, Microsoft is looking to provide users with a single location for their conversations, contacts, and content. Microsoft Teams aims to harness the power of modern cloud infrastructure to create enhanced experiences for meetings and calling, including preparation, delivery, and follow-up.

 

But in order for users to effectively achieve this ideal, they need to configure their Microsoft Teams deployment correctly. The Teams environment and its underlying works constitute a very complex set up — one which in the initial phases may require organizations to upgrade their own infrastructure and internal policies. Then there are the issues of training workers to use the platform, change management, and system administration.

 

The fact that Microsoft takes a “hands off” approach to technical support and customer service delivery means that users have to rely on the company’s online databases and their own skill and initiative, in order to troubleshoot problems, and fine tune what can be a highly complex configuration process.

 

Complexity In Action

 

As an illustration of some of the complexity involved in Teams configuration, here’s an example taken from Microsoft’s own recommendations for assigning Teams add-on licenses to your users — either for individual users, or for large sets of users in bulk. Add-on licenses are licenses that apply to specific Teams features such as Audio Conferencing, Phone System, and Calling Plans.

 

In order to manage licenses in Microsoft Teams, you first have to be a Global admin or User management administrator. To assign licenses to users in your organization, you have the option of using either the Microsoft 365 admin center, or PowerShell. And as an administrator, you’ll need to review a number of issues, before even getting started. These considerations include:

 

  • Users of on-premises Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) connectivity for hybrid users only need to assign a Phone System license, and should not assign a Calling Plan license.
  • It can take up to 24 hours for a user to be assigned a Calling Plan after you assign a license, due to the latency between Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams.
  • Even with users who have Enterprise E5 licenses, you still need to assign Communications Credits licenses to them, if they wish to make or receive calls from the PSTN.
  • After assigning Calling Plan or Communication Credits licenses to your users, you’ll need to get a set of phone numbers for your organization, and then assign those numbers to your users.

 

Having sorted through all of this, administrators can then assign licenses on the Active users page of the Microsoft 365 admin center, or on the Licenses page (for small sets of up to 20 users at a time).The method you adopt depends on whether you want to manage product licenses for specific users, or user licenses for specific products.

 

PowerShell or group-based licensing in Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) come into play if you wish to assign licenses for a larger number of users. This typically involves scripting, and those scripts can run to several pages in length, which must be run from the Windows PowerShell command prompt.

 

Other Issues That Cause Concern

 

Besides configuration problems, there are a number of usability and implementation issues that Microsoft Teams users have been wrestling with since the platform’s emergence.

 

One of these is the side by side operation of Teams and its predecessor, Skype for Business, which occurs when organizations set their upgrade mode to “Islands” when making the transition to Microsoft Teams. This setting allows both platforms to work independently of each other, with some limited integration between the two. Problems can arise when for example instant messages from Teams chat end up in Skype, and users get confused not knowing which tool to use in communicating with each other.

 

Organizations that fail to migrate their user mailboxes to Exchange Online or set up a hybrid system before beginning to use Microsoft Teams tend to miss out on the functionality offered through connecting Teams with the Exchange mailbox. For example, the Calendar/Meetings app won’t show up in the client’s user interface, and the Planner tool won’t work.

 

Other issues may stem from a lack of understanding of how Microsoft Teams integrates with its own native Office 365 ecosystem, and with external applications. Users are often unaware that, besides the mainstream Microsoft apps, there’s a wide range of third party applications and services that integrate into Teams, enabling them to do their work without ever having to leave the platform.

 

How UCaaS Integration Can Simplify Matters

 

Microsoft Teams is a fully cloud-based solution, so via the internet, users also have access to big data processing, artificial intelligence, and a huge variety of online tools. Among these is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) which, among other things, can provide comprehensive features that significantly improve on the meeting and conference capabilities of Teams, and the platform’s implementation of general business communications.

 

A UCaaS platform will typically provide telecommunications functionality based on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), which makes available features like call recording, auto attendants, ring groups, hunt groups, welcome greetings, and international calls. In addition, a UCaaS solution will usually offer an easy to understand user interface with simple configuration options, backed by proactive technical support.

 

net2phone is a leading UCaaS provider whose solutions also include eFax, SMS/MMS Messaging, Live Chat, video conferencing, and user analytics. Basic Calling Plans include international calls as standard, and net2phone offers truly unlimited calling, rather than a bundle of minutes.

 

net2phone provides a native integration into Teams which gives the Teams user added capabilities, such as the ability to unbundle the Teams 1:1 offering and model after the call path seat / call path channel PRI / shared lines model.

 

What’s more, net2phone offers a simple and automated setup procedure, with a one click configuration (no Powershell!).

 

If you’d like to know more about how net2phone’s UCaaS integration can reduce the complexity of your Microsoft Teams deployment, reach out to us at net2phone!