Remote working has been on the rise for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. A recent survey conducted by 451 Research found that 67% of organizations expect remote working policies to remain in place either permanently or for the long term. Many large international companies are considering closing some of their office locations and shifting to a permanent remote working model. All of this strengthens the case for investing in technology to support the more dispersed workforces that businesses expect to be managing in future.
The growth of Microsoft Teams as a cloud telephony solution
The collaboration tool that has seen the most rapid increase in adoption is Microsoft Teams. According to Microsoft itself, the total number of daily active users increased by over 70% to 75 million over a two-month period following lockdown. Currently, it is used mainly for internal collaboration, with few businesses using Teams for external communication. However, this is expected to change over the next two years.
Microsoft’s Phone System turns Teams into a full enterprise telephony solution. Users can make and receive external calls directly from Teams on any device from anywhere in the world. Microsoft’s own Calling Plans offer a quick and easy way for smaller companies to connect to the PSTN network, but larger organizations typically use a third-party managed service provider for connectivity. This approach, called ‘Direct Routing’, offers greater flexibility, wider geographic coverage, lower rates and increased levels of support. Industry analysts forecast that by 2022, as many as 90% of large enterprises using Teams for telephony will use Direct Routing for PSTN connectivity.
Cloud telephony benefits for IT teams and users
While large enterprises typically maintain a consistent set of IT solutions for all users globally, telephony is often the exception. It’s common to find a disparate range of PBX equipment across offices, and a different carrier in each region. By moving telephony into the cloud, businesses can standardize their approach across all offices, leading to reduced complexity and cost, and improved control, flexibility and compliance. Specific benefits include:
- A single telephony platform with a consistent experience for all users globally -- improving compliance and reliability, and allowing support to be centralized
- On-premises PBX equipment is eliminated -- reducing complexity and cost by moving infrastructure into the cloud
- Local carriers can be replaced with a single managed service provider -- reducing the number of vendor relationships and creating economies of scale
- No charges for internal calls between global offices or call forwarding -- because these calls stay on-net, rather than breaking out to the PSTN network
- Users can be added, removed and managed centrally -- increasing flexibility and security, and creating global data on usage and cost
By using Teams for voice calling, users are able to communicate and collaborate more effectively when working remotely. Specific benefits include:
- Making and receiving voice calls on any Teams-enabled device from anywhere -- this gives users the flexibility to stay connected while working from home, on the move, or hot-desking, for example
- A consistent user experience for external and internal communications -- external phone calls can be made from the same Teams interface used for chat, internal meetings, file-sharing and other cloud services
- Existing direct-dial phone numbers can be retained -- with number porting permitted in most major markets, users can keep their existing business number when they move their voice calling to Teams
Setting up Direct Routing is simpler with a managed service provider
Rolling out cloud telephony across large enterprises can be a complex process because telephony is business-critical and organizations need to migrate from a disparate mix of legacy solutions. Using a managed service provider, with deep expertise in Microsoft voice solutions and the global reach to support a multinational organization, typically means that the transition can happen faster, with less risk, and with a lower resource requirement on the IT team
To learn more, read LoopUp’s whitepaper “Adding cloud telephony to Microsoft Teams”, which takes readers through the basics and the benefits. Topics include:
- What is cloud telephony?
- What are the benefits for users and businesses?
- How does an organization implement cloud telephony for Microsoft Teams?
Rob Jardine is Chief Marketing Officer at LoopUp, the cloud communications provider.