Does your business want to add external business phone functionality to their Microsoft Teams workspace? Then you need to understand Microsoft Teams Direct Routing.
The popularity of Microsoft Teams has exploded in recent years, for good reason. It’s an incredible integration to add a collaborative, digital workspace for companies that already use the Office 365 suite of programs. As companies are realizing the benefits and efficiencies gained by adopting Microsoft Teams for internal communication, many are starting to wonder if it would be beneficial to merge their external business phone to the Teams platform as well.
Spoiler alert, it is. And it doesn’t have to be difficult to do. Consolidating your business phone into the communication application your organization is already using – Microsoft Teams – will improve productivity and collaboration. Using what is called Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, making business phone calls via Microsoft Teams is possible.
Let’s dive into what Direct Routing is, how it works, and why your business needs it.
- Microsoft Teams Direct Routing 101
- What About Microsoft Teams Calling Plans?
- How Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams Works
- Types of Direct Routing Solutions
- Benefits of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing
- The Clerk Direct Routing Solution
Microsoft Teams Direct Routing 101
Microsoft Teams is Microsoft’s unified communication platform that integrates with Office 365. Teams replaced Skype for Business, allowing users to collaborate directly within the Teams platform. The system works incredibly well for internal collaboration – i.e., for employees that are all part of the same Teams platform. But most companies are still relying on a separate telephony solution for external communication. Direct Routing is what allows organizations to integrate their external business phone with their internal Teams platform.
The term ‘direct routing’ actually refers to any process in which digital information is sent from one machine to another without passing through any intermediaries. What this means in the context of a Microsoft Teams business phone system is that direct routing enables organizations to add a business phone directly to the Teams workspace.
Microsoft allows the Microsoft Teams workspace to be manually configured for direct routing, meaning that companies have many options, including a do-it-yourself approach or third-party vendors. But Microsoft also has its own business phone solution for Teams, which we should explain first.
What About Microsoft Teams Calling Plans?
Before we move into more details on Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, we feel we should mention one other way to make calls from Teams: a Microsoft Calling Plan. Microsoft has its own PBX option that integrates easily with Teams, called a Microsoft Calling Plan. While the Microsoft Calling Plans are straightforward and easy to implement, they have drawbacks for companies looking to get the most out of their business phone.
There are three options, a domestic calling plan, an international calling plan, and a pay-as-you-go calling plan. With each plan, users in the same region share a pool of minutes. It can be expensive, and it isn’t available in every country, which can be limiting for global organizations. There is limited support and no advanced features (notably, no text messaging). It can also be difficult to port over an existing phone number.
Direct routing, once you get it set up, is the much preferable solution for organizations who want the best communication experience. It is flexible, customizable, and can offer much better features depending on your provider.
How Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams Works
Bear with us, you’ll need a quick vocabulary lesson first to really understand how direct routing works:
- PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network): This is the traditional circuit-switched telephone network – the wires, telephone poles, and other infrastructure that supports phone calls
- PBX (Private Branch Exchange): A private telephone network used internally within a company to make internal calls
- SBC (Session Border Controller): SBCs transfer data between private and public networks, while also providing security
- SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Trunking: Connecting Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), i.e., internet phone lines, to the PSTN
Direct routing for Microsoft Teams works by connecting a Teams account directly to the PSTN, using an SBC and SIP trunking. A third-party provider will act as your SBC and provide SIP trunking services.
Quick tip: To connect to the PSTN from Teams, you have to have the Microsoft Phone System enabled (its native PBX functionality). This feature, called the Teams Phone Standard License, is included with some licenses, such as E5. You may have to purchase it as an add-on if you have a different license, such as E3. You should check your company’s individual contract to see if this will create any additional costs.
Types of Direct Routing Solutions
While it is technically possible for a business to have their own in-house SBC, it’s a technically difficult and specific capability that is better outsourced. There are many third-party providers offering these services, each with different types of features and benefits.
Some solutions are very simple, basic access solutions that only provide SIP trunking. They enable external phone calls, but not any additional features, and require a connection to a separate SBC. This type of solution will quickly become more complicated and more expensive.
What you should look for are Direct Routing-as-a-Service solutions, which, just like other ‘aaS’ products, provide a full-service solution with ongoing support. With Direct Routing as a Service, your team can offload the technical difficulties and just enjoy the benefits of calling from within Microsoft Teams.
But even there, not all Direct Routing as a Service providers are the same. Some providers also have advanced PBX functionality, such as call transferring, auto attendants, call queues, and more. They may have more integrations and other features that help you get the most out of your phone system.
Benefits of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing
What can your business do with calling from inside Teams? As the world and the economy move faster and faster, with increasing globalization, effective communication is what sets businesses apart. So, if you use Microsoft Teams, consolidating your external phone lines to Teams is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have if you want to stay competitive.
When you consolidate communication, you gain efficiencies. Simple as that. It reduces program switching for employees (which is a huge time suck). It connects all your information in one place, for example, all customer contact information is in the same interface as making calls. It also creates one ‘source of truth’ for communication. Information won’t get lost or mistranslated when being manually transferred from one system to another. And it allows you to take advantage of all the benefits of Teams, a leading platform, and apply it to your phone system.
When you connect your business phone to Microsoft Teams, your business will start seeing improved productivity and happier employees.
The Clerk Routing Solution
Clerk is an advanced Direct-Routing-as-a-Service solution that integrates natively into Microsoft Teams for a seamless phone experience, both calls and texts.
With Clerk, you can make and receive audio calls from the Teams application. Clerk has voicemail, call transfer, multilevel auto attendants, call queues, group calling, live captions, transcriptions, and more. You can use an existing number or choose a new one.
Once installed, Clerk works behind the scenes to create an easy phone experience, for calling and messaging, within the Teams interface. Learn more about Clerk’s Microsoft Teams Phone solution.