Microsoft Teams with Voice Calling is Transforming the way Businesses Communicate
Oct 12, 2020
For decades, people have asked for a product that collects all of the various communications that occur on any given day into a single, unified interface. Emails, text chats, phone calls, voicemails, and shared documents have traditionally been siloed into individual applications or even separate systems and networks. A few web-based services have gotten close, but the interfaces tended to be clunky and subject to seemingly random slow downs which frustrates users and hinders adoption. Lack of calendar integration and limited platform support further frustrated users.
Since its introduction just a few years ago, Microsoft Teams has evolved from an internal-only chat and conferencing add-on for Microsoft 365 customers to a full-fledged multi-media communication platform offering text chat, audio and video teleconferencing and, most recently, domestic and international calling. With a cohesive and easy to understand end-user interface in the form of the Team desktops, mobile apps, and web apps, as well as heavily-customized hardware devices such as phones and conferencing equipment, anyone who has used the Teams app can now place and answer calls wherever they have an internet connection.
Not only is the end-user treated to a familiar and easy-to-navigate interface, the administrative tools are also cohesive and well-designed. Teams-Certified engineers and technicians have extensive resources available for building out new Teams Voice deployments leveraging a variety of end-point options, including physical handsets, mobile apps and full desktop applications.
Further, even if a site lacks sufficient bandwidth or reliable internet connectivity for voice calling, third party solutions exist to enable organizations to utilize traditional transports such as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) analog lines or digital services such as T-1 or ISDN circuits. In this scenario, voice calls are routed over the telephone network, while other data rides on whatever connectivity is available. Similar options exist that enable integration of existing phone systems and call center equipment seamlessly with Team Voice.
Now, imagine being faced with an aging phone switch that has failed or is on the verge of failure without a clear plan to replace it. In years past, designing and deploying a replacement phone system was complex, expensive, and time-consuming, while training users on the functionality and interface was frustrating and demoralizing for both internal and external users, customers, and vendors. Employees struggled with new procedures while callers experienced longer handling times and more frequent interruptions or disconnects.
The simplest (and, possibly, most versatile) solutions could be little more than a reasonable quality USB headset plugged into a desktop or laptop computer or a Bluetooth headset paired to a mobile phone with the Teams application handling all the calling and conferencing needs. Users who prefer physical controls in a traditional office environment can opt for a physical desk phone, many of which have a Teams-centric user interface and some go so far as to include hardware for video conferencing. On the horizon are phones which support expansion modules which bring the traditional “side-car” into the 21st century.
Should the worst occur, such as a complete phone system hardware failure, a new Teams Voice deployment can be delivered in hours, not days or weeks. As most small business deployments are achieved almost completely via a cloud-based management system and the Teams app runs on many different platforms, including Windows, Macs, Linux (.deb and .rpm packages), iOS and Android, as well as having full feature support in Microsoft’s Edge and Google’s Chrome browsers, nearly every possible user scenario has a potential solution. As long as the user can connect some sort of headset (Bluetooth and USB are the most common) for audio and, if desired, a webcam for video conferencing, they can be logged into Teams and back to work in only a few minutes.
While traditional phones systems are either limited in their support for off-premise use or offer no options at all for remote workers, Microsoft Teams is engineered from the ground up for network-based communications. Users can log into their Teams accounts and enjoy excellent-quality voice conversations over nearly any internet connection with a consistent experience for everyone, regardless of an individual’s specific location. This means that productivity potential is realized for everyone, regardless of their role or location.
When many organizations were struggling to cope with the shift to work-from-home, Teams users did not have to learn how to use new tools or struggle with stop-gap workarounds to stay connected and productive. They simply went home, connected their home broadband internet connections, and picked up where the left off. Calls continued to be delivered to their extensions, they continued to place calls as they had before, and information continued to flow, much as it had the day before.
Microsoft Teams Voice is by no means the first player in the VoIP or web conferencing arena. However, Teams is highly integrated into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, offers extensive platform support and provides outstanding audio and video performance with, to date, excellent service uptime. It scaled rapidly and nearly seamlessly during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic with new features and performance improvements being delivered to users at an impressively rapid pace. Regardless of what “normal” looks like in the coming weeks, months and years, Microsoft Teams is positioned to be a market leader for unified communications for organizations of all sizes.