How to use Microsoft Teams as a VoIP phone system

If you have used Microsoft Teams, you might be thinking, what’s this all about? Teams already gives you a voice, as well as a video connection. Yes, it does do that – but that’s just about as far as you can go with the basic version of Teams – which is by the way, free to download and try for anyone.

If you want to do serious VoIP with Teams – to make and receive calls and make use of the all the functionality that is provided by your hosted or cloud-based voice service – you need a whole lot more.

There are various options available and as this is a highly competitive part of the market right now, more functionality and different options are being made available all the time. If you like the idea of using Microsoft Teams as the central app for all your telephony and collaboration, but you’re not entirely sure what you might need or in which direction to head, we’d recommend talking to an expert solutions provider. But hopefully, reading this short article will give you a good start and a basic understanding of how it all works.

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What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration application that allows groups of workers to connect, communicate and work together remotely. With Teams you can create groups, share files, work on documents and a whole lot more. If you have Teams on your PC or laptop, you can – in theory – call up and collaborate with anyone else that has the app on their system.

Any business that is serious about using Teams for collaboration will need a proper license for Teams. This will give workers added tools and collaboration capabilities, so that they can be as productive as possible while working at home or remotely. It will also give them added functionality and integration with other Microsoft applications, such as Microsoft 365.

If that business wants to use Teams as the central point of their telephony will need to go a step further and deploy additional voice extensions or a direct routing solution.

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Microsoft Teams and your telephony system

First of all, it’s important to understand that if you want to make Teams the centre-piece of your telephony, you will need some kind of call plan. These can be obtained from Microsoft partners. But if you already have a VoIP service, you will want to make use of that, you’ll need another piece of software, called Teams Direct Routing.

This will enable you to link-up your existing VoIP system with Teams, so they will work together. It will allow you to give users all the benefits of both Microsoft Teams and access to all the features of your VoIP service as well.

Teams Direct Routing solutions are provided by third-party suppliers. There are several on the market and your VoIP services provider should be able to recommend applications that can be used with its services.

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How to set up Microsoft Teams on VoIP hardware

With Teams, the whole point really is that workers can collaborate and communicate using their everyday PC or laptop – so they will just keep using their own devices as normal. Similarly, if you have users who are using VoIP handsets or IP desk phones, they should be able to go on using them as they would normally. However, they won’t have access to all the capabilities of Teams through those comparatively basic devices, so this is something you need to think about.

Similarly, if you want employees to use their tablets, laptops, and desktops as telephony devices, they may need special headsets. There are plenty of great options available and your VoIP services supplier or Microsoft partner ought to be able to make recommendations here.

Aside from that, you don’t need any new hardware. All the clever stuff with Teams and voice happens in the background, with software. Like VoIP services, Teams is a cloud-based service – all you need on your desktop PC system or laptop is the client portion of the program.

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What’s best for small businesses?

For most small businesses, the standard license add-on for Microsoft Teams – called Microsoft Business Voice – will be fine. They will give you all the basic functionality you need, such as call forwarding, simple call queuing and auto attendant features and allow users to make and take calls through Teams using your usual business phone number.

It will cost a little extra per month, but doesn’t everything? And if you want to make Teams the focal point of your telephony, it’s the least you’ll need.

There is a standard call plan includes in Microsoft Business Voice that gives you 1200 minutes per user to local or national numbers and 600 minutes per user of international calls. The volumes can all be totalled up and used collectively, so if there are some people who make more calls than others, it can even things out.

Alternatively, you can obtain a call plan from other third parties. These might give you more features and flexibility but might also mean you need to look at direct routing options, which could add further cost.

You do need to ask your provider or reseller about Microsoft Business Voice, as it is an add-on to the core business licenses – for Microsoft 365 Business (Basic and Standard editions are available) and Office 365 E3 (which also comes with added security functions). As a general rule the former are aimed at SMBs (250 users or fewer), the latter at mid-sized and larger organisations.

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What’s best for large businesses?

For larger and mid-sized businesses that have scores of users, a few departments, and perhaps various locations as well, Teams Direct Routing is the best option. This will give you all the advanced functionality and capabilities of a business VoIP service and the silky-smooth features and experience of Microsoft Teams, so really you get the best of both worlds.

It’s not the cheapest option of course, and you may be able to manage with the more basic Microsoft Phone System, but a direct routing solution will be the best option for most large organisations.

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