Insider Perspective: Yes or No for Microsoft Teams Phone?

A personal review by Paradise Computing's MD, Jonathon Berg

Yes or No for Microsoft Teams Phone?

We have been using Microsoft Teams since 2019. Luckily we started using it around six months before the pandemic hit, meaning we had already worked our way through any common teething issues like providing staff with sufficient quality equipment to ensure our headsets and webcams were up to the task. We also learned which channel to use for different types of communication, posting messages in ‘Chat’ or departmental ‘Teams’, depending on the formality and audience required.

Crucially, we also switched our telephone system to Microsoft Teams Phone for our business voice and video calls, a cloud-based solution that has proved to be a real benefit.

What is ‘Teams Phone’?

Teams Phone replaces a traditional PABX or managed phone service, doing away with desktop phones altogether. Initially we thought we needed to replace desktop phone units with Teams-compatible phones, and we did try a few, but we discovered they simply were not needed – using our existing computer and/or mobile devices worked perfectly well.

What is required in terms of equipment and software?

This is the first advantage. Only a Microsoft Teams phone licence is required. That is it. No local equipment, no handsets, no other licences. Once active, simply use the Teams app on your device to make and receive calls. The other party doesn’t know you are using your computer, to them you are using a normal handset phone – and, no, it isn’t necessary to use the video function.

What technology is Teams Phone based on?

It is true ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ (VOIP), meaning no telephone lines into a building are required. The system only uses an internet connection, which has no impact to the telephone user at either end of a call. This can however have an impact on internet connection speed, as lots of voice conversations going on at once will use up a lot of available bandwidth. However, with modern bandwidth availability, it is unlikely to be a problem outside of rural locations (or industrial estates!). For example, we are a company of around 20 staff all sharing a single 1Gb internet connection and we don’t see any noticeable impact.

How much does Teams Phone cost?

This can be misleading. On the face of it, Team Phone seems quite expensive at between £7 and £10 per user per month (£150 per month for our 20 accounts) but this isn’t as much as it seems, and is actually already included with some Teams licence plans like E5 and A5. A Calling Plan is also required – either domestic only (i.e. the Microsoft local area) or Domestic and International – measured in minutes per month. Finally, there is an option to add conferencing, which replaces systems like PowWowNow and other dial-in conferencing systems.

Then the savings cut in. To begin with there are no occasional expenses to purchase new or replacement handsets, or duplicate handsets for staff working remotely – which cost at least £50 each. Then there is no ‘line rental’ – the item that appears on traditional telephone system bills for no very good reason. Then add to this the fact there is no periodic replacement or upgrade charge on the telephone system itself. So overall my opinion, as a business owner and therefore conscious of totals cost of ownership, the Teams Phone system is very good value for money.

Does Teams Telephone do everything a traditional phone system does?

I believe so, yes. It has hunt groups, automatic forwarding, voicemail, night service and all the usual bells and whistles. We haven’t identified anything we expect to be there that isn’t.  Except there is no box on the wall.

Are there problems with it?

In the first month or so we had the normal issues associated with any new phone system – staff had to learn how to transfer calls, some didn’t like not having a traditional handset to hold and we experienced some sound quality issues. However, after those first few items were resolved, nothing has come along as a long-term irritation. It really is as good as it claims.

Are there other advantages?

We find a growing number of advantages over time. For example, now we live in an age of hot-desking and frequent moving, it is a relief not to be bothered with extension numbers anymore – the identity of a person moves around with their Windows login and this removes a layer of complexity – so no need to ask “which extension is Sally on?” as the call can simply be transferred to “Sally” and it will find her wherever she is and on whatever device she is using. It doesn’t matter if she is in the office or at home – the call will find her wherever she is, so again there is a simplification. And to extend on that further, Teams has a mobile application – for Android and Apple, so if Sally isn’t at home or in the office, the system will ring her mobile, provided she hasn’t set it to ‘not disturb’, so staff can be universally available. That might be a good thing or not depending on your attitude, but it is certainly good technology and crucial for the modern workplace and creating a business without boundaries.

There are also features available that a normal telephone system may not provide. An obvious one is to record calls on demand – simply click the ‘Start Recording’ and the system will record a conversation and save it to a folder for future reference.  This is often an additional cost for many phone systems, but included in Teams.

Although Teams Phone mimics a traditional phone system, it offers all the Teams features as well, so if the other party on the call has Teams at their end as well, the options to turn on video, share screens and so on all become available.

If it is so good, why isn’t it more popular?

This is the best question of all. I don’t know, but I can guess. The issue is that Teams Phone is a Microsoft Subscription service requiring very little set up and no maintenance at all – so there isn’t any money in it for the supplier. Traditional telephony companies would struggle to make any money out of selling the product – so they don’t. But if your company already uses Teams then the next time you consider a telephone system renewal, I strongly recommend you look at Teams Phone – I doubt you will regret it.

To look at your options for agile working and find out more about Teams and Teams Phone, please call Paradise Computing on 01604 655900 for an informal chat or send us a message using our online contact form.

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