The increase in home working over the past 18 months has made companies look more closely at collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams.
Teams is a robust cloud-based software suite that allows users to schedule on-the-spot meetings, make calls both inside and outside the organisation, send instant messages and much more. Because Teams integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft 365 applications, it is easy for users to collaborate, share documents and stay organised. Once you start using Teams, you will wonder how you ever managed without it!
Microsoft Teams phone system
The natural progression from using Teams as a collaboration suite is to expand the platform to replace your legacy phone system. But is Teams mature enough to replace your traditional phone system?
Can Microsoft Teams be used as a phone system?
The short answer is YES. You can configure Teams to manage both incoming and outgoing calls, so Microsoft Teams is more than capable of replacing a standard IP phone system.
But to use Teams in this way, you may need to make changes to your incoming phone lines because Microsoft Teams uses the SIP protocol, which is not compatible with legacy ISDN lines.
What is SIP?
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is designed to transfer data for VoIP communication. Think of it like HTTP for web pages; it simply provides a set of rules (protocols) for transmitting voice data along a cable.
You will often see SIP referred to as SIP trunking. The trunking part refers to the number of phone lines shared between users. Because a single cable can handle several phone calls simultaneously, individual SIP lines are bundled together as trunks.
With SIP, each line is called a channel because it's not a physical line. You can have as many channels as you need. The only limiting factor is the size of your internet connection.
SIP channels are available from all major telecoms providers and even Microsoft themselves. These are relatively cheap compared to ISDN. The cost can be as little as £10 per month per channel, with discounts available for block purchases.
How to configure Teams for incoming calls
Once you have SIP trunking installed, it's a relatively simple process to set Teams up to handle incoming and outgoing calls. If you have some PowerShell experience, you can do this yourself. If not, any good telecoms provider can do it for you.
Can Teams be used to replace all types of phone systems?
Yes and no, Teams is an easy to use phone system that offers enough functionality to replace a standard IP phone system for most small businesses.
However, if you have more sophisticated needs, such as call grouping, routing, and recording, Microsoft Teams cannot provide this functionally out of the box. Teams is still a relatively new platform with new features added all the time.
How do Microsoft Teams phones work?
Teams is a fully integrated IP phone system that allows you to make and receive calls, send instant messages and provide status updates on your smartphone, laptop, desktop, or via a traditional handset.
But the main advantage of Teams is the ability to connect the platform to more than 1000 other apps to aid collaboration. Popular apps include MS Outlook, MS Word, Adobe CC, GitHub, Trello, ServiceNow and Twitter.
To use the platform, you will need to install the Teams app on any device you want to use it on. Once installed, the app provides you with a softphone that works like any other phone system, providing you with standard phone capabilities such as:
- Conference calling
- Call forwarding
- Call queuing
- Hold music
- Voice mail
You can use the device's built-in microphone to make and receive calls, but this is impractical in a business setting because everyone else will be able to hear the conversation; this can be solved by adding a Teams compatible headset.
Alternatively, you can install a Teams compatible IP handset. The handsets will provide the same functionality and integrations as the softphone, but it looks and works the same as a traditional desk phone.
What phones can I use Microsoft Teams on?
You can install the Microsoft Teams app on any MS, IOS or Android smartphone. The app will provide you with all the features of Teams in the palm of your hand.
Alternatively, you can install one of the many compatible third party IP handsets available. There are two options here; Certified Microsoft Teams phones and Microsoft Teams compatible phones. Let's look at these two options in more detail.
Certified Microsoft Teams phones
These phones are designed specifically for use with Microsoft Teams. They allow users to access all of the features of the platform via the handset. Certified Teams phones are available as either desk or conference phones.
Most Teams certified handsets feature a large LCD screen that allows users to easily access Teams features such as status updates, contacts, collaboration tools and third-party apps.
The following Microsoft Certified Teams phones are available:
- Lenovo ThinkSmart View
- Yealink MP56 for Microsoft Teams
- Yealink T58A
- Yealink MP56
- Yealink MP58
- Poly CCX 400
- Poly CCX 500
- Poly CCX 600
- AudioCodes C435HD
- AudioCodes C448HD
- AudioCodes C470HD
- Microsoft Teams compatible phones
If you already have a SIP phone that is not specifically designed for use with Microsoft Teams, you may still be able to use this handset to make and receive calls through the Teams platform.
However, you will not have access to the full suite of applications like you do with a Certified Teams phone. Not having the full application suite will somewhat limit your use of the platform, so if cost is not an issue, it is worth using Certified Microsoft Teams handsets.
Microsoft Teams is a powerful software application that can transform your business communications. The platform offers improved collaboration and communication tools, seamless integration with other apps, such as Outlook, Word and OneNote, and allows users to stay connected anytime, anywhere.
In short, Microsoft Teams provides small and mid-size businesses access to a robust suite of integrated communication tools that were previously only available to enterprise-level organisations. So, if you want to transform the way your business communicates, Microsoft Teams is an excellent place to start.