Make Microsoft Teams your Phone System

Gamma Communications have officially launched Teams Direct Routing, allowing organisations which use Microsoft 365 to make Microsoft Teams your phone system.

Teams Direct Routing is a simple monthly bolt-on to Teams-enabled Microsoft 365 licenses, that allows the user to make or accept normal voice calls via the UK phone network.

But what about the actual… phone? Yes, end users can use either the Teams mobile app for their smartphone on iOS/Android, or their PC/Mac – however hardware manufacturers are surprisingly close behind: with Poly and others announcing hardware officially approved to operate a Microsoft Teams based phone system.

teams phones

Poly CCX Series Teams Phone Handsets

This makes Microsoft Teams a compelling choice as a full-business phone system, with call-routing, voicemail and many the other features commonly associated with work phones – available ‘through’ Teams.

Each user’s overall license package comprises three parts: two Microsoft elements including the user’s Microsoft 365 license that includes Teams, the ‘Phone system’ (PBX) bolt-on, and one from Gamma – the Teams Direct Routing Bolt-on itself.

teams phone system licensing

All this is backed by the remote-working flexibility of Microsoft 365’s cloud infrastructure and Trust Centre – better yet, the monthly cost of extending Teams in this way is a tiny fraction of the upfront cost of buying a traditional business phone system and unifies the user’s other key work communication tool (email) under a single account, calendar, and set of security permissions.

With a user-base of over 70 million daily active Teams users, Teams itself is a workplace juggernaut given extra momentum by the important need for home-working driven by Covid-19. Although Microsoft themselves also offer direct routing call plans that integrate with Microsoft Teams, these do not include the numerous extra functions extensively supported by telecommunications suppliers, such as flexible number porting, extra control over redundancy and business continuity plans, and other related considerations needed to better ‘manage’ an organisation’s communications.

Gamma, whose popular Horizon system operates nearly half a million UK business phone seats, are also giving every sign that Teams Direct Routing will also be the more cost-effective choice when compared to Microsoft’s own call plans.

Teams Direct Routing is likely to prove an extremely popular choice for companies seeking to modernise, and ‘get the most’ out of Teams. Take our advice: this one is going to be big.

 

For more information on Microsoft 365 and Teams, click here.

For more information on Microsoft 365 licensing, click here.

For more information on how Microsoft Teams can be deployed as a full phone system, please contact our team today.


Phone Systems from Lineal: Hall of Fame

Perhaps no industry moves faster than the world of telecoms, with traditional business PBX phone systems looking increasingly ancient on the wall.

At Lineal we’ve been impressed at just how quickly technology has advanced to support far greater user mobility, more flexible deployments, wider integration and dramatically lower costs.

Businesses (and other organisations) have more choices open to them than ever before – we look at 3 of our favourite options that make much more sense than struggling on indefinitely with prehistoric communications.

 

ShoreTel Connect

ShoreTel’s on-site phone systems have been some of the best for years, and their Connect platform continues to impress.

Connect is available as either a feature-rich and scalable ‘on-site’ system (more familiar to a normal enterprise workplace), or in the cloud (an option increasingly popular with the sub-25 user smaller business market looking to avoid heavier upfront expense or where users are split across multiple offices.)

The Californian company’s handsets are simply the best we’ve ever seen, durable and well-built with clear and effective controls. The noise cancellation built into every handset is so effective it has to be experienced to be believed.

Yet it is ShoreTel’s software (intellectual property so well regarded that telecoms behemoth Mitel has spent several years manoeuvring to purchase the entire company) where the real innovation lies.

A cross-platform, smartphone friendly, cloud-based collaboration and instant messaging unified solution more akin to Slack, Basecamp or Microsoft Teams, ShoreTel takes everything to a whole new level of integration. The onscreen client for Windows/Mac is already a superbly intuitive piece of design, but is increasingly becoming part of a bigger software offering that feels identical across lots of devices and screen sizes.

This is unified communications where your phone system coordinates with technology across a business: not just a tool, but a truly high quality communications ‘solution’.

 

 

Gamma Horizon

For maximum flexibility and features at competitive pricing, look no further than one of the UK’s fastest growing business telecoms providers.

Gamma Horizon replaces your boxy on-site PBX with subscriptions to a virtual equivalent in a UK data centre, with VOIP handsets that operate over the internet. 4000 minutes a month are included as standard per phone, sufficient for even the most talkative callers using the cloud-based system.

This brings some major advantages: the phones themselves should work anywhere with an internet connection and power supply (router permitting) allowing one cohesive ‘system’ to cover multiple sites or home offices. The number of subscriptions can be increased or decreased to balance requirements against cost, or to fit with seasonal businesses. More complex features such as advanced call-routing, auto-attendant, smart-phone apps and scheduling are also available, and all the phones in a system will obey the configuration set in the online web portal, wherever they’re located.

Handsets connected to Horizon look and feel like any traditional phone systems in use, with Polycom’s business-like HD Voice hardware our recommendation (portable DECT and conference phones are also available.)

Calls between Gamma phones are free of charge, with other special deals available to Gamma broadband customers. The UK small/medium business sector appears to love the flexibility of Gamma Horizon, so it’s little wonder there are already more than a quarter of a million endpoints out there.

 

Skype for Business

Why pay for a phone on your desk? Sure, we all find something very reassuring about the heft of a piece of well-manufactured plastic, but when we so many people use laptops and carry smartphones anyway, many businesses will correctly reason that the extra expense is not *actually* mandatory.

Skype for Business is available as both a desktop and smartphone app – users can make or answer audio or video calls from either. Arguably the best thing about this software (’softphone’) alternative is that anyone already using Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium or Enterprise plans has it available to download and use via the cloud without extra charge.

Internal calls between users and instant messaging are free, and integration with Microsoft Exchange allows your Outlook calendar meetings to sync up with the on-screen client. Video conferencing is (surprisingly) smooth and reliable, even on low bandwidth connections, and with handy options for screen sharing and group meetings also available – again at no extra cost.

Add PSTN licensing however (for a fraction of a normal call plan), and Skype’s business version allows you to dial outside Skype for Business to any phone, becoming a fully fledged unified communications solutions and replacement for traditional phone systems.

Skype for Business is brilliant for dispersed teams, mobile-workers and anyone seeking a low cost collaboration solution. More advanced call-routing and auto-attendant options are still being developed, leaving Skype for Business still some way short of an enterprise phone system in the cloud for now, but for businesses looking for a cost-effective next-generation digital transformation, such an option could be ground-breaking.

… and for those who still find a soft-phone a step too far, Skype for Business can still be ‘plugged-in’ to many SIP desk phones or conference phones, for a more familiar call experience.

 


Gamma Roadshow 2017: Reporting Back

Lineal’s foreign correspondent this week travelled to London for the Gamma Roadshow 2017: where a host of Gamma’s most interesting new products and services were showcased to a capacity crowd at the Barbican.

Gamma’s extremely flexible cloud-based telecoms offering has been one of Lineal’s most popular new products, and has taken the wider business telecoms sector by storm: with more than a quarter of a million Gamma Horizon phones now in use across the UK.

As a Accredited Gamma Partner, we were most impressed with:

  • Special pricing for the educational and charity sectorskeeping Horizon phone systems competitive in sectors where cost-effectiveness is especially important.
  • Cloud compute – Gamma’s partnership with Amazon web services offers the chance for companies who had previously moved their PBX to the cloud to begin virtualising other server assets as well, where the limits of technical knowledge would have held many back. It’s early days for Gamma’s Cloud Compute, but expect this to begin making waves in the IT world.
  • New integrator options: the full list of CRM systems which integrate directly with ‘call-to-click’, shared contacts directories and more, is now exhaustive, with Gamma adding TAPI integration – it’s hard to imagine that Horizon won’t fit your existing software.
  • Converged – Gamma mobile enters the big leagues, with Gamma Sims that run a ‘roaming in the UK’ system named ‘Multinet’ and using the native dialler of the phone. Without the need for an App, this is true mobility, and your mobile really will be a true extension of your Gamma landline.
  • PCI Compliance – the extraordinary flexibility of Gamma Horizon phone systems had only been held back in more sensitive environments by it’s own call recording, which hadn’t been PCI compliant. New tools for PCI compliance change this, and opens up Gamma’s phone systems to payment centres for the first time.

The Gamma Roadshow is a chance for UK Gamma Partners to give feedback and receive news on Gamma’s latest developments – with this year’s roadshow, Gamma have clearly acted on that feedback and their voice, data, mobile and cloud computing platforms are stronger for it.

For communications expertise and support – contact Lineal today.