So you're thinking about moving your phone system to Microsoft Teams. This is a great step towards modernizing your communication and using a platform your employees are likely already familiar with. You can read more about that here. Adoption of the Teams platform is nothing short of astonishing. Microsoft has said that Teams has had the fastest growth rate of any software they've produced to date, and that was 2019. Imagine where it is today. In the last post, I wrote about Microsoft Teams Calling Plan, how it works and when to use it. In this post we'll talk about the Direct Routing option.
The Direct Routing Option
When businesses first look at moving to a Microsoft Teams Phone System, it's common to be confused about the Direct Routing method of providing voice service. Despite the confusing name, as a method to provide Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) service to your Teams phone system, it's a great option. And it may be the only option in some scenarios (more below). In fact, a report from Nemertes Group found that 89% of the 600 Teams Phone System Customers studied are using Direct Routing as their primary PSTN connectivity.
Direct Routing can provide many benefits over Microsoft Calling Plans. The ease of integration with legacy systems allow large companies to migrate to a Teams Phone System using a phased approach, when a whole-company migration is simply impractical. Companies may want a level of redundancy that Calling Plan cannot provide easily. They may have existing contracts and relationships with partners and carriers that need to maintained or they need voice services in a country where Microsoft doesn't offer Calling Plan. Or, companies may simply want to take advantage of the reduced cost of Direct Routing vs Calling Plan in may situations.
Now there are some drawbacks to Direct Routing. An important one is that it will require more setup and planning to deploy properly. In addition, you may not have a single point of contact to work with if you're using different vendors to manage your Teams Phone System and provide your Direct Routing service.
How does Direct Routing Work?
At a high level, Direct Routing is simply using SIP Trunks connected to a Microsoft certified Session Border Controller (SBC), which in turn connects to your instance of Microsoft Teams Phone System. SBCs are a common requirement for phone systems, if you have a PBX and a circuit delivering Trunks, the router provided by your carrier may already include an SBC built in. SBCs aren't just a Microsoft requirement, they are also a good general practice because they improve the quality of voice and video calls and provide a layer of security for your network (among other things). SIP Trunks are also a common method to deliver voice service to a phone system, and they are available across the globe. Direct Routing allows us to treat a Microsoft Teams Phone System in much the same way we would treat other phone systems.
Direct Routing in the Cloud
The simplest way to deploy Direct Routing is to use a cloud-based SBC hosted in the Azure cloud, and then have your carrier or partner point SIP Trunks to that SBC. An experienced provider can spin up a cloud SBC in minutes and since this is hosted in the same cloud as Teams, latency is less of a risk. This type of deployment is a great way to get the cost benefits of Direct Routing without any on-premises hardware, costly physical voice circuit, or complicated infrastructure. There are even ways to route calls to another PBX or contact center using the cloud SBC (trunk-side integration) or use your PBX to route calls to Teams (station-side integration). Trunk-side vs station-side integration can be another blog post for another day, but both are common ways to do a phased Teams migration or enable a multi phone system environment.
Directing Routing on Premises
It is, of course, possible to deploy Teams with Direct Routing using an SBC not in the cloud. This requires a Microsoft Certified SBC installed on location (or in a data center) and PSTN services delivered via a physical circuit. So why would a company go about deploying Teams in this way? There are plenty of valid reasons, but common ones are needing to continue using an on-premises PBX, Contact Center, or analog devices (fax machines, alarms, etc.) as the primary voice systems, while certain employees utilize Teams for external calling. Or a company may want to taking advantage of in house expertise to manage the SBC, rather than contract that to a vendor. You may also want some level of local survivability. Survivable Branch Appliance software is used to failover service should Teams, or your primary voice service, go down.
Whatever your company's considerations may be, unless you have a knowledgeable staff with the time to appropriately plan, design, and deploy a Teams phone system, it's best to engage a trusted partner like Beringer to help. Quality communication for employees and customers is more critical than it has ever been, and all of us now know the value of a communications platform that we can take from the office to the home. Done well, a platform can remove friction and allow ideas and information to flow, improving employee productivity and the customer experience. The proper strategy will make sure all the benefits are realized and the risks avoided.
Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution also provides expert Managed IT Services, Backup and Disaster Recovery, Cloud Based Computing, Email Security Implementation and Training, Unified Communication Solutions, and Cybersecurity Risk Assessment.