A growing number of organisations are expanding their use of Microsoft Teams with the addition of its cloud telephony component, Teams Calling. For most large organisations, making cloud telephony work for them means deploying Direct Routing to make and receive calls from the Microsoft Teams application. A key consideration for businesses in setting up Microsoft Teams cloud telephony is whether to use a managed service provider for Direct Routing, or bring it in-house.
Microsoft Teams has transformed the way we collaborate in the workplace, becoming the go-to platform for conversations, video calls and document sharing. And to make full use of Microsoft Teams, more organisations are adding its telephony component – Teams Calling – creating one unified suite of tools for staff.
To add telephony to Teams, organisations need to decide how best to do that depending on their business needs. For those with under 100 members of staff, Microsoft Calling Plans work effectively as on off-the-shelf solution for PSTN connectivity. Larger organisations though, require Direct Routing to establish a connection to a telecommunications service provider or carrier.
What is Direct Routing?
Direct Routing refers to the technology that routes Microsoft Teams to the traditional phone network (PSTN – public switched telephone network). Underpinning this technology is a Session Border Controller (SBC), acting as a gateway. SBC’s are flexible and can connect to Teams via a carrier or an existing on-site PBX.
How best to implement Direct Routing – internally, or with the help of a managed service provider?
When deciding how to set-up Direct Routing, organisations need to consider its design, implementation, support, and ongoing maintenance. For some, they rely on internal resource to manage this, but for others they opt to partner with a managed service provider to cover their bases.
You can choose to:
Manage Direct Routing yourself: hosting critical connectivity, namely SBC gateways and PBX connections either: a) in-house, on your business premises, using physical equipment; or b) virtually, in the cloud.
Outsource Direct Routing to a managed service provider (what we call Direct Routing as a Service or DRaaS)
1. Self-managed Direct Routing – what’s involved?
When self-managing Direct Routing, organisation’s take responsibility for connecting to and from Microsoft’s virtual Teams phone system. This includes:
- System design and architecture
- Set-up and deployment
- System maintenance
- Trouble-shooting and day to day staff support
- Maintenance of the internet connection and links to the appropriate PSTN connection
- Network monitoring
- In addition, you’ll manage a range of third parties involved in delivering your service including:
- Cloud-hosting provider
- PSTN carriers across different locations
- Your internet service provider
Direct Routing can be self-managed on company premises, or in the cloud.
a) Self-managed – hosted on-premises.
This involves hosting and managing all the hardware required for Teams Calling, in-house.
Key responsibilities include:
System design and configuration – in-house development and support of a resilient solution that delivers optimal connectivity for your business.
Infrastructure maintenance and oversight – on-site installation, service and management of hardware which includes SBC gateways and PBX equipment. To get this right, you’ll need a significant amount of physical space to house equipment and the internal expertise to manage it. Also consider:
- Upfront capex required
- Power and air-conditioning costs incurred to run and cool hardware
- Availability of specialist hardware and spares are available
- The need to stay abreast of licensing requirements and software updates
- How to manage downtime when systems require patching and during other maintenance activities
Negotiating with telecoms carriers – In addition to managing your systems and hardware, you’ll need to manage the relationship with telecoms carries to secure PSTN connections. And depending on your number of locations this may mean working closely with various carriers, which can be time consuming. Depending on your locations, some countries impose specific rules and restrictions around call connectivity and emergency services provisioning, which comes with its own costs and challenges.
b) Self-managed – hosted in the cloud
With cloud-based hosting solutions, organisations bypass any physical or on-premise requirements, but they are complicated in their own right. Whilst cloud-hosting has the advantage of being space-saving, it brings more third parties into the fold and can be more complicated to design and manage. Key responsibilities include:
System design and configuration – You’ll still have to develop and support a resilient solution that delivers optimal connectivity for your business.
Infrastructure maintenance and oversight – You will need to deploy and support the bulk of your Teams Calling infrastructure internally. This includes designing suitably resilient access to your cloud-hosting provider, which requires deep technical expertise.
Negotiating with telecoms carriers – As telecoms is a highly regulated industry, negotiating with carriers may be more complicated than it sounds. Regulations often vary between jurisdictions, with some areas more complex than others.
2. Partnering with a managed service provider – what’s involved?
Service-provider managed Direct Routing as a Service (DRaaS) involves partnering with a managed service provider who’ll design, implement, and manage your solution, reducing the amount of resource needed internally. It’s important to note that not all outsourced providers offer an end-to-end managed service, so shop around to compare service levels. The gold standard that we call ‘Direct Routing as a Service’ refers to an end-to-end managed service provider solution.
With this option, the managed service provider will work with you to create a bespoke solution, including:
System design and configuration – Your service provider should work with you to design a bespoke solution, with tailored system design and configuration. They’ll oversee migration of users to Teams and take care of on-going management needs and quality control to ensure connectivity. DRaaS service providers like LoopUp can also support with associated issues such as general corporate network optimisation.
Infrastructure maintenance and oversight – They should assume full responsibility for end-to-end service, including updates, licenses, maintenance, and service availability. Additionally, DRaaS providers should provide tools to give vital intelligence into your Teams Calling service. For example, portals which deliver data analysis, with dashboards that display insight clearly, and enable adjustments (e.g. to user numbers) to be made easily.
Negotiating with telecoms carriers – They should have strong relationships with local PSTN carriers worldwide. This means they can deliver anywhere, anytime connectivity with no constraints on capacity, leveraging economies of scale across their entire customer base to keep services competitive. They should also be aware of, and able to work within, any specific jurisdictional legal requirements.
When considering how to implement Direct Routing, IT decision-makers need to look at relative costs, level of complexity and level of control in working with a managed service provider versus bringing it in-house. With many moving parts to co-ordinate, many businesses may find the easiest and most cost-effective option is working with a service provider.
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