Remote working has been on the rise for a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. A recent survey by 451 Research found that 67% of organisations expect the remote working policy to remain in place permanently or in the long term. Many large international companies are considering closing some of their office locations and switching to a permanent model for remote working. All this strengthens the case for technology investment to support the more dispersed workforce that companies expect to manage in the future.
The growth of Microsoft Teams as a cloud telephony solution
The collaboration tool that has had the fastest acceptance is Microsoft Teams. According to Microsoft itself, the total number of daily active users increased by more than 70% to 75 million in a two-month period after lockdown. Currently, it is primarily used for internal collaboration, and few companies use Teams for external communication. However, this is expected to change over the next two years.
Microsoft’s phone system turns Teams into a complete business telephony solution. Users can place and receive external calls directly from Teams on any device, anywhere in the world. Microsoft’s own call plans provide smaller businesses with a quick and easy way to connect to the PSTN network, but larger organizations typically use a third-party managed service provider for connectivity. This approach, called Direct Routing, provides more flexibility, greater geographic coverage, lower rates, and a higher level of support. Industry analysts predict that by 2022, as many as 90% of the large companies using Teams for telephony will use Direct Routing for PSTN connectivity.
Cloud telephony benefits for IT teams and users
Although large companies typically maintain a consistent set of IT solutions for all users worldwide, telephony is often the exception. It is normal to find a variety of PBX equipment in different offices, and a different provider in each region. By moving telephony to the cloud, companies can standardize their approach across all offices, reducing complexity and cost, and improved control, flexibility, and compliance. Specific benefits include:
- One telephony platform with a consistent experience for all users worldwide, improving compliance and reliability and centralizing support;
- On-premise PBX equipment is eliminated – reducing complexity and cost by moving infrastructure to the cloud
- Local providers can be replaced by a single managed service provider, reducing the number of supplier relationships and creating economies of scale
- No charge for internal calls between global offices or forwarding – because these calls stay online instead of breaking out on the PSTN network
- Users can be centrally added, deleted, and managed, increasing flexibility and security and creating global usage and cost data
Using Teams for voice calls allows users to communicate and collaborate more effectively when working remotely. Specific benefits include:
- Place and receive voice calls from anywhere with Teams on any device – this gives users the flexibility to stay connected while working at home, on the go, or at their workplace, for example.
- A consistent user experience for external and internal communications – external phone calls can be made from the same Teams interface used for chat, internal meetings, file sharing, and other cloud services
- Existing phone numbers with direct outside lines can be retained – since number transfer is allowed in most major markets, users can keep their existing business number when they move their voice call to Teams