Microsoft Teams – A Masergy Guide

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration and communication platform created by Microsoft. It serves as just one component in the broader set of Microsoft 365 products. With the ability to chat, meet, call, and collaborate, users are able to stay connected and productive no matter where they are or what device they are using. Key features include:

  • Video conferencing
  • Screen sharing
  • Custom backgrounds
  • File sharing
  • Apps and workflows
  • Privacy and security
  • Together mode

How does Microsoft Teams work?

Microsoft Teams works by bringing together all the disparate tools employees use to communicate into one application experience. This is beneficial because work doesn’t have to be spread across a plethora of applications, with each individual tool designed by a different provider and none of them working in sync. Take for instance the different applications that can be used for your phone, email, instant messaging, and video conferencing. All those tools work together in one place, making it easier and faster for users to connect with people and find the information they need to do business.

But this tool consolidation reaches even farther.

Companies that consider themselves a “Microsoft shop,” enjoy the simplicity of how Microsoft Teams works. The solution is a built-in capability that sits together with all Office 365 apps (including Office and Groups) into one place for quick and easy access.

This is an efficiency that equates to avoiding hours of integration and configuration for clients and their IT teams. This holistic system of business services is precisely what Microsoft considers one of its biggest selling points, and the developers continue to expand integration, widening the scope of the solution. This helps explain why over 100 million people use Microsoft Teams for enterprise collaboration.

What are the network requirements for Microsoft Teams?

When it comes to the real-time communication tools, the IT network must deliver extremely high performance in order to keep VoIP calls and video conferences from turning into digital mush. Microsoft Teams is sensitive to network latency and jitter. Thus, the network is arguably the single most important supporting system behind a solution like Microsoft Teams. Without reliable connectivity, calls and video conferencing are of no practical value.

Consider these requirements for your network service supporting Microsoft Teams:

  • Private network service: Critical and real-time services should always traverse private network architectures to ensure packets arrive in sequence and on time. Broadband or public internet connectivity is typically too unreliable–it won’t deliver a high-performance user experience. A software-defined network service will also offer advantages in the areas of agility and ease of management.
  • Service level agreements: Network service providers commit to high performance through a service level agreement (SLA), which will include network performance metrics. These metrics ensure high quality calls and user experiences:
    1. In-sequence voice packet delivery percentages: Look for 100% in-sequence packet delivery
    2. Latency metrics guarantees per route (POP to POP): Target a 0% packet loss
    3. Jitter metrics in milliseconds (POP to POP): Seek out services with less than 1 millisecond of jitter
    4. Failover rates: Fast failovers and automated failovers minimize disruptions
    5. End-to-end service availability guarantees: 100% service availability or 99.9999% network uptime
    6. Proactive customer notifications: Should service outages occur, clients should receive a timely notification, preferably within 5 minutes
    7. Global coverage: The network service and any SIP Trunking services should cover the same geographical footprint as the client’s global operations — this should include a localized experience with in-country calling
  • Visibility and control over network performance: Other criteria include full visibility into the network performance as well as dynamic bandwidth control as it relates to voice and video packets. IT teams can’t dial up the bandwidth to support voice traffic if they can’t see where the bottlenecks are happening. Likewise, they must be able to quickly and easily make adjustments to the network resource allocations in order to make any needed corrections. Thus, probing into your provider’s network performance dashboards and control tools becomes a critical step in the due-diligence investigation.

What is the advantage of pairing SD-WAN
with Microsoft Teams?

Unfortunately, many companies and their enterprise networks are not optimized to deliver the performance and reliability required to support Microsoft Teams. This is where Software-Defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) comes in. It can help solve that problem. Learn more about SD-WAN.

IT leaders are rapidly adopting SD-WAN technologies, because of its ability to virtualize underlying network services and to build enterprise-grade WANs using both public (Internet) connectivity and private WAN connectivity. In fact, Nemertes’ research shows that SD-WAN use correlates with successful unified communications deployments, giving investors improved network resilience and reduced network operating costs.

Taking an integrated approach offers these unique advantages:

  • A Superior Solution: True end-to-end visibility, integrated optimization, and the ease of layering on additional managed network and security services. Potential layered services include security functions such as firewall as a service, DDoS protection, DLP as a service, secure web gateway services, cloud exchange integration, and SIP trunking.
  • Simplified Installation and Operations: Using combined solutions should vastly reduce the amount of effort an enterprise has to put into deploying a Microsoft Teams or unified communications service, as well as simplify IT operations by providing a unified portal for all monitoring, reporting, and management functionality, and a single technical support apparatus. It can also simplify business operations by reducing the number of vendors, contracts, and bills managed.
  • Stronger Security: And, it can enable providers to ensure security by monitoring the application as well as the underlying network given the interdependency between Microsoft Teams and the network supporting it.

What is a Microsoft Teams Calling Plan?

As a robust collaboration platform, Microsoft Teams can act as your corporate phone service, replacing your company’s existing private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system. A calling plan for Microsoft Teams empowers users to take and make calls from a desk phone or internet-connected device all within the Microsoft Teams application.

When IT leaders want to leverage Microsoft Teams as their telephony service, it requires a PSTN (public switched telephone network) service. Clients have two choices for connecting to the PSTN:

  1. Microsoft Teams Calling Plan which provides blocks of local and long-distance calling minutes for a fixed price, with Microsoft provisioning phone numbers. PSTN is considered an add-on to each individual user with a per person, per month pricing structure.
  2. Direct Routing in which customers (and/or their partners) bring their own SIP trunking services to connect Teams to the PSTN, with the customer/partner maintaining control over their phone numbers.
    Originally released in June 2018, Direct Routing features enable customers to use their existing telephony infrastructure with Teams, creating a “full voice service” when combined with Microsoft’s Phone System for Office 365.

According to studies from Nemertes Research, “larger organizations, as well as those planning deployments in 2021, are more likely to be using or evaluating Direct Routing thanks to its ability to support existing SIP trunking contracts, and to provide lower PSTN access costs compared to the Calling Plan.”

How does Masergy integrate with Microsoft Teams?

For those interested in using Microsoft Teams as their corporate phone system, Masergy offers a seamlessly integrated PSTN solution for Microsoft Teams. Clients prefer Masergy’s Calling for Microsoft Teams solution because it not only saves them money when compared to purchasing the service directly from Microsoft, it also helps them widen the voice service availability to more countries across the globe.

Clients have two choices for connecting to the PSTN–purchase a calling plan direct from Microsoft, called a “Microsoft Teams Calling Plan” or bring their own SIP trunking services, called a “Direct Routing” option. (These two options are explained in depth in the question above.)

Masergy is a Microsoft Teams Direct Routing provider, meaning we help companies use the “Direct Routing” option, putting everything they need in one seamless solution.

Why clients choose Masergy solution over the Microsoft Teams Calling Plan

  • Pay-for-Use Model: Clients pay for what they use, which can help right-size the calling plan. SIP Trunking allows your business to deploy and pay for only the concurrent call paths you need. No new on-premise hardware is required. With the Teams Calling Plan, licenses are sold by DID and international service is an additional per person/per month fee. These facts alone push some customers to opt for the Direct Routing alternative.
  • Global Service: Masergy’s service offers PSTN, SIP trunking, and in-country calling in 25+ countries. Clients enjoy private, encrypted connectivity with local dialing in all 25 countries. It’s a wide-reaching service designed to make international, long-distance calls cost effective. Global enterprises needing service all across the globe will need to ensure all their needs can be met. Some IT leaders may find the Teams Calling Plan simply can’t go where they need it to.
  • Security: Security is a built-in feature with encrypted SIP trunks. Masergy’s encrypted SIP trunks into Microsoft provide call paths for all inbound/outbound calls over the PSTN.
  • Quality Control: Service is delivered through Masergy’s software-defined network, which was purpose-built for VoIP and video communications. Moreover, deep performance analytics are available in Masergy’s UCaaS Analyst dashboard. This helps IT leaders:
    • Gain valuable insight and drive strategic business planning with detailed analytics
    • Optimize viewing, controlling, and reporting with highly customized dashboard
    • Get visibility into diagnostics that demonstrate service level quality and performance
    • Manage, filter, and analyze data into actionable insights to reduce time to resolution for support teams