What is the Office 365 Phone System?
The Microsoft 365 Phone System is a phone system that allows companies to utilise PBX capabilities without the need for further equipment installation as it is fully integrated in their cloud service and can be used both with Microsoft Teams as well as, Skype for Business. In this way, it works as a platform that can facilitate both the company’s internal communication as well as their domestic and international call needs at a very low cost.
What’s more if you have a pre-existing PBX system within your company, the Microsoft 365 system can work in compliance with that, allowing you to modernise your systems without having to fundamentally change your company’s electronic infrastructure. This also relates to your connection to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) which through Direct Routing can be connected to your Microsoft 365 phone system.
If you would like to learn more about Direct Routing, as well as how to use direct routing on your premises you can use the following informational link.
Why choose a cloud-based phone system over a traditional PBX phone system?
A cloud-based phone system, by contrast to a traditional PBX phone system is completely portable as there is no need for a central PBX device to be installed within your facilities. With this level of portability and the lack of need for a traditional PBX phony system infrastructure, the initial set up cost is also reduced. Where traditional PBX phone systems bore an up-front cost for the purchase of the necessary equipment, Office 365 skips that initial cost as it is integrated within your cloud system.
In this way with Office 365, you are allowing yourself more flexibility while also skipping any installation and system costs up front.
If you would like to know more about phone systems as well as how to choose the phone system that is most appropriate for your business, you can use the following link and read all about Buying a Phone System in 2021.
Choosing a Calling plan.
After you have selected to move to a cloud-based phone system, one of the biggest decisions you will need to make is the type of calling plan that works best for your company.
If you were previously using a PBX phone system and already have a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) you have the option of integrating it to your Office 365 phone system through Direct Routing.
Your Office 365 phone system, will work using Microsoft applications, in this case it will mostly use Microsoft Teams which is a tool that can be used within your company for internal communications, chats and calls. Using Direct Routing, Microsoft teams will also be able to be used for external communications and to place and receive phone calls on any of your devices.
If you are establishing a new company or you are thinking of making a switch in your phone system, with Office 365 you also get the option of selecting Microsoft’s Business Voice plan and leaving your previous calling plan. With this option there are a few benefits to consider, as this is an add-on to your already existing Office 365 plan, which can be managed in the Office 365 Admin center, all of your cloud and now phoning needs will be included in the same bill. What’s more the need for the inclusion of another party, in this case the Public Switched Telephone Network, is eliminated.
As this is a subscription service there is no initial up-front cost to setting up your business phone system. Not only that, but you will also get to dictate and know the exact cost of your phone system, with no hidden costs or fees being applied later on.
The Biggest limitation for using Microsoft Business Voice is that the service is limited to up to 300 employees, which means that if within your company you have a need for more employees to be using your phone system you will need to consider using Microsoft’s enterprise service, Microsoft 365 E5, which comes at a higher price range.
If your company has less than 300 employees that need to use your phone system, you will be able to switch to Microsoft’s Business Voice. Since Microsoft’s Business Voice allows you to use Microsoft Teams to place external phone calls, your employees will have the option of using their already existing devices to make all the necessary communications. This can further reduce your up-front costs as it eliminates the need for separate Business phones and devices. Instead by switching to this system, all your employees can use their smartphones, laptops, tablets or smart watch devices to perform their everyday tasks, as well as those tasks that might arise throughout their work day.
For the use of Microsoft’s Business voice, it is required that you already a Microsoft 365 subscription.
For the regional availability of Microsoft Voice you can click on the following link. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/business-voice/country-region-availability
Setting Up Your Business with Microsoft Business Voice.
While there are no initial set up costs or complicated equipment there are certain steps that will need to be taken for your company to be able to use its new cloud phone system, previously called cloud PBX. Setting up your Office 365 phone system and Microsoft Business Voice is a fairly straight forward process. Once you have decided to make the switch the first step from then on will be to purchase a Microsoft Business Voice license for each employee in your company that needs to make external phone calls. Office 365 you give you the option of switching over your current phone number(s), but that is only after you have assigned a new phone number to each employee.
This number can be used both for your internal communications and will be visible when each employee opens their Dialpad. It will also be the number used for external phone calls as it will be their direct line of contact both within the company and outside it.
In the UK, with the standard Business Voice Plan, each user will have a total of 1,200 minutes per month to be used Domestically. For International plans the option of adding a further add-on for toll-free numbers and international calling minutes is also available.
To access the phone system, the Microsoft Teams app will need to be downloaded in their devices. Once all of your users have downloaded the required apps and software and have connection to the cloud service, they will be able to communicate with each other as well as with non- Microsoft Teams users through their calling plan.
At the same time, the need for extra devices and 3rd party phone companies is eliminated as the entire user experience is integrated with their current devices and equipment.
To sign up for Microsoft Business Voice you can click the following link.
What are the options for International Calling Plans?
It is possible that your business needs will not be limited to internal communications or covered by the Domestic calling plan that is available through Microsoft Business Voice. If that is the case there is an extra add-on solution that you will need to consider.
If each month you have a standard amount, or a high volume of calls that you need to place outside your own country, or region, then there is an extra International Calling plan that can be purchased for your Office 365 phone system.
To make an accurate calculation of the type of International Calling Plan that is most appropriate for each different user in your business, you will first need to assess the number of calls and the their average length of each international call. In this way, you will have a basic understanding of what the base rate that will cover the users international calling needs is.
With the International Calling Plan, you are already paying for a number of minutes of calls up-front, those minutes are not transferable from month to month and if they do not end up being used then they are lost at the end of the month. Essentially choosing an International Calling Plan that is for needs higher than your users will mean that you are losing money on international calling minutes. This is why the initial calculations made regarding the needs of each user are so crucial in the making of this decision.
However, we understand that not all months are the same, and sometimes it might be hard to determine if an International Calling Plan is for you. If that is the case with your business there is an alternative service that you can consider and it is called Communication Credits.
Communication Credits work differently to International Calling plans. Depending on the region that you are making a call to, you can load your account with Communication Credits and as you start using your international calls the necessary amount will be deducted from your credits. While this system could be more costly if you have a set number of International Calls per month, it could also save you money if you don’t. This is because your communication credits do not expire at the end of each month, but rather they are carried onto the next month so that you can continue placing calls as needed and topping up as necessary.
It is also important to note, that as each user will have different calls they will have to make each month, you can make the choice on whether an International Calling plan is necessary in a case by case basis. In this way your phone system becomes personalised to the needs of each of your employees and your business.
For more information on the International Calling plan rates as well as the Communication credit rates you can use the following link.
What Features are included in the Office 365 phone System?
Phone System: Each user will have standard phoning capabilities, that is making calls, receiving calls, emergency calling as well as the option to receive Voice Mail, have call menus and Caller ID recognition.
Audio Conferencing: Through the use of Microsoft Business Voice users can host conference calls with others by using their phone line rather than Microsoft teams. This can be really useful in the case where you need to switch from having a 1-on-1 phone communication into a group call or conference. Using both Teams and your phone system you can add people as needed, and share any content and video required.
Auto-attendants: Through the admin centre, you can personalise a menu system for each user within your business. This could include having a specific greeting or an IVR Menu guiding the caller to the right queues. If you are working in a larger corporation that means that the caller experience will be far more streamlined as each caller will be redirected to the personnel that they need.
Status and Call Transferring: As your entire telephony system is cloud based, you will always be able to view whether someone is available to take over one of your calls if you need to transfer it. You can also enable call forwarding when needed, while disabling it when you are unavailable to take calls. You can also get automatic updates by tagging others so as to better resolve and case that might arise.
Call routing: Mobility and flexibility is very important, and as the Office 365 system can be used from any device, you will also have the option of routing a call from your one device, let’s say your phone, to your other device, for example your laptop as needed.
Voicemail Transcription: Within your phone system you will also get voicemail capabilities. As these are integrated in your cloud they can upon your choosing by transcribed into text, and you can also view them through your Microsoft Exchange mailbox.
Number Porting: As previously mentioned, with your Microsoft 365 Phone System you can either choose to continue using your PTSN provider, or you can make a full switch into using the Office 365 phone system in collaboration with Microsoft Business Voice. In the case you choose to make the switch, you will have the option of continuing the usage of your previously established phone numbers, making the transition into a more modernised phone system seamless and not visible to those calling your company.
Address Book: As your phone system is integrated into your cloud service, so is your address book. Once you have created your address book you can use it to directly contact those you need through Microsoft Teams or by placing a call directly to their phone line. This will also assist in the caller ID recognition, as the phone system will be able to recognise the caller’s details when they are contacting you.
Admin Centre: From within the admin centre, you will not only be able to access each user’s phone plans, including their Microsoft Business voice license and international calling plans, you will also have access to an extensive dashboard through which you can monitor the functionality of your Office 365 phone system.
Troubleshooting: Through the admin centre you will also be able to perform troubleshooting when needed. If you are unable to troubleshoot the issue you can also use it to make a service request so as to have further assistance by an expert. Microsoft support is also available to you for the troubleshooting of your case.
Privacy and Security: Microsoft Team’s follows Microsoft’s Security, Privacy and Compliance. This means that any communication placed between different Microsoft Team’s users will be fully secure. If you would like more information on security and compliance you can read more about it using the following link.
For your business to switch to a Microsoft 365 phone system there would be two basic costs that would need to be covered.
The first one would be a Microsoft 365 subscription, which would be the subscription that would enable you access to Microsoft Teams, Office online, as well as secure cloud storage. Depending on the size of your corporation there are a few different options to choose from.
These options are mainly for smaller to medium size businesses for bigger enterprises, non-profit organisations, organisations in education or governmental organisations you might need different office plans to facilitate your needs.
The lowest price point is that of Microsoft 365 Business Basic, which runs at £3.80 per user per month (price not including VAT). This is best for remote usage as there is no desktop version included and it only includes Word, Excel and Powerpoint in their Web and/or Mobile version but not in the Office applications.
Microsoft 365 Business Standard, which starts at £9.40 (price not including VAT) per user per month, does not have those limitations and can be fully used across all of your devices.
Microsoft 365 Business Premium, starting at £15.10 (price not including VAT) per user per month, which will also add an extra layer of cybersecurity to your business’ services.
Finally, you will need to purchase Microsoft Business Voice Account which is currently prices at £9.00 per user per month.
Both the Microsoft 365 subscription and the Business Voice subscription require an annual commitment.
This should cover all the basic costs needed for you to set up your office 365 phone system. For extra coverage you can always purchase an international calling plan or calling credit so as to better fulfil your business needs.