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Direct Routing Versus Calling Plan in Microsoft Teams

Mike Hanks
August 6, 2020

Microsoft Teams is one of the fastest-growing collaboration platforms in the world. It's used for internal communication, meetings, and document management. With Microsoft’s announcement of voice capabilities for the platform, there has been a growing buzz about a key technology that will help businesses adopt Teams: Direct Routing.

What is Direct Routing?

Direct Routing refers to the process of routing calls from Microsoft Teams to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). It's similar to a Microsoft calling plan, except it allows you to keep your carrier and integrate your existing technology.

Though Teams is meant to be chiefly used as an internal communication platform, it can also serve as a phone system.

Microsoft Calling Plan

A Microsoft Calling Plan is a road to the PSTN managed entirely by Microsoft. This option is expensive and only available (as of Summer 2020) in certain parts of the world. Porting phone numbers can also be confusing and time-consuming.

Microsoft Direct Routing

Direct Routing allows you to connect Teams to a range of voice service providers. This allows you to take advantage of cheaper call rates, more flexibility, and better support. It’s also helpful for users locked into existing contracts with other PSTN providers. They can use Teams without any contract violations.

Many businesses find the direct routing model much more appealing as it gives them the flexibility to choose their own provider. They can also integrate their existing PBX systems and analog devices with Teams' phone system features.

How Direct Routing Works

Direct Routing works by combining Teams to the PSTN using two key elements: a Session Border Controller and SIP Trunks.

Direct Routing Flow Chart

Session Border Controller (SBC)

Often described as a “firewall for VoIP”, an SBC is used to guard the “borders” between different networks, making sure data is transferred properly between them. More importantly, they’re designed to provide a layer of security and protection from attacks and breaches.

> Read: How Microsoft Keeps Your Data Secure.

SBCs used to be almost exclusively located on-premises. As time goes on, more and more are cloud-based instead. Cloud-based SBCs offer a much higher level of flexibility and reliability with lower up-front costs.

SIP Trunks

These are devices that connect a business phone system to the internet and the PSTN. SIP Trunks are an essential component for connecting any PBX to the PSTN. They're also a valid alternative to using a hosted “all-in-one” system.

Some providers only offer an SBC without SIP Trunks. This means you’ll need to find a separate supplier to provide the trunks, adding complexity and cost.

Who Direct Routing is for

Direct Routing is primarily designed for organizations set on using Teams as a phone system. Any business that matches one of the following criteria should consider Direct Routing:

Strong User of Teams

This one is obvious. If you're using Microsoft Teams for internal communications, you can use the platform for their external communication too. This removes the need for an additional PBX and all its incumbent costs.

Limited IT Resources

Your IT team has a lot of work to do without having to also manage your phone system. External support will give them more time to focus on other priorities. Experienced providers and Microsoft partners can help manage the solution and make sure your users are able to get the most out of Teams.

Users Want More Flexibility

Direct Routing is the best choice if you're making large quantities of outbound calls, especially internationally. It offers as much flexibility as your carrier can provide.

The Cost of Direct Routing

Direct Routing costs largely depend on carrier rates and individual circumstances. This means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all price for this solution. However, due to its cheaper recurring prices, Direct Routing can compete price-wise with almost any calling plan.

The Benefits of Direct Routing

Direct Routing through Microsoft Teams provides many benefits. The idea of using Teams as a phone system is a huge step forward for businesses who want to combine all their internal and external communications into one tightly knit system. In this way, it embodies a true unified communications solution.

Direct Routing also enables third-party integration. Choosing the right provider will help you save on upfront and ongoing fees and gain a large amount of expertise and reliability.

Microsoft will allow you to port your old numbers and keep using them. Should you choose not to port, you can order new DDIs just as easily.

Setting up Direct Routing

The setup for Direct Routing is remarkably painless. It can be integrated into your existing phone systems and analog devices. It also allows for a phased transition to Teams so calls made between fully migrated and non-migrated users don’t hinder their experience. All of this will be made quick and easy with the help of an experienced partner like Continuant.

We'll help you port your numbers or order new if you decide to change carriers. Once everything in Teams is cleared with your provider, we will deploy your SIP trunks and new SBCs. From there, it’s all a matter of informing your provider and training your staff.

Start Your Journey to Microsoft Teams

A Microsoft Teams deployment requires you to fully understand your business needs. Teams users need to know whether Direct Routing or a Calling Plan will be right for them.

Is a Calling Plan available in your area? What service providers are you using and are there contractual obligations? What analog endpoints need to be supported? Are there other third-party integrations that need to be included?

Continuant has more than 25 years of experience in legacy voice and were awarded the 2020 Microsoft Partner of the Year Award for Calling & Meetings in Microsoft Teams. We are well-positioned to help answer all your questions and begin your journey to Microsoft Teams.

Schedule a free 30-minute technology assessment today and find out what the transition to Microsoft Teams could look like for your organization.

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* Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2020 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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