Microsoft 365 Business Voice: What is it and How it can help you

Microsoft 365 Business Voice: What is it and How it can help you

Most, if not all businesses use some form of Business VoIP.  

Simply put, it is the transfer of the business internal and external voice communications to a digital platform.  Business VoIP can be part of a larger digital Unified Communications environment comprising VoIP, video-conferencing and Social Media.

A Unified Communications implementation ranges from full-blown onsite hardware and software implementations to outsourced managed solutions to virtual software running on a single PC server. 

Business VoIP, if only from a financial perspective is a no-brainer. Long-distance and international calls are moved to a toll-free basis. The business image can be substantially improved, and other efficiencies can be gathered.

For Microsoft customers, Business VoIP in the form of 365 Business Voice (“BV”) has been introduced as part of the Office 365 Suite to provide a unified phone environment for Microsoft Teams. It integrates contact data into a single database accessible from calls, chat and meeting support. As an example, callers have immediate access to an up to date single contact list for colleagues, customers, and others because of the integration with Office 365.

While 365 Business Voice is only currently available in Canada and Great Britain, it is currently going through a global rollout and will become available in most countries in 2020.

To look at it in some more detail:

365 Business Voice – Summary

365 Business Voice - Summary

In essence, 356 Business Voice wraps up the 365 Phone Systems features as a single unified application.  It has been designed for small to medium-sized organisations of a maximum of 300 users and requires Office 365 Business to be installed and running as a prerequisite. Enterprise Voice is available for larger organisations.

It is fully integrated with Microsoft Teams and becomes part of the Teams environment turning any desktop, Windows or Mac, and smart device into a phone handset that is a phone using your Business Voice Phone number.

365 Business Voice – What you get

What you get

There are three basic elements:

  • A Phone system supporting common phone features, including voice mail, caller ID, search and hunting groups and emergency calls.

    It allows the replacement of the existing analogue PBX with cloud-based call control and PBX capabilities using Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.

    Common services are provided. Call attendants provide the familiar menu based call routing. Call queues can be used to manage response centres with automatic messages, hunting groups, and music on hold.  You also get voicemail.

  • Calling plans supporting toll-free, local national and international calls.

    Call plans allow toll-free calling between users at different sites, potentially removing long-distance call costs.  Call Plans can be extended to include landline and mobile phones worldwide. Be aware that add-on call plans only work with BV and Office 365.

  • Audio Conferencing. This allows you to attend conference calls, including hosting, with callers who don’t have Teams or are not available over the Internet.

    Audio Conferencing is a useful facility for times when a caller needs to be part of a meeting but can’t use a PC, Laptop or Tablet to join using Skype for Business or Teams.

    For example, the user can attend the meeting over a hands-free audio connection when driving. Dedicated toll-free (and tolled) numbers are used as shared numbers to support a meeting.

365 Business Voice – Considerations

Considerations

  • Hardware and software. Because this is a cloud-based deployment you don’t need on-premises equipment or software, only a connection to the Microsoft Cloud.
  • Use of existing phone numbers. Microsoft becomes your voice service provider. You can transfer your phone numbers, but be aware that this is not always possible.
  • Costs. To be able to make and receive calls from external numbers needs a BV licence. The licence covers the full use of the BV system. Note that users who make internal calls only do not need a BV licence, only a Teams license.

Costing seems to be based on the cellular model.

BV Includes a domestic Calling Plan, entitling you to a quota of minutes per month locally, and regionally. If you need to call internationally, you will need to buy an International Calling Plan. You can top-up your plan by buying additional time. Communications Credits have been introduced to help you manage costs.

Overall, Business Voice is a good addition to the communications offerings available to the small business.