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


  • 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.

5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

The increasing effect of digital convergence and the undoubted cost and other benefits of VoIP networks has led to their widespread adoption in all sizes and types of business.   However, as with all things, there are two sides to the coin, and maintenance of an acceptable level of service for your VoIP system is of paramount importance. 

Before looking at monitoring techniques it is important to see what we are looking for.

Typical complaints and their cause  include:

Dropped Calls

This is the common experience of a call abruptly terminating with no apparent reason.  The reason is often insufficient bandwidth, incorrectly configured Quality of Service parameters, or something as simple as a defective handset.

Sound Quality

  • Echo


    This is one of the most common VoIP issues.  The usual symptom is callers hearing their words repeated, often with a slight delay.  The reason is usually that the handset volume is set too high, the microphone hears the incoming call from the earpiece and rebroadcasts it.

    The obvious cure is to turn down the handset volume at one or both ends.  Another resolution is to use a headset.

  • Choppiness


    This often described as “breaking up”.  Each caller loses whole or parts of words or sentences, often making a conversation impossible.  This is caused by the network losing voice information.  Voice conversations are carried in data packets, and if the connection is unstable and packets arrive in the wrong order, (“jitter”) the conversation becomes scrambled with missing information.

    A common cause on office networks is insufficient bandwidth, either inherent or following use of video-conferencing or streaming video. 

  • Delay


    Delays are basically lagging in the voice information There is an excessive gap between the caller speaking and the words being heard.  This can result in callers speaking over each other or interrupting each other.

    Delays usually result from high latency, causing packets to take too long to reach their destination.

The key to a successful VoIP implementation is to monitor call quality to ensure an acceptable level of service to users of the VoIP system.

Here are five suggestions on how to monitor a VoIP implementation to address the issues outlined above.

  1. Good Monitoring Software

    Good Monitoring Software

    The key phrase is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.  Addressing hearsay complaints about call quality is made much easier by using network monitoring software. There are several software applications available that run either in-house or in the cloud that can monitor the immense amount of data generated by VoIP activity in real-time and produce meaningful information about calls.

    Key metrics include latency, jitter, and packet loss.

    • Latency should be less than 150 milliseconds. 
    • Jitter is the latency of arriving packets.  This must be minimised to ensure that packets arrive in the correct order.
    • Packet loss. Packet loss is a specialised form of jitter, in that there must be a minimum of lost packets.  If a packet is lost, the audio is recreated without the missing packets, thereby creating choppiness.  
  2. Codec Choice

    Codec Choice

    When calls are transmitted, they are compressed, digitised and made into packets.  The formula used to do this is called a Codec.  The wrong Codec can degrade call quality, particularly if the organisation is reaching its bandwidth limit.

    If call quality is degrading, checking the Codec and if necessary choosing a more bandwidth-efficient codec can alleviate and possibly remove call quality issues.

  3. Internet Connection

    Internet Connection

    The prudent operator will check their Internet connection equipment configuration router to ensure that VoIP traffic has priority.

  4. Network Equipment Configuration

    Network Equipment Configuration

    Networks are not static.  They require monitoring and from time to time to be reconfigured particularly after equipment or software upgrades. 

    This consideration also applies to the overall configuration of the corporate network.  It is essential to ensure that Quality of Service has been configured to prioritise VoIP, and regular monitoring of equipment upgrades and replacement to ensure that this situation is maintained is essential.  Increases in complaints in a particular network segment is an indicator of misconfigured equipment.

  5. Your Service Provider

    Your Service Provider

    Not all VoIP problems are internal.  It is essential to monitor the performance of external service providers such as your Internet Connection provider.  Once voice traffic leaves your network, you have no control over its route or if their configuration prioritises voice traffic.

    You need to agree and check regularly with your service provider that VoIP traffic has priority over data traffic. This is one of the more difficult problems to resolve.





Are you still using a Legacy Phone System? Now is the time to switch.

Are You Still Using a Legacy Phone System? Now is the Time to Switch.

The universal adoption of the Internet has led to the use of digital communications as a standard part of the business environment. Most companies are creating and implementing digitally based unified communications strategies incorporating VoIP communications built around VoIP phones, video conferencing and perhaps CCTV as integral parts.

They are doing this to take advantage of the business benefits to be gained from moving from the unlinked analogue systems to an integrated digital platform. The simplest example is the use of VoIP phones to transfer from tolled calls over the PSTN to essentially free voice communications over the Internet.

There are many other reasons to make the switch from a legacy analogue phone system to a digital VoIP system, both financial and operational.

  • Cost Benefits

    Cost Benefits

    The first and most compelling reason for making the switch is large cost savings, especially for organisations that make long-distance, national and international, calls.

    Toll Charges

    Toll Charges

    In legacy systems, communications are carried by the local PSTN service provider and are tolled calls. The costs can be very high, particularly for long-distance and international calls. They are often caps on the amount of data that can be used, and the communications speed offered by the service supplier.

    In contrast, once the initial and recurrent costs of operating an internet connection have been made, usage is essentially free. There are now many software and hardware offerings that support the creation of a unified communications platform operating over a digital connection. Many organisations have created a web presence to support marketing and customer communications, so it is probable that the connection already exists.   The move to cloud-based platforms has accelerated this process.

    Bear in mind though that not all equipment can move to digital. Some modems, fax machines and alarm systems, usually older ones, do not have digital interfaces and must operate over a legacy analogue platform. Most VoIP systems cater for this and will automatically switch inward and outward calls between the digital and analogue modes. Obviously, a small analogue frame linking the PSTN and VoIP systems is needed for support.

    So, moving to VoIP and making calls over the internet can result in complete or nearly complete removal of PSTN toll charges.  These savings can be substantial for large organisations.

  • Operational Benefits

    Operational Benefits

    The additional range of options provided by a VoIP system can bring operational advantages to an organisation.

    Hunting, Call Forwarding and Call Pick-up Groups

    Call Forwarding and Call Pick-up Groups

    In a VoIP environment, extensions can be grouped together. Hunting allows calls to be automatically forwarded to another extension in the group if they are not answered or the requested extension is busy, forwarding allows a user to programme the extension to automatically forward incoming calls to another extension and a pick-up group allows calls to be picked up by other extensions in the same group.

    Automated Support

    Automated Support

    Increasingly, VoIP systems support human operators being replaced by text or voice-based chatbots who take care of common and simple customer support requests. More complex enquiries are transferred, automatically or on request to a human operator. This reduces the number of support personnel needed and the time a customer must wait for support.



    A significant difference between analogue and VoIP systems is that users are no longer tied to a physical instrument.   Users are recognised in the VoIP system with a profile, including a password.

    Entering the password on any VoIP phone allows them to make and receive calls. This means that they can make and receive calls anywhere there is a VoIP phone, sometimes even on a different site using the same VoIP system.

    Further, users can be restricted in the types of calls they can make.  The restrictions are usually based around local, national and international calls.  Because the restrictions are based on the user, not a physical instrument, this means the old practice of using the manager’s phone to make a prohibited call no longer works.



    The use of SIP software on a smart device means that people can carry their extension around with them. They can make and receive calls whenever they are connected to the corporate WiFi network.  No more hiding.

  • Reputational Benefits

    Reputational Benefits

    Nowadays potential and existing customers use search engines to find suppliers and expect to communicate with them using instant messaging and email. They expect to make their purchases online.

    They are likely to avoid companies that do not have an internet presence. A similar reluctance also comes about with companies that do not use VoIP as part of their communications strategy.

    VoIP enhances company reputation.

    If your company does not currently have a VoIP system, then you must give serious consideration to making the switch. Hardware and software solutions are available for all sizes and styles of business. Some businesses should also consider the suitability of an outsourced or hosted VoIP solution.

Five ways to tailor your telephone system to match your business needs

Five Ways To Tailor Your Telephone System To Match Your Business Needs

One of the more significant developments in computing in recent years has been the wholesale adoption of VoIP systems by businesses and increasingly by home and mobile users.   Simply put, VoIP systems remove the costs and restrictions imposed by the traditional PSTN service providers.

Because of digital convergence among other things, the initial objective, to replace PSTN connections with digital connections has grown by leaps and bounds into fully-fledged integrated communications environments supporting media connections, not just voice.

Businesses are now presented with options among others to improve their presence and reduce their costs.  Here are five such.

  1. Cost reductions through Call Security

    Cost reductions

    In the past, PBX systems were location based.  Extension numbers were tied to a physical location such as a desktop.  The ability to restrict calls was linked to the physical device. Anyone using the handset could only make the calls that were allowed for that extension number, for example, local calls only, no national or international calls.

    VoIP systems are by contrast person based in that an individual uses a PIN number to log-on to the VoIP system wherever they might be.  They can log-on from the traditional desktop handset or by using SIP technologies from a smart device.   Call security, therefore, becomes person based rather than location based.  The ability to make calls resides in the individual profile. Applying call security according to individual needs becomes that much easier.

  2. Business presence

    Business presence

    Using VoIP can make a business seem much larger than it actually is. Two examples are automated call forwarding and departmental assignment.

    With automated call forwarding, calls made to a local number are automatically forwarded to a central number.  In this way, a company can seem to have a local presence, but in actuality operate a central support organisation.  Many companies have done this with their call-centre operation.  For example, British Airways operated a centralised call centre in India.  All calls to a local or national call centre were automatically forwarded there.

    With a departmental assignment, different extension numbers can be published for sales, finance, procurement, and so-on.  However, they can be automatically forwarded to a single extension number.  The company looks like it has different operational departments when in reality it does not.

  3. Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”)

    Customer Relationship  Management

    An organisation that operates a call-centre to provide customer support can tailor its VoIP system to support a CRM environment.  The VoIP system can be linked to a database application.  In this environment, the call-centre operative will have customer information displayed on a local computer screen when that customer calls in.  The data is retrieved using the incoming telephone number.  The operator can then answer the call with “Good day <customer name> “ giving a much more personal and warm aspect to the interaction.

    Often details of previous and current interactions with that customer are shown giving the ability to deal more effectively with the customer.  VoIP provides that capability.

  4. Automated Documentation Support

    Automated Documentation Support

    A large part of customer support is providing documentation, usually product related.  This obviously can be accomplished via a website application, but most VoIP systems can also provide this facility.

    The requestor dials a number, taken for example from a media advertisement and is presented with the option to email a document to a specified address.   In this way, the requestor receives the information they want, and the company has an email address for future marketing activity.   All without any manual intervention thanks to VoIP.

  5. Automated Call Handling

    Automated Call Handling

    There is nothing more frustrating than calling an organisation and being forwarded from extension to extension as your call is not answered. The use of calling, hunting and auto-forwarding groups maintained by the VoIP system can significantly ease that pain.

    While they are similar there are differences between calling and hunting groups.  Calling groups allow anyone in that group to pick up a call for anyone else in the group.   For example, a call to an extension where the normal answerer is unavailable can be picked up by someone else nearby.  This is especially useful after hours where desks are unattended.

    Hunting groups automate this process.  If a call is not answered after a certain time interval it is automatically forwarded to another extension number.   Calling and Hunting groups often work together to improve customer service.

    Auto-forwarding is particularly useful for support and alarm calls.  The VoIP system can be programmed to auto-forward calls to a particular number to another number, for example, the duty engineer. The forwarding can be done manually by manually programming the number into the extension profile itself, or in some cases can be accomplished via a calendar. In this way, incoming calls should be answered, not just ring out.

    The increasing sophistication of VoIP systems now enables small businesses to punch above their weight and bring improved customer service levels at little or no cost.

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

Most will agree that the Internet has given rise to a major upheaval in Unified Communications, including Voice over IP (“VoIP”).   Business worldwide is embracing VoIP solutions as a tool to reduce communications costs, increase communications effectiveness and increase company profile.

It’s not just in the ability to make toll-free or low-cost calls that VoIP Solutions are having an effect.  Company culture is changing too.

If we take the cost benefits of VoIP Solutions as read, there are many other ways in which they can impact a company.Continue reading

What is the difference between VoIP and IP Telephony?

In recent times there has been a quantum increase in the use of digital communications, both in the business and domestic sectors. Businesses use IP Telephony to reduce their communications costs, improve interactions and service levels with staff and customers and present a better business image to the world at large.

Domestic users can now use VoIP to talk with and see far-flung friends and relatives easily and cheaply over long distances from their smart devices using VoIP capable apps like Skype and WhatsApp. No more expensive long-distance calls.

The terms VoIP and IP Telephony are often used interchangeably to describe digitally based communications.  Are they, in fact, the same thing, or are there technical and non-technical differences?Continue reading

VoIP As a Powerful Tool in Disaster Recovery

It’s not a question of if, but when a disaster will hit your company.  A prudent company has a disaster recovery plan, covering all components of recovery, and including a public relations/communications plan.  It should also include various scenarios for keeping the company running normally as far as is possible while the full recovery process unfolds.     

In short, not disaster recovery, but business continuity.

Obviously, the recovery steps and how long it takes to implement them depends on the nature of the disaster.  However, all have the common theme of an interruption to normal business that needs to be managed.Continue reading

How VoIP Affects Business Mobility

It is difficult nowadays to find a business that does not use Business VoIP. The cost and business benefits of it are undeniable.  Allied to improvements in digital telephony and digital convergence, most large and medium-sized businesses use it extensively as part of their internal and customer-facing processes.

One of the major benefits embraced by business is the ability to improve mobility and accessibility of staff.

In the past, whenever an employee left the office they were mostly uncontactable.  At best they were contactable in the evening at home or in their accommodation on the road. This made communications between staff and the office difficult at best.Continue reading

How to protect VoIP from scammers

How to protect VoIP from scammers

VoIP for Business provides a range of benefits, including substantial cost-savings that make it a must-have for most businesses.  However, as with most IT advances, VoIP has attracted the dark side of the developers.   Hackers and scammers are using VoIP for Business as a way to steal data and execute hacking exploits.

As with other types of malware attacks, business need to be aware of how these exploits are executed and what preventative measures they can take.

The first thing to understand is that most successful hacking attacks are by having users provide sensitive information. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, and they are increasingly using VoIP to steal personal and company data or just cause mischief.Continue reading

Reasons why Cloud VoIP can help your Business

Reasons Why Cloud VoIP Can Help Your Business

The benefits that VoIP for Business can bring to your business are undeniable.  Add to that Cloud VoIP, hosted or on-site  and you have a winning combination that can add significantly to your business profile.

Depending on the size of the business, either implementation can be applicable.  However, having said that, a cloud-based approach can fit more easily with an existing cloud-based environment, either on‑site or hosted.

Before choosing a particular approach, it is best to consider firstly whether on-site or hosted VoIP is better suited to the business, and secondly, whether a Cloud-based architecture is appropriate.Continue reading