MJFChat: How to Successfully Deploy Teams Voice Services

We’re doing a twice-monthly interview show on Petri.com that is dedicated to covering topics of interest to our tech-professional audience. We have branded this show “MJFChat.”

In my role as Petri’s Community Magnate, I will be interviewing a variety of IT-savvy technology folks. Some of these will be Petri contributors; some will be tech-company employees; some will be IT pros. We will be tackling various subject areas in the form of 30-minute audio interviews. I will be asking the questions, the bulk of which we’re hoping will come from you, our Petri.com community of readers.

Readers can submit questions via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and/or LinkedIn using the #AskMJF hashtag. Once the interviews are completed, we will post the audio and associated transcript in the forums for readers to digest at their leisure. (By the way, did you know MJFChats are now available in podcast form? Go here for MJF Chat on Spotify; here for Apple Podcasts on iTunes; and here for Google Play.)

Our latest MJFChat is full of tips and tricks for deploying Teams voice services. My special guest is Stale Hansen, founder and principal cloud architect at CloudWay. Stale also is a Microsoft Regional Director and Most Valuable Professional. He is a contributor to Office for IT Pros, as well.

In this chat, Stale answers a number of reader questions about Teams voice services. He also offers some guidance and best practices for those looking for the best ways to deploy these services in their own organization.

If you know someone you’d like to see interviewed on the MJFChat show, including yourself, just Tweet to me or drop me a line. (Let me know why you think this person would be an awesome guest and what topics you’d like to see covered.) We’ll take things from there…


Mary Jo Foley (00:01):
Hi, you’re listening to Petri.Com’s MJF Chat Show. I am Mary Jo Foley, AKA your Petri.Com community magnate. And I am here to interview tech industry experts about various topics that you, our readers and listeners want to know about. Today’s MJF Chat is going to be focused on how to successfully deploy Teams Voice Services and my special guest is Stale Hansen, who is the Founder and Principal Cloud Architect at Cloudway. Hi Stale, thank you for doing this chat today, and it’s really great to meet you virtually.

Stale Hansen (01:03):
Yes. Hi, Mary Jo, I’m stoked to be here. I just want to mention that I’m also a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, a Microsoft Regional Director.

Mary Jo Foley (01:12):
Oh wow great.

Stale Hansen (01:12):
And I’m the author of the Calling and Devices chapter of the book Office 365 for IT Pros, which I wrote together with Tony Redmond and five other MVPs.

Mary Jo Foley (01:22):
Great, great. Yes, I should have added some more credentials cause I know you have many, so thanks for doing that. When we posted about this chat on Twitter, a lot of people started sending in questions. So I think it’s a very popular and lively topic. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dig in. Maybe the first thing we could have you do is define what you mean when you say Voice Services in Teams. And I’m asking that because a lot of people on Twitter said, you know what, I don’t even make phone calls anymore and I don’t even want to deploy Voice Services on Teams if I can get around doing it. So what would you say to people who wonder if voice services really matter at all anymore on a platform like Teams?

Stale Hansen (02:09):
Yes. First off, let me clarify Voice Services in Teams, because there are two flavors, actually. You have the Teams to Teams call, which is like the peer-to-peer call, which is natively Teams. That’s actually also called a voice service or a voice call, but then they have Teams to PSTN or PSN, is the Public Switch Telephone Network, where you connect and can call any number in the world actually. So those are the two flavors and it seems like Microsoft is also confused about this since they announced that earlier this month that they have over 80 million monthly active phone users, which is a lot right. And it’s really about the market standard. But they came back and clarified. And what they meant was they have 80 million monthly active users that are making unscheduled call with one other individual in the last 28 days, which includes PSTN and peer-to-peer calls.

Stale Hansen (03:16):
So voice calls, there are a lot of. So if everyone is using them these days, not just meetings.

Mary Jo Foley (03:22):

Stale Hansen (03:24):
But the number is probably about, have not this confirmed, it’s probably between 3 and 4 million telephone monthly active users, which makes them still a market leader in the space of, of telephone in a SaaS solution.

Mary Jo Foley (03:42):
Hmm. Okay, very interesting.

Stale Hansen (03:43):
So, I think actually voice services really matter on Teams. And, the question is that you can actually, can you connect Teams to PSTN? And the answer is yes, and this is actually really, really great. Think about that, you are actually removing technology barriers or making a call. You can still stay on your Team client, but the other person you are reaching out to can be on any other device, around the world. Which means that yes, there are some users that only need to reach out to their peers because they’re also on Teams, but we need to think about if you’re reaching out to whoever and you don’t know what they’re using. You’re actually breaking down those technology barriers and can dial anyone, it’s magical.

Mary Jo Foley (04:42):
Well, we have a related question from someone I think you know, Tom Arbuthnot on Twitter. And he was asking, what are you seeing specifically in terms of phone adoption with this platform? And do you actually think modern knowledge workers still need a traditional phone number? So this plays into what we were just talking about, right?

Stale Hansen (05:02):
Yeah, definitely. And I think there are multiple ways to look at this. I have seen both sides of it. I understand where Tom is coming from, how those really savvy information workers that work with everyone else that are on Teams. But what you have seen in organizations is the service needs to be available, especially in larger and global organizations, but we can give users the choice to add them because this is a per user licensing and can come back to the licensing later, but you can assign it per user. So what we have done in some global deployments is to give users a choice and a way to order telephone. They will get it as long as it’s available in their country, but we won’t assign it to them by default, so they can make the choice of having it.

Stale Hansen (05:58):
The other side of what you’re seeing is that during COVID that you have a lot of those typically office only organizations now needing to work at the home office, where they typically have a telephone system at the office. That’s not available at the home office, we’ve seen projects where we needed to integrate with those systems and enable voice through software like Teams to still give them access to their phone numbers so they can get the job done. Because there are so many flavors of information workers and some of them are actually making and receiving a lot of calls and Teams can provide that wherever you are.

Mary Jo Foley (06:46):
Okay, great. Let’s do a definition question from Matt Levy on Twitter. He just asked a very straightforward, what is Microsoft PhoneSystem? Or maybe that’s not straightforward, I don’t know.

Stale Hansen (07:01):
Oh yeah. It’s a great question. And Microoft PhoneSystem is the license and the capability you need to get PSTN connectivity or telephonic connectivity. So you need to be assigned this license in order to have it and it’s available in Microsoft 365 E5, it’s an add on for Microsoft 365 E3, and it’s even available as an add on called Business Voice for Microsoft 365 Business Premium. So this is available down into the SMB market as well. And there are three flavors of connecting to PSTN after you have this license. One is Calling Plans, that is where you get the number from Microsoft. Microsoft acquires the number for you and gives you access to assign it to users directly in the Teams platform, requires no infrastructure on your side. It’s available in 26 countries and counting, but calling plans is of course an extra license again, because you need to pay for your minutes.

Stale Hansen (08:14):
And the second flavor is Operator Connect, where you can actually bring your own carrier into Microsoft Teams. Operator Connect is in public preview right now, and you have 11 operators part of that program, such as Orange, T-Mobile, Telenor in Norway, for instance. And that’s where you can just from the Teams platform, just order from your local carrier and get the numbers and the agreements you have with your existing operators directly in Teams. And then the third flavor you need when you have the Phone System license is Direct Routing. Direct routing is when you deploy your own hardware and integrate with your own SIP trunks, or even your own on-premises PBX your telephone system, and you have full control over what happens with a call, you can manipulate and yeah, it’s very, IT Pro friendly. It’s a lot of work that can be done then, and a lot of adjustments that can be done with direct routing. So those are the three flavors of connecting to telephone after you have the phone system license.

Mary Jo Foley (09:31):
Got it. So Matt also wants to know, is there a difference between inter-org Teams calls and intra-org Teams direct routing calls?

Stale Hansen (09:43):
Yes. And this is I think for calls in general. So when you have telephone in your Teams client, you have the choice to call someone directly Teams to Teams, or you can call their mobile phone, or even their fixed line number. If you call someone in your organization and you call their fixed line number, which is again assigned to them as a Teams user, that call actually will stay in Teams. It will be converted to a Teams to Teams call because Teams detects that, Hey, this is a number I know, I can route this call internally. You don’t need to pay the minutes for this, but if you call someone on their fixed line and it’s not someone in your organization, or you call someone in your organization and you call them on your mobile, then it will go over that direct routing SIP trunk or operator connect, or use the calling plan minutes and go over the PSN network. And it will be a regular phone call.

Mary Jo Foley (10:45):
Okay. Got it. All right. Now we’re going to do a very wide ranging question, but maybe we can make it a little more specific as we ask it. Chris Goodwill on Twitter asked, what are your thoughts on best practices for adoption and communication to the wider business, but maybe we can talk a little specifically about, you know, what’s your thoughts about people coming back from the home office and kind of what best practices will look like for people dealing with voice services.

Stale Hansen (11:16):
Yeah, and this goes for voice services in general, you know, those two flavors Teams to Teams calls and Teams to telephone. And the worst feedback we can get from users when they get back to the office is that it worked better at my home office. That’s definitely, hands down the worst feedback you can get. So what’s important is then to plan for optimizing for voice calls specifically, and also video calls for Teams in your office network. And there are multiple ways to do that in Teams. And you need to both prioritize the traffic internally in your network, make sure you’re connecting to the Microsoft service in an optimal way, making sure the time spent on the internet before you’re hitting the Microsoft network is as short as possible. And for those global organizations out there, make sure you have local breakouts because Teams is a global service and you should connect to your local Teams service and not the one in Europe, if you’re based in the US for instance. And within Teams, you also can define your infrastructure.

Stale Hansen (12:40):
And I see this as the next big thing people need to do when optimizing for Teams. So you can go into the Teams Admin Center and, and define your subnets and tell Microsoft what your internal networks are, so that you both can know where the traffic is coming from, which you can again, use for troubleshooting. You can use it for specifying when you’re troubleshooting and looking into the traffic, like, okay, where do we have great quality, but where do we have poor quality? Maybe need to look into that location or that building. So adding that helps Microsoft identify your traffic. And then of course learn what kind of overview and settings you can look at when troubleshooting and looking at call quality, you can do that from the Call Quality Dashboard. You can do that from Call Analytics and you can even use the Microsoft 365 Network Overview, which you can find through the Productivity Score to look at the quality. So this is an ongoing work, and you can do that, with Teams and optimize for that. So I think that’s the biggest task for getting back to the office now that people are used to being alone maybe, or having direct connectivity from their home office.

Mary Jo Foley (14:16):
Okay, great. So let’s take a quick break and talk about our MJF Chat sponsor, SmartDeploy. According to G2 SmartDeploy enables IT to deploy Windows images, 47% faster than Symantec Ghost, 57% faster than MDT, and it’s 100% worth a try. Start saving time, and IT resources with this exclusive free offer worth more than $570 at smartdeploy.com/mjfchat. Okay, back to Teams Voice Services now. I’ve got more reader and listener questions for you. James Auman on Twitter asked why should we consider Teams as a phone replacement plan when RingCentral and Zoom seem to have the market cornered? Does Teams actually offer advantages beyond, you already use Office 365, so why not just use Teams?

Stale Hansen (15:19):
That’s a tricky question, of course.

Mary Jo Foley (15:22):
It is.

Stale Hansen (15:22):
And the answer is, it depends. It also depends where you are in the world. RingCentral and Zoom telephone is not something I have noticed a lot in Europe, for instance. So, it depends on where you are in the world, as well in terms of what kind of services are penetrating the market and are even available. But if you look at Teams and telephone as a standalone service, then it gets trickier because Teams and telephone is built on Teams, right? So you need Teams service. The Teams service is part of Microsoft 365. It’s available for small businesses though, so you can have a small business license, but you still need the full Microsoft 365 package in order to do it. And it gets even better of course, Teams as a service, if you have your email in Microsoft 365, and if you have your files in there, so it’s more of a connected service and it’s so much more than just voice, right? Like people are saying, I haven’t made a phone call in a year and that may be true, but the moment you have that need, and you have the ability to make a phone call, then you’re just not noticing that you’re doing it because it’s the same platform, it’s the same client. And for you as a Teams user it’s the same experience. So telephone in Teams is just a small component of the full workspace that is Microsoft Teams.

Mary Jo Foley (17:01):
Okay. I got a couple of questions for you from Dean K on Twitter. He wants to know what you know about the status of the Teams SIP Gateway for older SIP phones. And then he also wants to know about the status of PSTN individual call recordings.

Stale Hansen (17:20):
Yeah, so Microsoft announced the Teams SIP Gateway and it’s still on the roadmap. I think it’s in some kind of preview somewhere, and it’s the ability to connect generic SIP phones to the Teams service. So you don’t need a Teams certified phone, you don’t need Teams running the Microsoft software, and you can reuse some of your existing phones that you’re using on-premises today, for instance. I believe, I don’t know, I believe it will be available in the next half year. Microsoft have been talking about this for quite some time. And I think it’s sooner rather than later that it will be available. And this goes into like, okay, it’s a telephone service and we need to be able to use it as a telephone service. So we need those old phones, you know, with holding the microphone to your ear, and slamming the phone when you’re hanging up and angry, and all that, you need that in Teams as well. And this is the ability to do that. Also, what I want to mention is that Teams has taken over for Skype for Business now. Skype for Business has been deprecated in Microsoft 365. But you still have some phones with the old software that can’t be upgraded to Teams phones. That will also be supported in the unforeseeable future. So they can still use them even though you are in a Teams Only mode.

Mary Jo Foley (18:58):
Okay. Got it.

Stale Hansen (19:00):
And then there was the other part of that question,

Mary Jo Foley (19:05):
Right, yep.

Stale Hansen (19:05):
PSTN individual call recording. I’ve actually seen a YouTube video of this. So I think it’s right around the corner, but so I think it’s still rolling out. I still don’t have it in my tenant, but it’s right around the corner.

Mary Jo Foley (19:19):
Okay, great.

Stale Hansen (19:20):
But I want to clarify though, the individual recording, because that’s a manual recording initiated from your Teams client. That’s what’s rolling out and being available. You also have compliance recording within Teams, that’s already available. But that requires a centralized software and the service connecting to the Teams service, that’s already available.

Mary Jo Foley (19:46):
Okay, great. We have another status question for you this time from Dan Balitewicz, he said, what do you know about SharePoint online regional homing? He said, his company just relaunched its intranet and SharePoint online, and their North America performance is decent, but their other regions are much slower. So he wants to know how can I speed up my performance?

Stale Hansen (20:11):
Yeah. I want to answer that in two flavors, of course. Telephone of course doesn’t have much to do with SharePoint, but the answer is still relevant because if you’re using geolocation for your services that means that’s where they are stored after you have been working with them and so on, and does not necessarily give a performance increase. But it could be, but that’s not something, that’s not why you want to do it. You want to do that for compliance reasons. And that brings me back to my earlier point when optimizing for connectivity to the Teams service, local internet breakout, stay as little as possible on the internet and make sure there are no proxy servers inspecting or blocking or doing anything with the URLs, the SharePoint service is accessing.

Stale Hansen (21:13):
And I think that’s homes back to Teams as well, because when you can store your meetings, for instance, a meeting recording, meeting data in those locations what do you think about performance for calls and meetings? Well the performance for calls and meetings, they are automatically optimized. It’s super awesome, actually. It uses a local infrastructure in the region you are in to render the meetings, to render the calls. So it doesn’t go all the way back to where your tenant is. So even though you are based in the U S and I’m a European user making a call. Especially if I’m using calling plans or joining a meeting, I will use the European infrastructure to do that, which means it stays local to me, and I get an optimized performance. So there’s I would say a disconnect between where things are stored and where things are rendered or produced, I would say in the Teams service.

Mary Jo Foley (22:23):
Got it. I’m glad we get to hear a “super awesome” from you because I hear that’s one of your signature phrases.

Stale Hansen (22:31):
Yes, it is. Everything is actually awesome. And it’s so much fun when stuff works for you.

Mary Jo Foley (22:38):

Stale Hansen (22:38):
And then you get in a better mood and you become more happy and more approachable. So it’s just like, yeah, good times.

Mary Jo Foley (22:48):
Gotcha. All right. I saw a tweet from you this week, that mentioned there’s now a way to find available phone numbers within the Teams PhoneSystem deployment via a script. So can you talk a little bit about this script? Where can people get it, and what advantages does this actually give people who are using Teams Voice Services?

Stale Hansen (23:11):
Yeah, actually back at the Lync Conference in 2014, and TechEd 2014, and Microsoft Ignite 2015, I actually stood up and had the deep dive sessions on phone number management.

Mary Jo Foley (23:30):

Stale Hansen (23:30):
Which means that, yes, it’s easy to consume the service. Yes, you can have it in Teams, but if you have a global deployment, and you have different locations, different number ranges assigned to those occasions, and then you have some users with exceptions and all that, you can spend a lot of time, both finding numbers to assign to users in the correct location and at the correct settings for them. And turns out there is no way natively in the platform. It wasn’t in Lync. It wasn’t in Skype for Business. And it’s now not in Teams, a way for you to list, here’s my number range, I want to know what numbers are used, which numbers are in retention, and which numbers are available for me to assign to my next available user, because this is not something you do every day, right?

Stale Hansen (24:27):
It could be half a year between every time you do it and you don’t want to reinvent this routine. So I have automated this. This is a script I have developed. It’s a way to both identify your number range, look at Teams and see what numbers are in use, and then give you, here’s the next available number, here you go. But to do a bit more than that, I actually classify phone numbers because you can have something called gold numbers, silver numbers, bronze numbers, and then you have vanity numbers. Numbers you don’t want to like just assign to users. You want to keep them maybe for VIP users, or maybe you want them for hunt group services. So you don’t want them to automatically be assigned to people. So I do that as well in my script.

Mary Jo Foley (25:19):
How can people get it? How can people get this script, where is it?

Stale Hansen (25:19):
Yeah, it’s available on my blog,

Mary Jo Foley (25:24):
Oh, good.

Stale Hansen (25:24):
msunified.net, you can download it for free. It’s a community tool and it’s stored on GitHub and it may replace your Excel spreadsheets that at some point dies.

Mary Jo Foley (25:42):
Cool. Okay, that’s a great tip. Any other tips or resources you want to share for people who are trying to keep up with all the changes that are going on in voice services and Teams right now?

Stale Hansen (25:55):
Yes, the best source, of course, if you want to stay up to date, is the Teams Blog on Tech Community. I think that’s, they will come with what’s new every month. And if they launch new services, they will have release posts about that. And also shameless plug, we do the book Office 365 for IT Pros, it’s updated monthly. And I spend a lot of time actually every month trying to get all, not just all the news, but all the new features and more experience into that book from a calling perspective. But everything Office 365 is updated monthly in that book. So those are the two resources I want to mention.

Mary Jo Foley (26:38):
Great. Well, thank you so much again for doing this chat. I think it was really big topic of interest based on all the questions we got on Twitter and very timely. So thanks again.

Stale Hansen (26:49):
Thanks for having me. It was fun.

Mary Jo Foley (26:51):
Great. For everyone else, who’s listening right now, or reading the transcript of this chat, I’ll be putting up more information soon about who my next guest is going to be. And once you see that you can submit questions directly on Twitter using the #MJFChat. We need you to use that hashtag so we can find your questions. So make sure you use that when you put your questions on Twitter. In the meantime, if you know of anyone else or even yourself who might make a good guest for one of these chats, please do not hesitate to drop me a note. Thank you very much.