3 min read

Microsoft Teams: Operator Connect vs. Direct Routing

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Operator-Connect-Fetured-imageCurrently at a massive 250 million monthly active users, Microsoft Teams is the communication solution on the front line of the transition to flexible and remote work. Microsoft Teams has emerged as more than just a collaboration tool – it’s a service which enables UCaaS functionality, CRM integration, CCaaS, and even productivity tools. However, for Microsoft users to leverage the full benefits of Teams, they need to access the right telephony and voice strategy.   

The good news is that Microsoft offers three ways to connect to the Microsoft Phone System. You can use a Microsoft calling plan or access certified Microsoft voice providers through Direct Routing or Operator Connect. For many wanting to take a flexible approach to Microsoft Teams calling with their own voice provider, Direct Routing and Operator Connect seem like very similar solutions. Let’s explore how they differ and how you can choose the right option for your organization. 

Microsoft Teams Telephony  

To perform as a full UCaaS solution, Microsoft Teams needs access to the Microsoft Phone System. Microsoft has their own solution for this in the form of Microsoft Calling Plans – offered on a per-user, per-month basis. Microsoft’s calling plans aren’t the most cost-effective options for companies with specific or complex communication demands. Additionally, there’s limited support available for organizations with complex requirements.  

In an effort to give Teams users more turnkey solutions, Microsoft introduced Direct Routing and Operator Connect to allow customers to choose their own Microsoft certified providers to leverage Microsoft Teams. The ability to choose your own cloud provider comes with benefits like increased phone number control, greater geographic reach, and the retained benefits of your current provider. 

Microsoft Teams Direct Routing 

Direct Routing represents a simple and flexible way for companies to connect to the Microsoft Phone System. Organizations can source SIP trunks from carriers or use managed service providers to get a more end-to-end solution including contact center. The Direct Routing offering allows providers to configure cloud-based Session Border Controllers (SBCs) to route calls from the Microsoft Phone System to their network for public telephony network access (PSTN). Depending on the Direct Routing solution, you can access additional specialist support to help optimize your telephony offering. For instance, with a provider like CallTower, you can port existing numbers from your existing carrier, so you don’t have to change numbers during a migration, or you can add services such as paging, handsets, headsets, contact center, CRM integration, redundancy services and receptionist console to mention a few.   

Direct Routing allows Microsoft Teams users to access their telephony solutions in more countries than you could access with Microsoft Calling Plans. Additionally, unlike with Microsoft Calling plans, Direct Routing gives companies a vast range of routing options to choose from. Direct Routing is advised as the ideal solution for Teams UCaaS if you’re looking for flexibility, advanced key integrations, and additional customized features. 

 Operator Connect for Microsoft Teams

Operator Connect is the recent addition to Microsoft’s solutions for calling functionality. The platform enables enterprises to choose their own Teams PSTN carrier – like Direct Routing. With Operator Connect, the focus is on using a certified Microsoft provider via the Office 365 Admin Portal to manage your voice services.    

With Operator Connect for Microsoft Teams, IT groups will be able to connect to their provider and assign numbers to their users through a Teams admin dashboard “Operators” tab. This means there is no need for any telephony expertise or carrier negotiations. If you already have a relationship with one of Microsoft’s Operator Connect providers, you can maintain that relationship going forward. The solution makes it easier to connect your telephony solution into Teams with minimal headaches.  

You also get benefits like access to existing Operator Contract providers to minimize costs, quick deployment (only minutes to manage phone numbers in the Teams admin center), operator-managed cloud-based SBC and PSTN infrastructure to reduce hardware requirements and enhanced 24/7 support from operators such as CallTower. 

The Difference 

Operator Connect and Direct Routing seem like similar systems, as both solutions allow you to have more flexibility with your transition into Microsoft Phone functionality. If you are looking for a solution for Microsoft UCaaS that does not have the same restrictions or cost as the Calling Plans from Microsoft themselves, either service will work with the right provider  

Operator Connect simply creates an option in the selection of calling options that today’s companies have when moving to Teams. The Operator Connect system differs in that it is a peering relationship between a service provider and Microsoft. The solution also includes a set of valuable APIs which integrate the deployment and purchase process, allowing for more simplicity for provisioning.   

Operator Connect takes the UCaaS offerings in Teams beyond basic connectivity, allowing administrators in the enterprise to simply go into their admin account, choose a service provider and administer phone numbers whenever they choose. It’s as simple as downloading applications from an app store.   

Making the Choice 

Operator Connect and Direct Routing both offer significant benefits to users and are both likely to continue their growth within the Microsoft Teams ecosystem.  For companies planning to access Microsoft Teams for their UCaaS and CCaaS solutions, the choice between Microsoft Teams Direct Routing and Operator Connect will be a highly personalized one. Businesses who require straight forward voice, without contact center, or CRM integration, may opt for the simplicity of Operator Connect.  Companies with a more complex IT structure with requirements for Contact Center, CRM integration and further customization may require Direct Routing. 

For more information on the latest on Microsoft Teams and the features that can have the most significant impact within your business or organization, contact CallTower for a free consultation by clicking below:



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