Microsoft 365 Business Voice, adding telephony to Business Versions of Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Business Voice is the latest addition to the Microsoft Office telephony stable – Microsoft Phone System has been available for some time to add telephony functionality to Enterprise versions of Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft 365 Business Voice, now allows telephony to be added to all of the Business versions of Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft 365.
Microsoft has long been one of the biggest names on the technology block, with the company being largely responsible for everything from the rise of the personal computer to the explosion in popularity of some of the most recognisable office productivity software titles in the world. Software such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint need no introduction. In recent years, Microsoft has made a discernible move into the world of cloud-based office technology — and its latest offering, Microsoft 365 Business Voice, is its way of bringing together and harmonising some of its communications products.
Microsoft 365 Business Voice brings together many of the recognisable features of the Business versions of Office 365 and the broader Microsoft portfolio. From instant messaging apps to voice communication features, there’s very little that Microsoft has left out in its pursuit of a harmonised system, which centralises all the features that a small to medium-sized business might need. This article will explore the options.
A quick history
Microsoft Business Voice is a new innovation. Its arrival was announced through various mediums, including a blog from Technology Services Group (TSG) — an organisation that partnered with Microsoft in the development of the new product offering. On its blog, TSG noted: “Microsoft 365 Business Voice will bring all of your business communications together into a truly unified platform”.
To a great extent, TSG is correct. Microsoft 365 Business Voice unifies a range of communication streams and software, and it is especially helpful for linking together both internal and external spoken telephony — meaning it can handle both private and public telephone networks. It also works well when it comes to merging typed and spoken communications. Microsoft 365 Business Voice brings together instant messaging and voice calls, for example, placing both of these now-crucial services in the same place.
The package is firmly rooted in ‘voice over IP’, or ‘VoIP’ technology. This umbrella term refers to the practice of routing communications — whether just voice-based or visual — over an ‘internet protocol’, or IP network such as the internet itself. In the modern age, VoIP is the gold standard for most organisations — and the decision by Microsoft to embed its unified communications solution in this field is a welcome yet expected move.
It’s possible to identify here the hallmarks of Skype, which Microsoft acquired in 2011. The unification of instant messaging and voice communications will not be at all unfamiliar to those who have used Skype before. The point of Microsoft Business Voice, however, is to provide these services specifically to small and medium-sized businesses and to incorporate them in Office 365. It’s clear that there’s a coordinated product offer arching across the Microsoft family, and that’s useful to know — especially if a business is scaling and needs assurance that it can upgrade to a more robust set of features later on.
Microsoft Business Voice, what’s in the box?
When it comes to voice telephony solutions, any investment decision should begin with a systematic analysis of features — so before delving more deeply into the benefits of Microsoft’s new system, it’s wise to start at the very beginning and explore what the package provides.
Put simply, Microsoft Business Voice is a cloud-based telephony service that works alongside Business versions of Office 365 — a software package that many small firms will be familiar with, as it also powers services such as business email. Microsoft Business Voice works alongside Microsoft Teams, which is one of the fastest-growing products in the Office 365 portfolio. Any small to medium-sized organisation that uses Office 365 already is likely to have no trouble accessing the new product.
The features included are indeed useful. Audio-conferencing is now integrated as standard into internet-based meetings, meaning that the days of organising dial-ins are over. The cloud-based nature of the newly unified service means that even small and medium-sized businesses will be able to access Microsoft cloud’s security features. Furthermore, public switched telephone network (PTSN) capabilities have been significantly enhanced in a way that is cost-effective to the end-user.
Microsoft 365 Business Voice, the benefits
Microsoft has taken the decision to base its new unified telephony services in the cloud — which, for the user, is of great convenience in terms of access and performance. The Microsoft cloud is capable of handling issues such as high loads thanks to its balancing tools, and it also enjoys a 99.9% uptime guarantee — meaning that you can place and take calls without much fear of downtime.
Moving away from the product offering for a moment, it’s also worth noting that Microsoft 365 Business Voice has an appealing and competitive pricing structure. It solves a key problem that many customers had experienced in the past. Previously, adding in PSTN audio conferencing numbers, phone systems or calling plans to Microsoft Teams meant an upgrade to Office 365 Enterprise — a process that required a significant investment. Thanks to the arrival of Microsoft 365 Business Voice, that is no longer necessary.
Microsoft Business Voice comes bundled with a Microsoft Call Plan, not the most effective way to by phone minutes – it can be unbundled and you can opt for Direct Routing that gives you ‘proper telephony billing’.
Microsoft Business Voice might be a new innovation, but it’s already gone down well with those who have used it. It harmonises and brings together existing features in a way that is likely to make life much easier for those who use it. For the small and medium-sized businesses, which are the key intended beneficiaries of the cloud-based phone system, the service’s increased efficiencies can only be a highly positive development.