What’s the Difference Between Microsoft Calling and Direct Routing?

Microsoft Calling and Direct Routing both allow businesses to make calls in Microsoft Teams. This blog post explains the differences between Microsoft Calling and Direct Routing.

July 07, 2021

Establishing a Microsoft Phone System

Microsoft Teams (Teams) powers connection and collaboration for workforces around the globe. People mainly think of the platform as a tool for internal interaction, but did you know Teams can fully replace legacy phone systems? 

For businesses that want to make Teams their singular tool to connect with colleagues or make external calls, they’ll need to connect the tool to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). There are two main ways to do this: Get a Calling Plan from Microsoft, or work with your telecom provider to establish Direct Routing. Both options come with pros and cons to consider. It’s worth taking a closer look at each option to determine the best choice for your business.

Microsoft, Teams, calling
There are multiple ways to power calling.


Teams Calling Plan Benefits

If you’re already a Microsoft user, your calling needs might be best met by getting a Microsoft Calling Plan. Microsoft offers Calling Plans to let companies add cloud-based voice calling as part of their calling subscription plans. 

With cloud-based calling, users can connect through any device and from any location. With Microsoft’s Calling Plans, you can choose numbers and gain access to PSTN services. Both domestic and international plans are available. Domestic Calling Plans let you make calls within the country or region. Domestic and International Calling Plans offer a combination of domestic capabilities and include the ability to make international calls.

By adding calling features to Teams, you gain access to the voice calling functionality you need for your business. In addition to gaining specific calling capabilities, there are several benefits of a Microsoft Calling Plan to consider when deciding how to upgrade your business phone system. 

1. Collaborate Closely With Microsoft

One of the most notable Microsoft Calling Plans advantages is that you can access telephony capabilities such as auto attendants and direct inward dialing via a familiar provider. That means you won’t need to take time to comparison shop or interview other providers. By working with Microsoft, you’ll have fewer provider relationships to manage, and you’ll keep your communication and collaboration needs bundled together.

voice, calling Microsoft, Teams
Add voice calling to Microsoft Teams.


2. Only Pay for What You Need

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending money on tools, services, or capabilities that you don’t need or use. To that end, if only some of your employees need to make calls, you’ll be able to tailor the service to only provide access to those individuals that need and use the features. That way, you won’t have to pay for calling services that not everyone needs. By customizing which Teams users have access to Microsoft Calling Plans, your business can efficiently manage costs.

3. Get Expert Support

Expert support and service are essential when implementing new technology within your business. The right level of support will ensure that issues are resolved quickly. With a Microsoft Calling Plan, you receive support from insiders with the best and latest device and technology knowledge. Microsoft support teams are deeply ingrained in Microsoft products and trained to address issues within the company’s platforms.

productivity, connect, calling, enable
Enable voice calling for more productive teams.


Microsoft Calling Challenges

Although Microsoft Calling can be a good option for some companies, keep a few considerations in mind. With a Microsoft Calling Plan, there’s a heavier administration component, meaning your IT team might have to handle more of the legwork, such as number porting, user provisioning, and number assigning. This could be a concern, especially if you’re running a smaller team.

If your company needs international calling options, it’s important to note that Microsoft Calling Plans aren’t available in every country, which might be a deal breaker. And depending on your company’s size and needs, a Microsoft Calling Plan may not be as cost effective. Microsoft’s pay-by-user approach and associated charges for call paths can add up if you have a high number of users, so some companies may find that Microsoft Calling Plans don’t fit within their budget. 

Direct Routing Benefits

Direct Routing, an alternative to Microsoft Calling Plans, is another way that companies can easily enable VoIP calling. Like Microsoft Calling Plans, you can use Direct Routing to enable voice communications through Teams, except you choose your own telecom provider. This lets you work with a trusted provider that is already meeting your telecom needs. Because Microsoft isn’t a specialized calling company, there’s room for integration with partners—like Intrado—that are. In general, Direct Routing offers more flexibility and a better user experience than Microsoft Calling Plans do.

1. Choose Your Own Provider

Unlike Microsoft Calling Plans, Direct Routing lets you choose your telecom provider. This gives you the freedom to partner with a provider that has already proven its ability to handle your voice calling needs and meets a standard of quality your organization trusts. As a result, you work with a provider that is well-qualified to support calling for your company. Intrado, for example, has a proven track record of successfully helping our customers with their Direct Routing needs.

Direct, Routing, calls, calling
Direct Routing powers VoIP calls.


2. Reduce Administrative Burdens

Direct Routing can offer a lighter administrative responsibility compared to Microsoft Calling Plans. Customers who want to be hands on can take control, and customers who want to be hands off can defer to their provider. Your telecom provider will handle administrative and technical elements for you, such as number porting. Less administrative responsibility means your IT team can focus on network system installation and maintenance, as well as customer support. 

3. Optimize Your IT Budget

Budget is top of mind when adding a new capability to your communications stack. But new features don’t have to break the bank. Direct Routing is a cloud-based solution, so it minimizes costly on-premises hardware. Cloud-based connectivity means you can forgo legacy hardware and finally move on from fees to maintain and upgrade hardware over time. With Direct Routing, you don’t need any additional infrastructure.

4. Expand Your International Coverage

Although you can get some international coverage through a Microsoft Calling Plan, Microsoft’s plans typically don’t include as many countries as another telecom provider would. Therefore, if your company needs to make calls to many different countries, Direct Routing may be a better way to ensure your team can place calls wherever you need to, without limitations.

Direct Routing Challenges

Direct Routing comes with potential obstacles that might deter some business decision makers. Direct Routing shares some of the same challenges with Microsoft Calling Plans. Like Microsoft Calling Plans, Direct Routing is for Microsoft Teams customers, so this option works only for existing or new Teams users. Because Direct Routing is a Microsoft feature, Microsoft outages could impact your communications. One way to mitigate this risk is to select a provider that offers built-in continuity plans. Intrado helps manage these risks with services like disaster recovery.

Ultimately, the benefits of Direct Routing outweigh its potential drawbacks. You can choose your own provider, reduce administrative burdens, optimize your IT budget, and expand your international coverage. Direct Routing for MS Teams helps shift IT software and processes toward an integrated, consistent, and unified approach to communications. 

Operator Connect: The Future of Direct Routing

Microsoft also offers a third option for Teams calling called Operator Connect. Operator Connect is the next evolution of Direct Routing, which makes it easier to provision phone numbers, manage users, and set up calling in Teams. It’s reserved for a select group of elite operators, including Intrado, who have been prequalified by Microsoft. Operator Connect brings all of the benefits of Direct Routing, plus a few others, while mitigating challenges.

Start Using Your Voice

If you want to turn Teams into a more useful and effective collaboration tool by adding voice capabilities, consider Direct Routing. There are a number of providers to choose from, and Intrado is among a select number of official Gold-Certified Microsoft and Direct Routing partners that can help you support seamless voice integration. Our Direct Routing solution, Hoot Connect for Microsoft Teams, is already giving companies the ability to power up their teams with voice capabilities. 

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