I have been using Teams almost exclusively since the beginning of the year. Many companies worldwide—like mine—are having their employees work from home. The shift to this model is now the norm, not the exception. I use Teams for meetings, chat, presentations, and trainings. Three global conferences I attended this summer allowed for seamless viewing and interaction. The remote attendees dialed in via audio conferencing—something that Teams built in to ensure everyone can access a meeting.
The funny thing is, when Teams was launched, many people were using other meeting platforms—like Skype. With Skype, audio conferencing was already part of the fabric to a point. As Teams has evolved, components that were built into Skype were transitioned into Teams and then expanded. With Skype, you could only make calls to your contacts. It was never intended to replace a telephone. Teams expanded this to allow for a dial-in number to be added by the organizer so that anyone can access the meeting.
A New Way
As companies shift away from an in-office setting, the need to change out the phone system has become more pressing. There are many more people who are conducting business on their cellphones and other mobile platforms (like tablets and laptops). If you are in a place where you can’t use your iPad or laptop, and need to join a meeting, a dial-in number is essential. Without the added audio-conferencing component, you only have a link. If there is no Wi-Fi where you are, well, you are in a bind. The meetings I have been invited to allow for not only a click-to-join, but also dial in. The number is accessible for anyone within the company, or a guest, dialing in from anywhere.
With Microsoft 365 E3, the only way to get the feature is to add it to your license or—as with an Enterprise Agreement (EA)—add it to the agreement, then true up at the end of the year. Microsoft Office has audio conferencing built in, and it can be utilized whether you have a phone system in place or want to transition to a VOIP setup.
For a Microsoft 365 E3 customer, this can mean $4.00 per person, per month. For a company like mine, if we held an E3 agreement, that is upwards of $12,000 per month. Before you raise your eyebrows at this, consider that on average, basic phone service typically starts at $20.00 per user, per month. A PBX system will cost between $800-1000 per user, plus the added cost for the handsets.
Free Audio Conferencing for EA Customers
Microsoft is offering audio conferencing free to their EA customers through the end of their contract term. The stipulation is that the EA must have paid Microsoft 365 or Office 365 licenses with Microsoft Teams without audio conferencing add-on or Microsoft 365 E5. This is being offered until January 31, 2021.
Up to 33% Off Microsoft 365 Business Voice
Through April 30, 2021, existing Microsoft 365 customers can add Microsoft 365 Business Voice with calling plan at 25% off their current rates. In addition, Microsoft is offering a 33% discount for 12 months through CSP for Microsoft 365 Business voice without calling plan. There is a 300-license limit on Business Voice offers.
35% off Advance Communications
The Advanced Communications add-on is 35% off until the end of the subscription term for EA customers. This feature enables large scale events and gives admin control and a structured format to present a more professional meeting experience. To be eligible, you must have an EA with paid Microsoft 365 or Office 365 with Microsoft Teams. In addition, Advanced Communications will also be available through CSP via a special SKU. This offer expires January 31, 2021.
Until March 31, 2021, Microsoft is offering free audio conferencing for 12 months to CSP customers. You must have a paid Microsoft 365 or Office 365 licenses with Teams without the audio conferencing add-on or Microsoft 365 E5.
A Year of Free Audio Conferencing
Of the millions of Microsoft 365 users, many are still using Zoom, Slack, or Cisco Webex for meetings. With all the features that Teams offers, adding audio conferencing for free makes sense. Using it as a trial means you are getting the active product—not a lite version. Use it, and then convert to a full subscription when the offer expires. If you do not choose to purchase the full subscription, the license will stay in your Microsoft 365 portal, but will go dark when the free period expires, and will need to be turned back on when the license is renewed.
The Advantages Are Clear
Teams features keep evolving. You can now use the whiteboard feature during meetings. Closed captioning follows the conversation and lets you access the transcript later. Forms and polls can be used to get real-time feedback from the participants. SharePoint allows you to collaborate on projects. Breakout rooms are built right into the meeting dashboard for members of a meeting to collaborate in real time. There are apps like Zoho Projects, LMS365 for education, Presentations AI, and Power BI (for analyzing data). Other conferencing platforms do not have as many built-in features. They may all may have similar options, but they are not of the same level of Teams.
In this time where the rules for conducting business have been forever changed, being able to stay safe, healthy, and productive is imperative. The security that is built into Teams ensures there are no unwanted malicious guests looking to create problems. Zoom deals with this regularly. It is reassuring to know that Microsoft is staying ahead of the curve by offering cutting-edge platforms. They are constantly striving to meet the demands of the global business needs. So, the next time you have a virtual meeting, and you are not leveraging Teams, ask why. If you have the Microsoft 365 suite of products, it makes good sense to use all the features and see how much more you can get done.
If you want to take advantage of any of the CSP offers, reach out to Connection today. Our Microsoft Experts are here to help.