The COVID-19 pandemic has created incredible demand for remote office functionality. Fortunately, A1, a telco based in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, had already opted to set up a mix-and-match solution that combines the powerful functionality of Microsoft Teams with the cost-efficiency and flexibility of PortaSwitch. A1 made the decision in December 2019, many weeks before the quarantine shut down offices across Europe. Now, the company’s new remote-work solution is perfectly timed for both existing and new customers.
A1 provides VoIP, web hosting, online backup, and other solutions that are powered by PortaSwitch. Months before the pandemic, the company noticed a demand for integration between the PBX they provide to their clients and Microsoft Teams. A popular collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams can also be used as a phone system when integrated with a VoIP service. This solution has two disadvantages: it requires an E1, E3, or E5 license from Microsoft 365 that can cost up to EUR30 per user, and the PBX functionality of Microsoft Teams is also not as flexible as what can be offered by PortaSwitch.
PortaSwitch, on the other hand, has an unlimited license with no additional fees per subscriber. So, by mixing and matching the flexibility of PortaSwitch’s IP PBX with the collaboration tools of Microsoft Teams, A1 is now allowing its customers to put some of their employees on a Microsoft phone system and keep others on a regular VoIP phone, with the PortaSwitch functionality allowing them to easily connect the two groups, dial each other’s extensions, create hunt groups, etc.
Here’s how it works. Every employee in the company is given a SIP account in PortaSwitch, and an SBC from Audiocodes creates a direct routing between PortaSwitch and Microsoft Teams. Inbound calls will ring on both MS Teams client or a SIP-phone. As for the outgoing calls, the group with no Microsoft phone license simply uses the SIP system while the licensed Microsoft Teams users can choose between the SIP phone system and the MS Teams client. The ability to keep a regular SIP phone for the licensed Microsoft Teams users is one more compliment of the mix-and-match solution: usually, the MS Teams client is the only option.
We changed the routing: all of the calls are coming into the PortaSwitch-based IP PBX, and if a call is made internally or externally to a Microsoft Teams account, then only this traffic is routed to Microsoft. It’s a very convenient and flexible solution because the PBX functionality from Microsoft is in no way as complete as what we can get from PortaOne.Harry Dijkstra, CEO, A1
A1’s clients now have broader functionality and they’re saving money: they only need to pay licensing fees for the few team members who use the MS Teams platform, and the rest can stay in the same PBX—with no loss of connectivity.
Microsoft Teams is becoming more and more popular. We were getting more and more people asking to use MS Teams as a phone client, especially because of the quarantine. With the mix-and-match solution, we not only serve the demand for Microsoft Teams but also provide our customers with a flexible solution that gives them freedom of choice and saves their costs.Harry Dijkstra, CEO, A1
Before A1 adopted this best-of-both-worlds solution, the company was losing customers who felt forced to take on the steep cost of total Microsoft Teams licensing in order to gain the collaboration tools they wanted. Now, A1 is retaining those clients—and winning new ones—because they are finally able to offer all the power of a Microsoft Teams phone system, but with added cost-saving flexibility and easy-to-explain benefits.
When COVID-19 hit and offices needed to set up remote-work solutions, the benefits of what A1 can offer became even clearer. As of the end of May, A1’s flexible Microsoft Teams solution is already bringing in revenue—and the product has barely been launched.
Every day we have questions from our existing customers who want to partly migrate to Microsoft Teams. Also, we’ve got quite a few new resellers that are moving their traffic to our server and they are also asking us if we can provide services like that.Harry Dijkstra, CEO, A1
The global pandemic has changed the workplace, and many people will be working from home for months, even years—and for some, perhaps permanently. Companies will need to support remote work for a long time to come, and telcos, like A1, that can offer cost-effective solutions are going to be in high demand. “People are getting used to certain things; it’s not easy to switch,” says Harry Dijkstra. “Once you start using a Microsoft product it’s very hard to get away from them.”
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