How Duet from Bandwidth Brings Critical Functions to Microsoft Teams

eWEEK NETWORKING ANALYSIS: COVID-19 has created a rise in usage of Microsoft Teams, but some gaps exist to make it business grade.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on IT spending, with some areas benefiting disproportionately. One of the areas that has seen the biggest uptick is collaboration applications, because businesses now need tools such as video, team messaging and IP calling to keep workers within digital proximity, even when they are socially distant. 

A recent ZK Research Work From Home Study inquired about this and found that 54% of companies would increase their spending on collaboration solutions, specifically because of the pandemic.

COVID-19 accelerates use of Microsoft Teams

One of more widely deployed collaboration solutions is Microsoft Teams, part of the overall Microsoft Office 365 Suite. Teams certainly offers a bevy of features that enable workers to keep in touch with each other and people outside the organization. Microsoft has enabled an advanced dynamic E911 capability that captures user locations as they move within the enterprise network. However, for enterprises with Direct Routing to leverage this feature, they need to partner with an emergency service provider who can support the E911 for Direct Routing and send the call to public safety. 

This week software communications vendor, Bandwidth, Inc. announced Duet for Microsoft Teams that delivers these capabilities. 

Bandwidth widely used by communications providers, coming to enterprise

Many IT professionals likely do not know Bandwidth, but the company has a best-in-class, software-based SIP-native network which provides PSTN (public switched telephone network) connectivity to a number of UCaaS and CCaaS products including Google, Microsoft, Zoom, Genesys, RingCentral, Cisco Systems and others. Bandwidth also has a nationwide 911 network and is one of only two providers certified (Intrado is the other) to provide dynamic E911 calling for Microsoft Teams Direct Routing. 

The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a signaling protocol that enables the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) by defining the messages sent between endpoints and managing the actual elements of a call. SIP supports voice calls, video conferencing, instant messaging and media distribution.

E911 is something CIOs need to pay attention to now

The E911 challenge for CIOs is very real. There have been many stories of failed 911 calls including the highly publicized Kari Hunt that gave rise to Kari’s Law. When people dial 911, they need to reach emergency services, and the phone call needs to include the exact location of where the person is at the time they make the call. 

I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but CIOs are responsible for people’s lives. If a worker has a heart attack, injures himself or has an accident, a 911 call needs to be routed to public safety and include a current, accurate location of the caller.

One way of provisioning E911 on Microsoft Teams is to manually enter the location of every phone and user. This might be sufficient for desktop phones, but smartphones move, people move and the location today might not be the same tomorrow in a week or a month. Duet from Bandwidth offers dynamic E911, which provides accurate location at the time of the 911 call. Bandwidth accomplishes this through its dynamic location routing, which was  built into its network in 2018. The company spends a significant amount of time keeping up with regulations so customers can be confident that as the regulatory environment evolves, they will still be in E911 compliance. 

The direct routing capabilities provides more flexibility to customers when compared to Microsoft Calling Plans, which requires the customer to purchase carrier services from Microsoft. There has been a growing trend in the industry from larger enterprises to want greater control over calling and to reduce costs. Microsoft’s Teams Calling might be more convenient, but it does limit the business. Microsoft Direct Routing from Bandwidth enables an enterprise to select its own carrier, which is often not just a preferred alternative but the better one. Duet lets customers maintain legacy routing and maintain the same features and functions of on-premises solutions, providing more consistency to workers. 

Duet solves Microsoft Teams pain 

Duet is a combined offering that eliminates the headaches of moving to Teams. Direct Routing provides seamless calling from Teams while maintaining existing SIP trunking services and PSTN connectivity. Dial plans can be maintained, phone numbers do not need to be changed with the added benefit of dynamic 911 which provides accurate location or could which provides a sense of relief for the CIO.

Moving to Microsoft Teams has many benefits, particularly in a world where so many people are working remotely. However, there are some risks and costs associated with it. Bandwidth’s Duet enables companies to accelerate their journey to Teams without the associated risk. 

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.