After 6+ months of availability, I want to share what Modality are seeing in the APAC market and dispel some of the myths and hearsay around what is and isn’t available in Skype for Business Online in APAC right now.
A lot of people I speak to say “yes but Cloud PBX isn’t in Australia/Singapore/other APAC country yet” – which isn’t quite true. We have customers deploying Cloud PBX in Singapore and Australia right now. In this post, I’ll talk about how you can deploy and what the considerations are.
Cloud PBX is the product name for Skype for Business calling features in Office 365 e.g. make/receive calls, hold/transfer/send to voicemail, team-call groups, music on hold etc – full list of features here. Don’t think about it in the context of how calls are made to/from the PSTN.
PSTN calling isn’t available just yet in APAC. This is what most of the market considers “Cloud PBX in Office 365”. It means Microsoft providing your connectivity to the PSTN, porting your existing phone numbers/buying new ones directly from Microsoft and having no on-premises infrastructure. It’s available in the US and in the UK in preview right now.
Your ability to buy PSTN calling is defined by where you pay for Office 365 and where you tenant – your “sell-to country”. As more countries are enabled for PSTN calling, your tenant will get access to numbers in those countries. E.g if you pay for O365 in the US, once PSTN calling in the UK reaches general availability, you’ll be able to assign UK numbers to users straight away.
We’ve been trialling this with our US tenant in Modality since it was released and the ability to give new staff a phone number in the state they live in instantly makes on-boarding so simple.
What can I do without PSTN calling?
Just because PSTN calling isn’t available in APAC doesn’t stop you from deploying Cloud PBX. Using your existing on-premises PSTN connectivity with Cloud PBX allows you to start using those features now rather than having to wait until general availability is announced. To do this, you can deploy Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) in your DMZ and connect it to the ISDN or SIP trunk service from your current carrier. Alternatively you can setup a hybrid environment with your existing Skype for Business Server deployment and Office 365.
On-premises PSTN connectivity provides a phased migration approach
Plugging Cloud PBX into your ISDN/SIP service means users keep their phone numbers in the cloud and teams/offices can be migrated at their own pace. It also allows your to maintain a period of coexistence with the current phone system if a big-bang approach isn’t your cup of tea.
Real world reference – two of our customers are centralising their Australian PSTN connectivity with SIP trunks in two data centres on the eastern seaboard and then migrating each capital city office to Cloud PBX as they roll out Office 365 Pro Plus.
Assess your telephony requirements
Think about what your staff have today and what they’ll need tomorrow. Most of our customers keep a few phones on desks but deploy a majority of headsets along with Skype meeting room devices. Consider components like reception consoles, hunt group wallboards/reporting, fax machines, UPS/security modems, contact centres and call recording requirements. If you have some of these requirements, a hybrid approach might be right for you.
Think about where your organisation is going – are your teams crying out for ways to be better connected anywhere and on any device? A common request we hear is staff don’t want to be chained to their desk to make calls to customers and partners. Get people excited by showing them how easy it is to use a Bluetooth headset with Skype for Business on your PC and on your mobile to join meetings and make calls.
Develop a road map
Once you decide on the features and functionality, determine the right approach and architecture for roll out. Where are your current ISDN/SIP services terminating and where is your DMZ? Are your mailboxes already in Exchange Online? The answers to these questions will help define your timeline and architecture for Cloud PBX.
Cloud Connector Edition (CCE) gives you a lightweight way of bringing Office 365 on-premises to connect to the PSTN, and it’s the path we’re seeing most customers already using Office 365 take to deploy Cloud PBX now.
Organisations across APAC are embracing Cloud PBX as part of their Office 365 strategy. They’re getting away from crumbling phone systems (a common email I get is “the phone system went down again, how soon can we get on Cloud PBX?”) and allowing their staff to communicate from anywhere, anytime and collaborate on any device they have.