Voice over IP (VoIP) with Microsoft Teams

Project Details

Project Background

Information Technology Services began a search for a modern phone system in the fall of 2019.  The goals for the new phone system were to find a solution that provided better call quality, reduced telecommunications costs, improved user experience, and improved accessibility.  The results of the RFP were gathered and thoroughly evaluated with input from multiple departmental representatives.  ITS recommended, and the Board of Trustees approved, Continuant and Microsoft Teams as the winning bid.

Microsoft Teams Details

Microsoft Teams is collaboration hub for sharing files, conversations, meetings, and phone calls.  Microsoft Teams replaced Skype for Business in November 2019 and is similar to Slack.  Users can drag and drop files into a discussion or team, edit documents in real-time with multiple collaborators, and instantly call or meet with other users.  The calling feature in Microsoft Teams allows users to setup speed dials, favorites, have multiple line appearances, voicemail and voicemail transcription, as well as multiple self-service features at their fingertips. 

Benefits to Users

  • Significantly improved call quality over the current system.
  • Voicemail transcription within the Teams application.
  • Call users by name or number, not just by number.
  • Improved directory search capability.
  • Centralized hub for collaboration, meetings, and calls.
  • Several self-service options to manage your phone system.
  • Improved accessibility and integration with compatible TTY devices.
  • Supports work-from-anywhere situations without the need for a or having to take a physical phone with you.
  • Web, mobile, and desktop applications for Windows, Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and Linux.
  • Easily set vacation or other out-of-office notices on your phone.

Benefits to the University

  • Reduces telecommunications costs by approximately $250,000 annually.
  • Utilizes licensing already included in the University's Microsoft agreement.
  • Supports flexibility for telecommunications capabilities offsite for various scenarios.
  • Fosters collaboration between departments, business units, and students.

Microsoft Teams Training Resources

Project Timeline

VoIP Timeline

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ

The costs to maintain the current telephone system were becoming unsustainable.  The current system is over 15 years old and is expensive to maintain.  It is less expensive to switch phone systems than it is to maintain the current one.  The new system also provides improved call quality, flexibility, user control, and user experience.

There are several changes that VoIP with Microsoft Teams introduces.  Here are some highlights, but this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Phone numbers are no longer associated with a device.  Instead, the phone number is associated with your account.  This means that you can make and receive calls to/from your work phone number on any device that you are logged in to Teams with.
    • You can make and receive calls using your work number from anywhere.
    • You can access your phone via the Teams desktop app, the Teams web app, or the Teams mobile app.
    • There is no longer a need to have multiple phone numbers if you have multiple offices.
    • There is no longer a need to forward calls to your cell phone.
    • There is no longer a need to mask your personal cell phone or home phone number when making calls if you are still working remotely.
  • No more dialing "9" to make calls.
  • You can search/call by name or by dialing the full 10-digit phone number.
  • Voicemails will be delivered to you via multiple mechanisms by default.
    • You can access voicemails from the Teams app as an audio file and a supplemental transcription.
    • Voicemails will also be emailed to you with a transcription and an attached audio file.
      • If the caller is an internal UA constituent, the email will come from the caller.  This means that you can reply to the email and continue the conversation via email if you wish.

The tentative final cut-over dates for the four main groups of people are:

  • Pilot Group - 8/28 - Migrated and Testing
  • Non-Academic Unit Buildings - 9/14 - 9/16
  • Executive Team and ICS - 9/23
  • Group 4 - 10/14
    • Buckingham Center
    • CBA
    • CFB
    • Central Hower
    • Crouse Hall
    • Cummings Center
    • EJ Thomas
    • Honors Complex
    • Hower House
    • Kolbe Hall
    • Law
    • Leigh Hall
    • Olin Hall 
    • Shrank Hall North
    • Shrank Hall South
    • Zook Hall
  • Group 5 - 10/21
    • CAS
    • Folk
    • Guzzetta Hall
    • JAR
    • Knight Chemical
    • Mary-Gladwin
    • Whitby Hall
  • Group 6 - 10/28
    • Engineering Research Center
    • Auburn Science
    • Ayer Hall
    • Goodyear Polymer Center
    • National Polymer Innovation Center
    • Olson
    • Polymer Engineering Academic Center
    • PFOC - UAPD
    • Polsky
    • Roberts Dining
    • Superior - UAPD
  • Group 7 - 10/30 
    • Wayne College

We have sent the training invitation to the next group of user who will be migrating.  You can also sign in and view a recorded training session below:

Unfortunately, the current phones across the university are not compatible with the new system because of their age. ITS is working with multiple constituents from across the university to identify, understand, and define the roles of our various users. This information will help inform decisions about what devices to offer to users of each type of role. ITS will be providing more detailed information about this topic in the near future.

The Microsoft Teams application is considered a "soft phone", meaning that the calling capabilities exist in software and do not require a traditional handset to make and receive calls.  Microsoft offers the Teams application as a web application; a desktop application for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux; and a mobile application for Android and iOS.  Any bluetooth or wired headset will work with the Microsoft Teams application, though there are "Teams Certified" devices.  The difference between a Teams Certified device and any other headset or earbud(s) is that a Teams Certified device will be able to control the Teams application, i.e. mute, volume control, etc.  Using a standard headset requires users to control their calls from the Teams application.

NOTE: While almost any headset or earbuds will work with Teams, we highly recommend that you use the devices that we will be providing because they are Microsoft Teams Certified devices.  We are unable to support devices that were not issued by the university.

ITS has interviewed multiple constituents from across the university to identify how users interact with the current phone system and how they could potentially interact with the new phone system.  Based on the results of these interviews, we have defined some general roles that users will have and the types of devices that will be used by those roles. You can find information on the different roles of users and the phone or headsets that they will receive by visiting our Microsoft Teams VoIP Personas and Devices page.

Student employees/assistants and student government participants with an "sa_" account have full access to all of the Microsoft Teams features except the calling capability.

All other students can participate in Microsoft Teams with the following caveats. 

  • Students cannot schedule meeting events in the future because meetings are tied to Outlook calendars and students' calendars are in Gmail.  Students can participate in scheduled meetings and they may also conduct impromptu meetings via the "Meet Now" feature.  
  • Students cannot make true "phone calls" from the "Calls" area of the Teams application due to licensing limitations.

Similar to students, UA faculty and staff can invite external parties to participate in Microsoft Teams with the following caveats.

  • External parties cannot schedule meeting events in the future because meetings are tied to Outlook calendars and we do not have control of external parties' calendars.  External parties can participate in scheduled meetings and they may also conduct impromptu meetings via the "Meet Now" feature.  
  • External parties cannot make true "phone calls" from the "Calls" area of the Teams application due to licensing limitations.
  • External parties can participate in Teams meetings via the web application, similar to using Zoom or Webex web applications.

Note: When attempting to add external parties to a meeting, their information will not auto-populate in the meeting invitation unless they are a member of a team.  Users must type in the complete email address of the external party that they wish to invite to the meeting.  This is because external parties are not part of the University of Akron's directory.

A Team is used for departmental conversations, projects, and other activities in which there is a defined group of people focusing on a specific activity. 

A chat or group chat is used more for impromptu discussions and private chat conversations.  

Calls are generally used for making and receiving calls to people outside of the university. 

Every Team that is created also creates a SharePoint site behind the scenes, so if you have a departmental SharePoint site or H: Drive, creating a Team is a great mechanism to make interacting with SharePoint document repositories easier.  We can tie existing SharePoint sites to Teams, as well.

This VoIP project is coming on the heels of three very important network projects that have laid the foundation to support this effort.  The network team recently completed a network hardware upgrade across all campuses that provides every building with at least a 10Gbps connection to the rest of the campus.  The network team also increased the campus Internet connection to a 100Gbps circuit, making the University of Akron one of a handful of universities in the state with 100Gbps capability.  Finally, the telecommunications team has just completed a wiring project, in coordination with Capital Planning, that installed new cabling in multiple buildings across the university that eliminated outdated, insufficient cabling.