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Blogger: Ståle Hansen, RD & MVP, CEO and Principal Cloud Architect at CloudWay
As the author of the of the Teams calling and meetings chapter of the monthly updated book called Office 365 for IT Pros, I was looking forward to the news on these topics at Microsoft Ignite.
I did not expect to be as surprised as I was with the announcement of Operator Connect and Operator Connect Conferencing. This is the next evolution of Direct Routing, where you can bring your own telecom operator and handle connectivity and number assignment natively in the Teams Admin Center without the technical setup. The service provides shared SLA’s to ensure a stable service. This was unexpected news since Microsoft has been focusing on Direct Routing to connect to your own telecom equipment and Calling Plans. They even announced availability of Calling Plans in 8 new markets with countries such as New Zealand, Finland, and my own home country Norway. This means that even more countries have the freedom of choice when choosing how to get telephony in Teams.
The way I will talk about calling in Teams from now in is:
- Use Calling Plans in countries where it is available, and you do not have need for least cost routing
- Use Operator Connect to bring your own operator and continue your current agreements with your favourite partner, more partners will certify in the future. The question is, can we do least cost routing in this setup? We need to investigate that when it becomes available.
- Use Direct Routing when you need to connect with your own PBX environment through a certified SBC to Teams and get the full flexibility for least cost routing and branch site connectivity. This is suitable for complex calling scenarios for global organizations.
Let us not forget about Operator Connect Conferencing, I did honestly not see this one coming. This is where you can add operator dial-in numbers to a Microsoft Audio Conferencing bridge. The advantage here is that you can add additional location not provided natively from Microsoft. I am not sure about how licensing will work in this scenario at this point in time. Read more about calling news at https://aka.ms/OperatorConnect.
There is one more interesting calling update at Microsoft Ignite, SIP Gateway. This is a service at no extra cost where you can leverage existing SIP phone investment since you can connect Cisco IP phones, Polycom VVX phones, Yealink T20 series and the cheaper AudioCodes 400 HD series. If you already have this SIP based phones you can leverage them as desk phones or shared devices. Best of all, these will show up under Devices in the Teams Admin Center.
Security updates in calls and meetings
Today Teams traffic is encrypted in transit and at rest which is detailed here. To be able to place a call you need to go through layers of identity security and conditional access. It is a very secure service where you can be confident that your calls will not get compromised. But it does not qualify as a true end-to-end encryption (E2EE) service, since you have bot services that does transcripts and cloud recordings. Personally, I did not expect Microsoft to deliver E2EE in Teams, but they just announced this at MS Ignite. It will be available for ad-hoc 1-to-1 calls initially and will later be available as an option for scheduled calls and meetings. You should expect that recordings, AI based services such as transcript and live translation, and analytics to be unavailable for these calls. The reason for this is that the call is getting encrypted at the source and decrypted at the destination, without any ability for intermediary services to bring added functionality. Voice, video and screensharing is available in such a call. E2EE will be possible to enable for individuals or groups and they can specify which calls are E2EE. A welcome addition.
Working with larger organizations and governments I spend a lot of time talking to security about how to secure meetings. Features I typically point to are lobby, attendee role, unique conference ID for each meeting and the ability to adjust meeting options before and during the meeting. Microsoft announced two additional highly requested features, chat moderation controls and Invite only meetings options.
Chat moderation is the ability to enable, disable or only enabled during meeting configuration of the chat. In addition to this organizer should be aware that if you leave the chat open for recurring meetings, people who were invited to single occurrences of a meeting, has access to the chat after the meeting. This is something we teach users about, to go in to chat and remove those who do should not be in future version of the chat. Hopefully, this feature can create a new chat per occurrence of a meeting, but that is purely speculation and needs to be investigated when the feature becomes available.
A question I get when talking to the security department is how we can know that only invited people can join the meeting. Today, the answer is, you cannot. If you have access to the meeting link, then you can join the meeting or get to the lobby. With the Invite only meeting option, it is only the addresses of those users that were directly invited that can bypass lobby. If a user tries to join the same meeting and was not invited directly, but got a copy of the meeting link, they will get to the lobby. This is useful within organizations where we often see the lobby setting of everyone in the organization can bypass lobby.
As in IT Pro I do a lot of workshop, presentations, and technical handovers. When doing that using Teams meetings, it is important to keep the audience engaged and connected. Even though these are not IT Pro specific news, I wanted to highlight them. Dynamic view and standout presenter mode are welcome additions to the Teams meetings layout. Now you can have the video gallery on top of your Teams client, so that you can look more into the camera when looking at yourself or attendees in the meeting. The standout presenter mode puts you on top of your content, more like in a gamer stream, which makes it easier for you to connect with you audience when presenting content. Paired with Live Reactions, it can make for a very engaging session. Learn more here.
Management updated for calls and meetings
There are two announced features I want to call out for management. Real time telemetry for ‘in progress’ meetings and remote provisioning of Android based devices.
Real time telemetry is something a lot of IT Pros has asked for. It will empower the IT/Helpdesk to do live support during high stakes meetings. The data you will see is jitter, latency, packet loss, and frames per second for audio, video, and screen sharing. Based on this insight it is possible to take immediate action during meetings or use it as an active troubleshooting tool.
Remote provisioning of Android devices is the ability to sign into the device directly from the Teams Admin Center without physically being at the location of the device. This is a specific feature for common area phones. Read more here.
A bright future
It is interesting to see that Microsoft is constantly improving the capabilities for calling and meetings, making them more feature rich, secure, and manageable. I am looking forward to learning more details on these capabilities as soon as they become General Available.
Read more here:
- Microsoft Tech Community: Ignite Highlights for Microsoft Teams
- Catch all Teams related sessions at Microsoft Ignite
- My Microsoft 365 YouTube channel, latest speaker activities and monthly updated book Office 365 for IT Pros
Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.