Microsoft’s Cloud PBX is well on its way to provide Office 365 customers PSTN calling ability in Skype for Business, if you’ve missed out my colleague Joel Neff has written a great blog about the start of Cloud PBX and the features it will offer the end user with call functionality. To put it very simply, they will get the same experience as a traditional Skype for Business Enterprise Voice user. This will enable you to have PSTN numbers assigned to your end users and will be sufficient for 1-1 and conferencing calling scenarios, but what happens with my public number entry points? Numbers that aren’t assigned to a user, but are really more important to get answered than Joe Bloggs desk phone.

What about call management needed for servicing business requirements through telephony?

Call Queue & Distribution

An enterprise telephony solution must have methods for routing calls not only to an individual, but a collective of individuals provided by rule based workflows, commonly known in the telephony world as Automated Call Distribution (ACD) or Hunt Groups. Cloud PBX will offer this capability that we are familiar with on-premises, allowing your main publicly listed numbers to come into a calling workflow to be processed with features such as:

  • Call Queues
    • Timeout Options (wait times)
    • Overflow Options (transfer, redirect, voicemail)
    • Max Queue Sizes (calls in waiting)
  • Agent Groups
    • Assigned users agents in Office 365 with E5
    • Assigned user agents with Enterprise Voice on-premises in a Hybrid environment
  • Distribution Methods
    • Attendant routing
    • Serial routing
    • Parallel routing
  • Toll-Free Number Services can be ported
  • Upload custom recorded greetings and menu options (wav, mp3, wma)
  • Agent Anonymity
  • Business and outside business hour times
  • No number call queues
    • Importantly having services with SIP addresses only (no PSTN number). Can be used to servicing down stream and internal call workflows

If you are familiar with Lync or Skype for Business Server on-premises these terms will be familiar to you as they are hosted on the Front End Server role.

So, what you’re really saying is there will be Response Groups and IVR’s available in the Cloud?

Yes is the answer, I’m very pleased to see that the workflow tooling that is fundamental to a enterprise voice rollout on-premises will be available in the cloud service.

Inbound Call Termination

To leverage this functionality you will need to port your service numbers to Office 365. It is my understanding that it won’t be possible in version 1 to have existing on-premises PSTN connectivity (via SIP/ISDN) with an existing deployment or Cloud Connector (CCE) and have that inbound call be serviced by an on-premises gateway to the mediation server and then routed to a workflow managed in Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX. The number will have to come directly into the Office 365 service and not through your existing deployment, this topology is commonly referred to as ‘Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling‘. I don’t see this as real issue, if you’re servicing your Cloud PBX via an on-premises gateway then you can run the workflow on the Front End server.
In my mind this really does complete the telephony platform if you looking to enable your business with E5 Cloud PBX in Office 365. Now its just a matter of time while we wait for it to be available in the datacenter that services your region. Tick Tock Microsoft.

Office 365, Skype For Business