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Webex Teams vs. Microsoft Teams: Comparing telephony options

Are you evaluating Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams telephony options? Learn how to decide which calling capabilities meet your organization's needs in the Webex Teams vs. Microsoft Teams debate.

Microsoft and Cisco have pushed their respective Teams applications as a new model for employee engagement. Both are cloud-based and offer the ability for workgroups to establish persistent team spaces featuring topic discussion channels, one-to-one chats and integrations with external hardware, applications and data sources.

Both applications support meetings through integrated capabilities that provide audio, video conferencing and screen sharing. Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams also utilize AI and machine learning to enable more intelligent, contextual collaboration that includes features like language translation and the ability to easily learn about meeting participants.

More recently, both vendors have added calling capabilities, enabling their respective team applications to replace or augment existing telephony platforms. How does telephony compare in the Webex Teams vs. Microsoft Teams debate, and which is best for enterprise calling? Let's dig in.

Cisco Webex Teams telephony

Cisco is using Webex Teams to provide additional functionality to its installed base of on-premises and hosted customers. The vendor plans to deliver a fully cloud-based calling platform within Webex Teams through its recently acquired BroadSoft assets. Current large enterprise customers using Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM), either on premises or hosted through a Cisco partner, are likely to maintain their existing approach for calling. These customers will be able to integrate Webex Teams and Webex Meetings from the cloud into the Jabber desktop client and Cisco endpoints.

For smaller businesses, Cisco now offers BroadCloud Calling through partners including CenturyLink and Optus. This offering uses Webex Teams as the primary UI and provides a basic set of calling features, either hosted by Cisco or by a partner that has deployed its own BroadSoft instance. BroadCloud Calling is designed for those that do not need the extensive features or customization capabilities of UCM and Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) and that want a Webex Teams-centric calling experience.

Microsoft Teams telephony

Microsoft has made it clear that Teams is the core of its unified communications portfolio as it replaces Skype for Business. The company has delivered feature parity between Teams and Skype for Business Online and continues to add features to enable Teams to replace on-premises instances of Skype for Business. Enterprises wishing to use Microsoft Teams telephony must purchase Office 365 E5 licenses. In addition, they must obtain public switched telephone network calling, either through a Microsoft Calling plan or on their own through a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking provider that integrates with Teams via Direct Routing services.

Unlike Cisco, which makes its own endpoints to control the end-to-end experience, Microsoft certifies a broad set of partners for phones, headsets, video endpoints, session border controllers and management. Microsoft also recently announced plans to support Teams calling and meeting features for those using virtual desktop infrastructure. For those still using Skype for Business on premises, Microsoft offers the ability to integrate on-premises Skype for Business with Teams meetings. While Microsoft continues to support on-premises Skype for Business, it's obvious Microsoft's long-term direction is Microsoft Teams within Office 365.

Webex Teams vs. Microsoft Teams telephony: Which is right for you?

Ultimately, the choice between Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams depends on where you are today, where you are going and what features you require. Skype for Business Online customers will find an easy transition to Microsoft Teams telephony, while on-premises customers are likely to wait until full feature parity. On-premises customers may want to bring their own PSTN calling services into the mix as a more cost-effective alternative to Teams Calling Plans.

A growing number of SIP trunking providers -- ranging from large carriers, such as AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon, to more software-centric providers, such as Bandwidth, Flowroute and Voxbone -- are delivering regional and global PSTN connectivity services that support Microsoft Teams calling, as well as additional features, such as virtual phone numbers and text messaging.

Larger Cisco customers are likely to adopt a blended approach by continuing to support UCM or HCS, while integrating Webex Teams features for group messaging and collaboration. As BroadCloud Calling matures, it will provide a viable offering for current customers looking to move to a fully cloud-based platform with a Teams-centric primary UI. Customers will want to take advantage of Flex licensing models that enable easy migration from on premises to cloud.

For those who are not current Cisco and Microsoft customers, evaluate Webex Teams vs. Microsoft Teams offerings based on cost, features and delivery model to ensure that whatever platform you choose aligns with present and future needs.

This was last published in April 2019

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What calling capabilities are most important to you when comparing Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams?
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You don't have to purchase Office 365 E5--you can purchase the standalone options to get you the telephony rights within O365 to add to your other plans.
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