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How to Get Started with Microsoft Teams

Licensing basics, key features, how to choose the right vendor & more!

Microsoft Teams is the most integrated, highly comprehensive bundle of MS Office apps to date. The best part is that it is flexible and can be adapted to any scenario – for home personal use, for work and productivity at home, for small and medium businesses, educational institutions, government establishment, NGOs and of course, enterprise communications. The use cases are virtually limitless.

As is often the case with an option pool so vast, choosing the right ones for your business can be a daunting task. Luckily, we’re here to make the navigation a little easier.

1. How much do we need to pay to use Microsoft Teams?

The price you pay to pay for Microsoft Teams depends on your usage. Overall, the pricing from Microsoft direct is competitive, especially as they bundle a lot of daily use applications for work and productivity. But be forewarned – there certain caveats to going with MS direct vs. a third-party provider that you’ll need to evaluate before making a decision. More on that later.

Truth be told, while you can get by with alternatives to the core Office apps like Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc. – they never feel as intuitive or user-friendly. There’s a reason why MS Office and SharePoint have been the industry standard for decades.

Here are the different price points that Microsoft has introduced for a variety of Teams use cases:

Types of Microsoft 365 Licenses

Home – Family and Personal
Business – Basic, Standard, and Premium (max 300 users)
Enterprise – E3, E5, and F3*
Other – Education, Government, Non-Profit and Front-line worker

*Front-line worker

Other License Types

MS recently re-aligned their licensing, which you can find below)

Education (student) – A1 (free), A3 ($2.50), A5 ($6)
Education (staff) – A1 (free), A3 ($3.25), A5 ($8)
Government – G1, G3, G5
Non-Profit – Business Basic, Business Standard, E1, E3, E5
Front-line worker – Office F3, MS365 E1 ($4), MS365 E3 ($10)

*All Licenses above include Teams
*All x5 licenses include Phone

2. What’s the difference between E1, E3 and E5 licenses?

E1, E3 and E5 are simply different tiers of licenses that Microsoft bundles with its range of Office applications.

E1 comes with the following advantages:

• Office Apps On-line
• Teams – IM, Voice, Video Chat
• Email and Calendar
• Yammer, Video, SharePoint
• OneDrive for Business, Delve
• Power Apps and Power Automate
• Exchange Online Protection
• Archive

E3 comes with

all the features of E1 and makes the most sense if you’re working cross-platforms, need storage solutions with privacy and security capabilities such as Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Rights Management. If any of these use cases match what you’re doing (or what you need), E3 will be the right category for your needs. Additionally, you also get:
• MS Office Suite
• Cross-Platform Installation
• Cloud Storage: Ability to increase it to 5TB and even 25TB if needed
• Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
• Rights Management
• eDiscover

E5 is the absolute full-featured MacDaddy version of MS Teams’ suite of applications.

In addition to all E1 and E3 capabilities outlined above, it comes loaded with advanced analytics and security features like Advanced Threat Protection.
Most importantly, E5 also comes with telephony features including Telephony system (PBX), PSTN conferencing facilities, and number porting.
• Power BI Pro License
• MyAnalytics
• Advanced Threat Protection
• Customer Lockbox
• Telephony system (PBX)
• PSTN conferencing facilities
• Number porting

It’s also important to note that all Microsoft Teams licenses come with full collaboration features including:

• Individual and team messaging channels with guests and internal users
• Video meetings and internal calls
• Real-time document collaboration
• Third party app integrations
Learn More about MS Teams

3. Why use Microsoft Teams over similarly priced competitive services?

If you’re already using MS applications extensively for productivity, storage, and communications, it makes sense to opt for a comprehensive plan that covers all bases for productivity, communication, and connectivity.

Microsoft has bundled internal calling, video and collaboration within the O365 environment for this very reason – so users don’t have to shop around for separate pieces for telecommunications and connectivity. It’s all bundled together in one super package for collaboration and productivity, no matter where you are or which device you are using.

Here are our top reasons for using Microsoft Teams:

Microsoft is the dominant software vendor for business applications and servers, operating systems, and cloud computing with a huge O365 install base
Internal calling, video and collaboration is free for O365 users
Strong compliance capabilities and language support
Deep Integration with other Microsoft applications
Group Messaging Capabilities – competing with Slack
Microsoft views Teams as a Platform, not just an application, and is continuously adding integrations to other platforms
Since Teams is included with most O365 licenses, there is a huge install base

4. I’m planning to/ already using Teams. Should I switch to a 3rd party vendor?

While Microsoft certainly is the Big Man on Campus when it comes to collaboration, there are several other providers who are making noise with not only their ability to sell Teams with zero markup, but also with some smart and helpful add-ons that you can’t get from Microsoft.

So, who are these mysterious 3rd party vendors? Glad you asked. Some of our favorites include:

Although Teams offers local PSTN (a true cloud solution with both domestic and international outbound calling plans), it is currently active in only 11 countries. Plus, Microsoft relies on its partners to provide support for customers – not an ideal scenario. In contrast, certain vendors offer native Cloud PBX replacement in nearly 60 countries, and they also include strong CRM integration, data and analytics capabilities.

Additionally, some providers deliver direct support globally, and one – Fuze – is even TSIA L2 certified. They currently hold the only TSIA L2 certification of any 3rd party Teams vendor.

They allure of 3rd party vendors is that they bring a much more intuitive ‘feel’ to the Teams platform thanks to their ‘voice-first’ approach. It’s important to remember that Microsoft essentially ‘got in on’ the collaboration game with Teams; they’re not a native voice and collaboration provider. 3rd party vendors, on the other hand, offer a much more user-friendly interface and customer experience because voice and collaboration are at the core of their business principles.

While Microsoft is simply diverting from its traditional ‘walled garden’ approach, opening up multiple new APIs to allow better integration with non-MS applications, 3rd party vendors live in the integration space and offer a wide array of them to their customers.

Here’s another big reason why companies look beyond Microsoft’s walls to deliver Teams functionality: Teams’ much-touted free voice offering isn’t really ‘free’ – it actually costs between $20-$32 (US list) per user to add PSTN voice to an E3 license.

Moreover, direct routing involves additional costs and complexity, and Microsoft’s calling plans are typically more expensive (and remember – only available in 11 countries as of the writing of this article).

5. What’s the best choice for your business?

There’s no denying that Microsoft is the default base of many core productivity applications and servers that you simply cannot do without. But 3rd party vendors do bring quite a lot to the table. They offer greater cost efficiencies with licensing and add-ons, and their mobile capabilities are years ahead of Microsoft.

But it also doesn’t have to be one or the other. Here’s a snapshot of what a 3rd party vendor + Teams integration can do for your business:

In today’s remote working world, the need for a solid voice and collaboration strategy is crucial to any company’s success. And whether or not you decide to get Teams directly through Microsoft, via a 3rd party vendor, or even leverage the strengths of both in an integrated fashion, Shamrock can help you make the best decision for your business at the guaranteed best price.

Let’s Talk Teams
Ryan Reeves

Ryan Reeves

Ryan Reeves is the Director of Marketing and Customer Success for Shamrock Consulting Group, and he is also an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. Ryan brings a unique perspective and skill set to the technology industry after spending the first 10 years of his career working with some of most innovative media and entertainment brands in the world. His versatility has been vital in establishing Shamrock as an award-winning industry leader and industry disruptor. In his free time, Ryan likes to snowboard, play soccer and basketball, and travel with his lovely wife, Lucy.

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