PSTN dial-in for Microsoft Teams meetings is now free and unlimited for enterprise, business, frontline, and gov.

In addition to the recent price rises annouced last week to almost all Microsoft 365 plans (other than the highest E5 plans), Microsoft also annouced some good value news for users of Microsoft Teams.

And today, we are announcing that we will add unlimited dial-in capabilities for Microsoft Teams meetings across our enterprise, business, frontline, and government…

Jared Spataro, Corporate VP | Microsoft 365

What’s it currently cost?

At time of writing, Microsoft’s PSTN Audio Conferencing is included with Microsoft 365 E5 and Office 365 E5 (for free) but requires an add-on licence for all other licences such as E3 (the most common base licence across most organisations).

The PSTN audio conferencing licence (add on) is currently priced at circa £3pupm (about $4) and for enterprise customers on an Enterprise Agreement (EA), there is also an option to pay via Pay Per Minute billing.

What about dial-out conferencing?

In the official Microsoft blog, they refer to unlimited dial-in conferencing and do not specifically talk about any changes to dial-out conferencing where a meeting participant calls a user into a conference from a meeting rather than them dialing in.

Under the currently model, each licenced user gets a pooled 60 minutes per user per month that can be used to dial-out to non-premium numbers in any of the Zone A countries. More info on that here.

It’s not known (well I couldn’t find it) if this is also changing under the new plan.

Big value or not?

Microsoft has more than 300 million commercial paid seats, though less than 10% of these are E5 so adding this value to all Office/Microsoft 365 plans is of course welcomed value.

This, on the Surface is clearly good news and should potitivley impact a very large number of organisations (assuming they use Microsoft Teams for meetings of course) adding more value to the license they pay for (price rises aside of course).

The question remains of course, as in todays online world how many people still “dial in” to conferences and this of course limits the other mediums and media in a teams meetings such as video, content sharing/viewing and app Co authoring but is useful in situations where you are perhaps driving, travelling or in a area with no or poor Internet connectivity.

Source article

Read more here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2021/08/19/new-pricing-for-microsoft-365/

Welcome your thoughts or feedback. Is this a good move or not?

Microsoft Teams will finally let users “swap” meeting content with the Gallery view

Microsoft Teams is getting a new much needed feature that will allow users to swap between shared content and the Gallery view during meetings.

Now in Public Preview, this new feature is (though I’m sure it was there once before) rolling out to users enrolled in the public preview channel using Windows 10 and macOS clients.

What does this new feature provide?

The new swap experience (supported in both large gallery & dynamic mode as well as Together Mode) finally means that users can now simply swap between any content being shared and on their chosen participant video feeds, bringing participant videos to the center and content like shared desktop/window, PowerPoint presentation or Whiteboard etc to the side or top.

Clicking on the shared content again brings the shared content back to the center of the meeting window. Gallery view and Together mode. Previously, the app used to disable the 49-person Large Gallery view in screen sharing mode, but this release lets users enable Large Gallery while sharing content or screen.

This may sound like a little thing… It is, but it’s been a niggle of many of my customers (and me once I discovered you actually couldn’t do…. I’m convinced I used to be able to).


A few bugs…

I’ve only tried this a few times in meetings as it “lit up” for me today and there a few bits that don’t quite work yet (which Microsoft do state in their blog).

In the preview version, Whiteboard content and PowerPoint Live presentations cannot be viewed in the swap state though I expect this will get sorted before it’s officially live for everyone.


If you have this preview feature, test out and make sure to file feedback via the Teams Feedback section in the app.

Microsoft adds SafeLinks protection to Teams

Microsoft 365 now has “Safe Links” protections across Microsoft Teams for any organisation that uses Microsoft Defender for Office 365 (formally Office 365 ATP).

Defender for Office 365

What is Safe Links?

Safe Links is a feature of Defender for Office 365 that scans URLs clicked by end users to check for malware and malicious or phishing sites in real time.

Safe Links was first introduced in 2015 (for just Exchange Online at the time) and was originally used to “detonate” links in e-mails to detect malicious payloads. Safe Links was subsequently added to Microsoft 365 applications, as well, such as PowerPoint and Word.

With the latest update and expansion across Microsoft 365, Safe Links now provides transparent, integrative and native intelligent protections against malicious links in conversations, group chats and channels chat across Microsoft Teams.

Enabling the feature

This can be configured in the Microsoft 365 Defender portal. Detailed instructions can be found here

As with SafeLinks across the other Office services, admins can add exclusions and trusted sites if needed.

New “Side-by-Side” and “Reporter” Presenter modes coming in August to Teams

ReporterMode_InTeams

Coming to complement the newly released “Standout mode” that rolled out to Microsoft Teams last months, 2 new immersive presentation modes are about to start rolling out.

This update is referenced within Microsoft 365  Roadmap ID 83371.

What do the new modes mean for presenters?

Thia update will enhance the presenter view to make desktop or app sharing more inclusive and better for hybrid meetings, ensuring the presenter can be seen at all times. Side by Side and Reporter Mode

Side by Side Mode

In this mode, meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed and content overlaid on a background image (which can be customised).

Side-By-Side mode in Teamss
Side by side presenter mode in Teams

Reporter Mode

In this mode, the meeting participants will see the presenter’s video feed superimposed over the background image while having the content over their shoulder, placed diagonally. Like. TV broadcast.

ReporterMode_InTeams
Reporter Mode in Teams

The modes are customisable….with different backgrounds (not custom ones yet though).

What can be customised?

  • Presenters are able to customise the background image before starting the presentation.
  • Presenters are able to enable or disable the video feed during the presentation from the sharing bar.

Teams “Phone” gets a heap of new features

What’s new

June 2021,brings a host of new features to Teams phones, which translate and complement some of the newest and greatest features users get with Teams on their desktop or mobile phone today. These include.

  • Add or Transfer Call to Device
  • Custom Backgrounds on video phones
  • Improved boss/admin/PA features
  • Outlook Contacts available on phone
  • Live captions support
  • Simpler and refreshed UI making it easier to get to key functions.

Let’s dive into the top 3 which are the most noticable in my view. You can see the full blog post and all the new features from Microsoft here.

Add or Transfer Call to Device

One of the most requested features is now here with the ability to add or transfer calls and meeting across devices.

Call add or transfer in Teams Phone Edition
(image c Microsoft)

With this latest update for Teams Phone, this functionality is now consistently available across all devices meaning your desk phone will recognise you are in a call on another device and prompt you to transfer or add it in, letting you start your call from elsewhere and transfer to your desk phone.

Custom Backgrounds

Custom Backgrounds on Teams Phone

Background replacement on Teams video phones is now also available meaning feature parity with other teams devices for consistent and familiar look and feel. This role doit a couple. Of months ago to Teams collaboration displays like the Lenovo.

Improved boss/admin/PA features

New boss/admin controls on Teams Phone

A collection of little updates to improve how  users interact with their calls and contacts.

For example, when a PA/Boss/Admin is in a call users can press the purple button touch target to see new options with respect to their contacts.  The boss or admin can easily see frequent contacts with instant options to see their call status or place an outgoing call to them.

You can read the full set of features from the Microsoft blog site.

Cisco unveil new Webex logo, new look and add a bunch of new features

Summary

Last night, Cisco unveiled a new “modern” logo for its Webex product suite along with annoucing a new set of features coming soon which range from background noise cancellation to adding polls and quizzes to make meetings more interactive.

The video Conferencing race continues as the leaders of the pack, Microsoft Teams, Webex and Zoom and Google Meet continue to see steady usage growth fueled initially by coronavirus pandemic which has now transformed into most beleive will be a longer term seismic shift to hybrid / home and office working and learning post pandemic as the world’s largest working from experiment has proved (for many) the effectiveness of home working and improved life balance achieved by ditching the daily commute.

New Webex logo

The new Webex Suite

Cisco, which also unveiled a new Webex logo, said its new hybrid work “suite” is circa 40% to buy when brought together compared to the individual components as you’d expect.

The new Webex Suite

In their blog, Cisco said they had subtly added almost 800 new features and devices since September last year to enhance the customer experience across meetings, calling, messaging, and event management specifically to address the long term needs of hybrid work which are very different from a pure remote work model.

Top new features

There was a handful of notible new features announced following a series of acquisitions over the past few months which Cisco are now ready to start baking into their new suite.

In December 2020, Cisco’s acquired Slido, and audience engagement tool with capabilities which include Q&A, polling, trivia, and gamification.

Last month, Cisco then acquired Socio Labs, an event technology platform for live, large-scale events and webinars.

Another new feature aims to more intelligently frame and reframe the speaker or most active meeting participants using machine learning and AI technology to allow the audience to better see body language and facial expressions in meetings – something more easily missed in remote/online meetings.

These new tools which will being Cisco up to or ahead of their competition, (in the case of Slido), are designed to make Webex better suited for the future of meetings and events of all sizes, including large “hybrid” events that combine in-person and virtual attendance, something all the major conferencing venues and hosts need to get right.

New logo, new look

The new webex suite comes with new fresh and dynamic look (which accompanies its new logo) which Cisco says better reflects the products values and initiatives.

The new Webex (image (C) Cisco)

Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s SVP and GM Security and Collaboration was quoted saying to ZdnetWe are unmistakably committed to inclusivity and making sure everyone has an equal voice and an equal seat at the table, no matter where the table is,”

Price “enhancements” too

Cisco said that the new Webex Suite will cost around 40% less than buying the individual components and services a-la-carte.

This is of course expected, with any suite of products but good to see and of course customers can save even more money by replacing legacy tools or disconnected services and platforms with tools from the Webex suite.

Read more?

You can read more and try this out by visiting the cisco blogs here..

6 new countries added to Microsoft Cloud Calling Plans

Microsoft made a big announcement today as it announced an additional 6 countries that it is adding to its coverage of Microsoft provided calling plans which will be available from the 1st October 2020.

This is big news seeing Microsoft has not added a country since May 2018 so adding 6 countries is a big deal!

What countries are being added?

  • Austria
  • Denmark
  • Italy
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

The addition of these 6 countries in to the already available list of countries that support the Calling Plans Microsoft increases the total number of counties to 16, with the total list now being

  • Austria
  • Australia (via local telco)
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan (via local telco)
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Microsoft is adding the following countries to its list of countries in which customers can consume callimg plans directly from Microsoft or their license/CSP partners.

Direct Routing is also an option for customers wishing to keep their own SBCs, their own SIP provider/carriers or where callings plans are not available is specific counties.

Official notice on the Microsoft 365 Public roadmap



Microsoft to bring all tasks across Office365 into new “Tasks in Teams”

Tasks in Teams

Tasks in Teams – this will be the new name for the Planner app currently in Teams today, which will consolidate tasks across To Do, Teams Channels, Planner as well as Outlook Tasks. The goal is to bring all your tasks to ‘Tasks in Teams’ no matter where you create them.

Tasks In Teams

The new Teams Tasks app (which will replace the current planner app) will allow users to see their individual tasks as well as team tasks in a single app. This latest update will begin to rollout in May /  June this year.

Why the change?

According to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, the “Tasks in Teams,” feature describes the coming Tasks app as ‘providing users with a consolidation of tasks across Microsoft To Do, Teams channels, Planner and Outlook Tasks.’

New Teams Tasks View

The Microsoft 365, Teams Public Roadmap ID 57213, describes the reason for the change is that “with the new Tasks experience in Teams, we are delivering several capabilities that will support new levels of team collaboration. Tasks targeting, publishing and reporting in Teams allows corporate and regional leadership to send task lists targeted to the relevant locations, such as specific retail stores, and track their progress through automatic real-time reports. Managers have tools to easily direct activities within their stores, and Firstline Workers have a simple prioritized list available via their personal or company-issued mobile device showing them exactly what to do next.”

Good idea?

What do you think. Is this a good move, confusing or a logical coming together of all your tasks in one place.?

Check out the Microsoft Tasks In Teams YouTube video

There’s now 4.1 Billion Meeting minutes a day in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft said yesterday that they have now passed 75 million daily active paid users in Microsoft Teams. The news came as part of their Q3 2020 results announced yesterday (29 April).

Incredible usage numbers

Microsoft have seen over 200 million meeting participants a day in April, generating more than 4.1 billion meeting minutes. Just last month they hit a previous record of 2.7 billion in just one day… This has nearly doubled in a month…up over 70% since last months huge surge.

What’s more.. Of the 75 million (which of course are all business use today), Microsoft said that over two thirds of these are using the richer collaborate features of Teams, sharing content, doing live authoring, collaborating and interacted with files and other apps within Teams.

The difference between apps like Teams and Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Webex and other video conferencing only services that Microsoft Teams is not just a video calling platform (while of course it does that extremely well as the stats above show). Teams is Microsoft’s “Hub for Teamwork” and is the central focus for Microsoft 365.

In the earning announcement yesterday, Microsoft said “Teams is about actually getting work done where meetings and video is one part. So that’s, for example, something that utility of it will only increase for our customers as some people come back to work.

Speaking about healthcare specifically, there have seen “more than 34 million Teams meetings in April alone and as education establishment becomes online classrooms, more than 183,000 educational institutions now rely on Teams, and there are now over 20 organisations with more than 100,000 employees are also now using Teams.”

Now Focus on Security, Adoption and Change Management

I have seen many many many of our customers and other organisations rolling out Teams and incredible pace over the past 6 weeks to ensure people can stay connected. With this now the new norm,(for now anyway) the shift is now around focussing on the foundations to ensure Teams and more agile working becomes a new way of working. Security & Complaince and of course User Adoption.

User Adoption and Change Management is key as true collaborative working (not just scheduling video calls) requires time, a change in mind set and skills, practice and reinforcement to change a employees mindset into a truly collaborative workforce (Co editing and authoring for example rather than still sending files around in email).

Ensuring Security and Compliance across Office365 and Microsoft Teams is of course important. With more users accessing corporate data across mobile, their home decides and of course away from home, checking, enabling data and lifecycle management and data within Teams is important. Like Office365, Teams is Secure by design, and uses the following standards:  ISO 27001ISO 27018SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2HIPAA , and  EU Model Clauses (EUMC) . Within the Microsoft compliance framework, Microsoft classifies Office 365 applications and services into four categories described more here.

What happens after Covid19?

Of course, once this Covid-19 pandemic is over (or some form on normality returns) it will be interesting to see how the use of these platforms continues of whether this huge advance in digital transformation and collaboration will tail off and people revert back to previous ways of working.. Habits die hard after all.

“SMS sign in” for Microsoft Teams* now in public preview.

Another #MicrosoftTeams feature is rolling out (ok so it’s in public preview so pretty much rolled out).

This time is a feature aimed more at front line workers like retail for example who may oy have a mobile phone to access their busienss apps.

Introducing SMS based user sign-in

With SMS based user sign-in, users can simply sign-in with their phone number and receive a code via SMS, which will then log them in (the number needs to be registered against them in Azure Active Directory).

How’s it works?

Worth noting that this is just in preview and is still some key features missing (a key one being this doesn’t yet work with MFA… But it will).

As I mentioned in the introduction SMS-based authentication, lets users sign in without needing to provide, or even know, their username and password. After their account is created by an identity administrator, they can enter their phone number at the sign-in prompt, and provide an authentication code that’s sent to them via text message. This authentication method simplifies access to applications and services, especially for front line workers.

Whilst this will work for any Office 365, it’s primary aim is to help front line workers use and login to Team in mobile device as the illustration below shows

Each user enabled for SMS-sign in must have one of the following Azure AD or Microsoft 365 licenses:
– Azure AD Premium P1 or P2 or
– Microsoft 365 F1 or F3

Current limitations

Microsoft have clearly detailed a number of limitations which will apply during the public preview including.

  • SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with Azure Multi-Factor Authentication.
  • With the exception of Teams, SMS-based authentication isn’t currently compatible with native Office applications.
  • SMS-based authentication isn’t recommended for B2B accounts.
  • Federated users won’t authenticate in the home tenant. They only authenticate in the cloud.

To learn more and for instructions in how to active and configure SMS sign in, see the Microsoft supporting information here.

Other Azure AD Passwordless options.

For additional ways to sign in to Azure AD without a password, such as the Microsoft Authenticator App or FIDO2 security keys, you can review the Passwordless authentication options for Azure AD.