While Office 365 Cloud PBX has gone GA last December, we haven’t seen much of it “in the wild” in Europe yet. We have spoken a lot on it, and are enabling customers in Hybrid mode (having both users online and on premises) with their existing Skype for Business platforms, but an all-in Cloud PBX strategy was not feasible just yet.
Until now, since the Cloud Connector has been launched!
What is this Cloud Connector?
You can see of Cloud Connector as an adaptor, or a bridge, to connect your local PSTN (telephony) breakout to Office 365. This will enable you to leverage Microsoft’s Cloud PBX – telephony services in Skype for Business Online – using your already existing PSTN connections.
In this moment, together with going Hybrid, this is the only way to make phone-number availability and calling in Skype for Business Online possible in Europe.
Microsoft promises that later on, you will also be able to gain phone numbers and above mentioned functionality right out of Office 365, without the need for any local breakout – but currently only available in the US.
What type of PSTN can we connect with Cloud Connector?
This PSTN connection can either be an ISDN/analog connection through a certified Media Gateway, or a certified direct SIP Trunk. Even selected/certified IP PBXes can be connected – just as we were used to with on premises Lync/Skype for Business environments.
Is this interesting for my organization?
It depends. Do you currently own a PBX which needs replacement? Using Office 365 already or planning to do so? Willing to leverage the limitless communication with Skype for Business, include PSTN connectivity to make your workers be productive anywhere, anytime? And don’t want to invest in or maintain an on premises Skype for Business Server architecture and/or rather pay-per-month?
Then Skype for Business (Online) might be your choice, and with Cloud Connector, you will need only a small foot printed “appliance” in your technical room, just to plug-in your PSTN into the cloud. No Skype for Business Server licensing needed.
What do we need for this Cloud Connector?
Office 365 licensing aside, on a technical level you’ll need the following hardware to support up to 50 concurrent calls:
- Windows Server 2012 R2 ISO image (.iso). Both Standard edition and Data Center edition are supported. The ISO will be converted to VHDs for the virtual machines that will run Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition.
The necessary hardware to support installation of the 4 VMs for each Cloud Connector Edition in your deployment:
- Intel i7 4790 quad core with Intel 4600 Graphics (no high end graphics needed)
- 32 GB DDR3-1600 non ECC RAM
- 2x 1TB 7200RPM SATA III (6 Gbps) in RAID 0
- 2x 1 Gbps Ethernet (RJ45)
- Qualified PBX/Trunk or qualified SBC/Gateway
More technical details on this Cloud Connector can be found here: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt605227.aspx