Microsoft Teams is the world’s most widely used collaborative and remote work platform with over 145 million active daily users. Microsoft has been actively adding more collaborative and business features in its Teams ever since the onset of the pandemic. Thanks to its diverse set of features and close-knit compatibility with the Microsoft suite of applications and services, more and more businesses are switching to Teams to improve their collaboration, given the ongoing remote work culture. Small and medium-scale businesses have been leveraging Microsoft Teams and have been actively relying on the platform for business continuity and streamlined operations. For the companies planning to switch to Microsoft Teams, you need to make sure that your company’s network is ready for Teams. It might be easy for a company to adapt Teams that already have the network architecture optimized for Microsoft 365. However, for many others, we will be laying out some essential aspects to consider before migrating the organization to use Microsoft Teams with a focus on whether your network is up to the task.
It is important to understand that Microsoft Teams is unlike any other standalone application whose entire operations usually require a one-time single network configuration. Teams is an integral part of Microsoft’s lineup of services and applications, and therefore, different features in Teams has different network requirements.
Allowing the ports
Irrespective of what the application is, whitelisting the ports needed for the app to run on an organizational network is critical. Companies need to ensure that both internal and external firewalls, network routers, proxy servers, and other network devices are properly configured to allow the proper functioning of Teams.
Since Microsoft Teams is powered by the Azure cloud platform for media processing during meetings and calls, it uses the heavy service consumption of H.264 video codec, SILK, and Opus audio codec. Moreover, like several other Microsoft services, Teams has a long list of network requirements, including access to several ports for specific purposes like communication, network data transmission, and permissions. These network configurations are also categorized into different endpoints, which need to be optimized as per the feature. More information on these addresses, ports, Azure ExpressRoute prefix which needs to be rightly routed and made reachable can be found here.
Leveraging Network Planner
Considering the complexities in planning and configuring a network for Teams, Microsoft last year launched Network Planner. It is a tool available in the Teams admin center. It allows IT admins to determine and organize network requirements for connecting Microsoft Teams users across an organization.
Network Planner allows users to either directly choose from one of the predefined personas that are preconfigured with the network settings or create up to three custom personas to match the business needs. Network Planner also allows IT admins to generate reports about the network resource consumption and utilization while calculating the bandwidth requirements. This tool is also capable of calculating your network requirements for deploying Microsoft Teams along with its associated cloud services across the organization’s physical locations.
Overcoming resource limitations
Organizations often struggle to provide enough hardware and network resources for resource-heavy applications like Microsoft Teams. Companies need to ensure that they have enough bandwidth to support and handle the real-time data from Teams before they implement it on their network. There have been several instances where companies struggled with subpar performance in terms of audio and video quality from Microsoft Teams due to improper planning and design. Other aspects such as addressing the WiFi coverage issues, checking for any defective subnets or networking hardware such as switches, routers, and cables can also cause latencies, jitters, and data loss.
Misconfigured or lack of virtual private networks (VPNs) is one of the major and most common mistakes we see a lot when implementing and setting up Microsoft Teams at an organizational level. Due to the ongoing pandemic, several companies started deploying VPNs to support their remotely working employees. Because of the number of remote employees working worldwide, several organizations are struggling to meet the upscaling VPN demands. A misconfigured VPN for Microsoft Teams can be a nightmare for the employees and organizations alike. While Microsoft Teams can work without any problems in the absence of a VPN, there can be network configurational errors, blocked ports, and other issues when setting up an intermediary VPN. Therefore, organizations need to ensure that their VPN configurations align with the Microsoft Teams’ network requirements before the deployment.
Microsoft has provided users with several useful resources including extensive documentation along with several tools and services like Network Planner. However, there can be several complex scenarios or edge-cases that might prevent you or your organization from leveraging the most out of this prime collaboration tool. To tackle such scenarios, Microsoft has a dedicated support platform and tech forums to help individuals and organizations mitigate the integration challenges and complexities. Another major step that companies can take to get the most out of the platform is to educate and train their employees on the best practices and efficient utilization of Microsoft Teams.
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