One of the typical goals I see with Phone System (formerly Cloud PBX) even many starting with CCE, is for organizations to ultimately port their phone numbers and be all-in with the cloud. They don’t want to maintain on-premises equipment where they don’t have to, they don’t want to have to deal with telephony vendors, they want it all as a flexible subscription when possible.
At Ignite, Agus Rachman is up on stage talking about how to get this done. His objectives are to give an overview of the process, overcome some of the challenges, and walkthrough the roles and responsibilities involved. You can tell he’s been through this before, I was chatting with him a bit before the session started and he’s got some good war stories to share.
We’re starting by talking about number porting. If you’re not familiar, Agus explains that effectively, instead of dealing with circuits and phone companies, we’re going to transfer (port-in) our phone numbers to Microsoft from (port-out) our existing vendor.
Right away, he’s getting at the meat of it, talking about what we can and can’t port. In a nutshell, we can port landlines, mobile numbers (US and Puerto Rico only), toll and toll free numbers. We can do this in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, UK and the US. In the US, we have the luxury of partial porting. This means that we can often port a handful of pilot numbers before we port our entire office. What I’m learning today is the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily work that way. In the UK, multiple parties may have to be involved, the service provider and the range holder, to determine if they’ll even allow it. There’s a simple portal to migrate numbers, if you have 999 to port or less, they're all user numbers, and you reside in the US. If you don't meet those requirements, there’s also a service desk available to you for more complex requests. If you need to port a number and use it as a service number, be aware that you'll need to request the service desk make this change for you.
So, far, it seems pretty straightforward, and from Microsoft’s side it is. The goal is to make it easy for you. If you’ve ever ported phone numbers, you know that’s rarely the case. Agus is getting into the challenges you might face. Clearly, the existing carrier isn’t happy that they’re losing your business and to that end, they don’t always jump to help you leave. Some of the challenges mentioned are missing SLAs and dates, denied requests for seemingly small reasons, and depending on the country, regulating bodies needing to get involved. The best thing you can do before you port is to ensure that you’ve got your forms filled out perfectly and you’ve planned this in advance. If you’re not sure of what information you need to enter, find out for sure before starting to avoid delays, make sure you disable any advanced calling features on the existing provider’s side that could block a port (call hunt groups, etc.) and make sure you’ve doing going too fast, mixing numbers from different providers and making other mistakes.
Agus highlights the importance of planning as well. Porting timelines are 7-14 days typically, sometimes up to 30. Personally, I’ve seen them take upwards of 60, but this is rare. Porting between tenants can happen in 1-3 days however. During the port it may take two hours or so before all of your numbers start flowing into Microsoft so be prepared for that window.
Before you port, you’re going to need a recent bill or invoice to get your account number, billing telephone number (BTN), and billing address. You’ll also need to know the service address and the numbers assigned to the BTN. If you’re unsure of this, reach out to your service provider to find out for sure as it can block a port. If you do need help verifying that a number can be ported, Microsoft can help. That’s amazing if you’ve ever dealt with number porting and know what a headache it can be between two standard carriers. In the US you can send an email to PTN@microsoft.com, in Europe you can send an email to PTNEU@microsoft.com to get help. If you have a good relationship with the existing carrier, you don’t need to be afraid to reach out to them for help as well to get advice before the port on any constraints that may slow you down. Finally, ports timelines do get missed and delays, so communicate as well as you can to your users and be prepared for those contingencies if needed.
I’m really glad I attended this session, Agus did a fantastic job and it’s because he’s been through it many times. If you like to reach out to me, I can be found on Twitter as @canthonycaragol or you can also visit my LinkedIn profile and connect.
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