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The end of life for Skype for Business is upon us. Microsoft has officially made the announcement, Skype for Business Online will be Retired in 2021. Truth be told, we’ve known this for quite some time now; however only now do we have the date, July 31, 2021. Teams is the way forward for Microsoft, and soon it will be the collaboration app in the Office 365 suite. In any case, as we approach the end of Skype for Business, there are several important things to know about what’s next for current Office 365 users and anyone looking to become one.
For active Skype for Business users, this might sound both strange and alarming. Does this mean you won’t be able to use Skype at all soon? There is no reason to be alarmed, because in Skype’s case, “end of life” doesn’t necessarily mean death.
The term “end of life” in this case is specific. What it means is that soon enough, Skype for Business will no longer be a part of the Office 365 suite. For those who don’t know, Office 365 is Microsoft’s subscription-based service that offers every quintessential app (Word, Outlook, Excel, etc.) with additional features. Though a bit more expensive, it’s widely considered the superior option to Office 2019, even by Microsoft’s own admission.
Skype for Business used to be the communication app featured in the Office 365 suite. Now, Microsoft is replacing it with its newer software; Microsoft Teams. With a plethora of promising features, Teams is the obvious step forward. With five different generations currently coexisting in the workplace, the need for collaboration software that’s both advanced and intuitively scratches each user’s individual itch has never been higher. A system like Teams and all its numerous easy-to-use features helps facilitate the kind of efficiency and inclusivity these wide and varied users require. Of course, there are certain things that Teams is still unable to do. Whiteboards and polls, two features of Skype for Business, are only available in Teams via third party software.
Questions about Skype for Business Online coming to End of Life?
In any case, the plan is for Teams to soon not only match all of Skype’s features, but surpass them. That’s all well and good, but it probably leaves another question burning in your mind: “when?” There's a few key dates you'll need to keep in mind. The first is September 2019. After that point, all new Office 365 customers will be automatically onboarded to Teams. If you're already a customer, no worries. You can add and remove licenses to your account with no consequence beyond that September 2019 date. The next date is July 30, 2021, when Skype for Business Online will be fully decommissioned. If you're using Skype for Business Online (or have a hybrid environment), you'll need to be fully migrated to Teams by that date. The final date is 2025. Microsoft has promised support of Skype for Business Server at least through the next few years, and potentially beyond 2025. If you're utilizing a fully On Prem environment for Skype for Business, you'll be safe for a few more years.
For current Skype for Business Online users, the best thing you can do is get on Teams sooner rather than later. The transition isn’t as easy as it sounds, but with the right help from a dependable integrator like Continuant, it isn’t so difficult either. As a new user, you have the option to take the change as slow as necessary, starting with just the Meetings function of Teams, and then gradually add more features along the way while phasing out Skype should you so choose. With easy to use meetings, members of your teams will be able to make use of this function in tandem with anything else they might use. They won’t even need the Teams app in order to do this.
It just so happens that users with less than 500 seats who subscribe to Office 365 will automatically be on-boarded to Teams, with or without Skype for Business. Of course, that’s wonderful news for small businesses, but not so much for larger enterprises. Those of you with significantly more than 500 seats might be wondering how you could govern such a system, or if it would even make sense to get a new method of voice communication alongside all your existing telephony. Fortunately, Teams can be governed easily from just about anywhere via the cloud, and a Teams system can be integrated with any existing phone system.
To make things easy on yourself, you have the option to move from Skype to Teams through phases. This is possible through what Microsoft calls “Coexistence Mode.” With several different paths available to follow, this process will allow for a combination of features, and will help your Skype users learn to use Teams over time without dropping them headfirst into unfamiliar territory.
There are probably still some who are looking to keep Skype for Business, seeing as it’s a platform they’re accustomed to. Change can often be hard to deal with, which is why it’s a good thing that Skype for Business isn’t going away completely (not yet, at least). If you're interested in staying with Skype for Business as long as possible, we can help you work through your options. A good place to start is with our 9 questions to ask while preparing for your move from Skype for Business to Teams. Whether you’re planning to move to Teams or to stay with Skype for now, Continuant’s services will ensure that everything runs as optimally as possible, even as Skype’s life comes to an end.