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Skype for Business Online retires in 2021. What do you need to know?

On Tuesday 30 July 2019, Microsoft (finally) announced the official retirement date for Skype for Business Online service in Office 365, which will be 31 July 2021.

From Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams: why?

Let’s make a little journey back in time: this story started during the Microsoft Ignite 2017 Conference, where Microsoft released the breaking news that “Microsoft Skype for Business Online will transform into Microsoft Teams”. Microsoft subsequently put their words into action with the launch of a comprehensive roadmap for their new “Vision on Intelligent Communications in Microsoft Teams”, which was released less than a month after the Ignite 2017 Conference.

As promised in the detailed roadmap, the transition of Skype for Business Online functionalities into Microsoft Teams was performed at a tremendous speed. Microsoft already announced a successful accomplishment of feature parity (between Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams) during the summer of 2018. At the same time, several new functionalities were exclusively added to Microsoft Teams, such as:

  • Busy on Busy
  • Call Park Service
  • Group Call Pickup
  • Shared Line Appearance
  • Native Teams IP Phones
  • Video Background Blur
  • Plugin-less Web App Meeting Access
  • Meeting Cloud Recording
  • Live Events
  • Meeting Mobile Companion
  • Smartphone Screen Sharing
  • Proximity based meeting join
  • Device Management Portal

These features make Microsoft Teams the Ultimate Experience for modern meetings and intelligent communications. And the story goes on: the roadmap promises to implement a lot of exciting new features over the next weeks and months, like Information Barriers, Video Customized Call Backgrounds, Content camera & Intelligent Capture, Location-Based Routing and Meeting Live Captions.

Why isn’t everyone working with Microsoft Teams yet?

If we consider the amazing functionality level of Microsoft Teams today, the only reason to stick with Skype for Business Online would be the change & adoption requirements to move to Microsoft Teams as a complete Workstream Collaboration tool including modern workspaces for document collaboration and intelligent communications for chat, meetings & calling. During several customer meetings over the last few months, we noticed that this change process still seems daunting to some customers, which causes them to postpone their transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. In the same vein, some Skype for Business Server customers are still using Skype for Business Online as their stopover during a cloud migration.

What are my future options?

The clarification that Microsoft brings by announcing the retirement date for Skype for Business Online on 31 July 2021 will undoubtedly help to make the situation less complex for you.

From now on, we can summarise the possible scenarios in three options:

  • Deploying Skype for Business Server 2019 on-premises for Chat, Voice, Video and Meetings via the Skype for Business user client (and personal or shared devices)
  • Deploying Microsoft Teams from Office 365 cloud for Chat, Voice, Video and Meetings via the Microsoft Teams user client (and personal or shared devices)
  • Building a hybrid solution with Skype for Business Server 2019 on-premises for Chat & Calling and Microsoft Teams from Office 365 for more rich cloud meetings. “Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings”

There are two key factors to consider when making this decision:

1. Cloud vs On-premises

If the solution should be based on a cloud strategy, Microsoft Teams is the right choice. However, if you need on-premises deployment for control, security or third-party tooling integration, Skype for Business Server 2019 is still a good solution.

Microsoft calls these two deployment options the “commercial cloud” vs “commercial on-premises” solution approach:

2. Full Workstream Collaboration client vs dedicated Communications client

Microsoft Teams deployments require the end users to work with the Microsoft Teams user client, which delivers a broad set of functionalities for (document) collaboration, chat, meetings and calling. In contrast, Skype for Business Server deployments still work with the Skype for Business user client, which is focused on communication functionalities only (chat, meetings and calling).

How can Xylos help me out? 

At Xylos, we are perfectly positioned to guide you in these decisions and subsequently help your organisation with planning, implementing and managing the chosen solution and all further developments. Be sure to have a look at our explanation of the full Microsoft Teams experience on our webpage. We look forward to working with you to shape the future plans of your organisation.

Please also have a look at the official Microsoft announcement for “Skype for Business Online to Be Retired in 2021”.

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