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Press Release -- February 27th, 2020

Microsoft is Sunsetting Skype for Business (So What Does That Mean?)

In case you missed the news back in July of 2019, Microsoft announced their plans to sunset Skype for Business Online. If this is news to you (and even if it’s not), there are probably lots of questions running through your head—why is this happening; when is this happening; what does this mean for my organization?

Don’t worry—Microsoft has options for you, and we’ll answer all your questions.

Why is Microsoft sunsetting Skype for Business?

The main reason for Microsoft retiring Skype for Business Online is their desire to consolidate products and the associated support resources to maintain focus on one single UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform. Instead of maintaining Skype for Business and Teams, Microsoft is placing their focus on the Teams product, which offers many of the same functionalities of Skype for Business, as well as others (more on that below).

When is Skype for Business being retired?

Following the launch of Teams in 2017, Microsoft has announced that Skype for Business Online will no longer be accessible after July 31, 2021. That means your organization has around 18 months (from publication of this blog) to migrate to a new platform like Teams.

What’s the difference between Teams and Skype for Business?

So if you’re looking to migrate from Skype for Business to Teams you’re probably wondering “what’s the difference?” One of the major differences between the two platforms is in how they’re delivered. Microsoft Teams is a pure play UCaaS system (Unified Communications as a Service), meaning there is no option for an on-premise deployment.

Skype on the other hand has both a on premise and a cloud option. The on-prem option, known as Skype for Business Server, has actually not been sunsetted or given an end of life and will be able to be maintained. Skype for Business Online however, the one we’re talking about throughout this article, is being end of lifed and rolled up into Teams. If you read those two sentences and took a sigh of relief as a Skype for Business Server customer, I’d challenge you to consider your organization’s future plans to move to a cloud based system. The reason?

If your organization ever decides in the future to move from Skype for Business Server to Teams, you actually have to pass through Skype for Business Online in order to maintain all your settings, meetings, etc. That means once Skype for Business Online goes away, Server customers will be left without a bridge to the cloud. Microsoft may develop a workaround for this in the future, but they haven’t at the time of this writing.

Now that we’ve got that straight let’s look at the difference between Skype for Business Online and Teams.

Microsoft Teams

With Teams you get a tool that offers a unified source for:

  • communication
  • collaboration
  • productivity

Put simply, it combines the voice and video communication capabilities of Skype for Business, the productivity of Office 365, and the collaboration of a tool like Slack.

Skype for Business

With Skype for Business you get features such as Instant Messaging, Audio Calling, and Video Calling. There are advanced features when integrating with other Microsoft software, including file sharing and the ability to use SIP for communications.

Skype for Business offers a solid communications platform, but lacks many of the features that Teams offers, enabling users and groups to work more effectively and efficiently.

Microsoft Teams Skype for Business
Instant Messaging Yes Yes
Voice Calling Yes Yes
Video Calling Yes Yes
Office 365 Integrations Yes No
Chat Channels Yes No

What does my business need to do?

So if Skype for Business Online is going away in 2021, what does your business need to do? First, decide which platform you’re going to migrate to. Microsoft has made it fairly easy to migrate to Teams (they have helper software and everything), but based on your needs you may want to move to a different platform.

Once you’ve decided which platform you’re migrating to, put a plan in place with a timeline and what steps you need to take to complete that migration. This will get your organization thinking about the steps you need to take in order to prevent downtime during the migration. That plan should include change management considerations as well as what features and functionality you need to move over, or move to, in your new platform.

Make sure you’re futureproofing your organization’s tech stack

Maybe your organization is pretty set with Skype for Business Server. That bit of info should be a good enough reason to have an internal discussion about the future of your unified communications solution, and while you’re having that conversation you can discuss potential ways to increase the ROI of your platform.

We see many organizations realize higher ROI on their unified communications platforms by using it increasingly as their VoIP phone or softphone solution. Are you doing that today? If not, you should consider it in the context of your migration which serves as an opportune time to implement a test group. Learn more about migrating your telephony to the cloud in our most helpful ebook.

Don’t ignore 911

If you’re moving to Teams, Microsoft has taken some extra steps to provide modern emergency features such as Dynamic E911, which leverages the caller’s real-time location for both call routing and display to the public safety answering point. Teams also includes emergency notifications to alert your security teams, front desk attendant, or other designated personnel that a 911 call has been made by one of your users. Both of these features are critical components of emerging federal E911 regulations such as Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’s Act.

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