Time to Plan Your Skype for Business Online Transition to Teams


Written by Dan Callahan

I'm the VP of Global Services at CGNET. I manage our Cybersecurity and Cloud Services businesses. I also provide consulting and handle a lot of project management. I wear a lot of hats. Professionally, I'm a builder of businesses. Outside of work, I'm a hobby farmer, chef, skier, dog walker, jokester, woodworker, structuralist, husband and father.

August 22, 2019

Microsoft has announced that Skype for Business Online will be retired as of July 31, 2021. This retirement is not a surprise. I’ve written before that it was clear Teams would be Microsoft’s collaboration platform and that Skype for Business Online would be retired at some point. Well, that point now has a date. If you’re using Skype for Business Online, it’s time to plan your Skype for Business Online transition.

Before I continue, I’ll note that Skype for Business Server and the “consumer” version of Skype are not affected by Microsoft’s announcement.

If your organization uses Skype for Business Online, you’re wondering how much work it will be to transition to Teams. That question turns on whether your organization is using telephony or not. And by “telephony” I’m referring to the ability to make a voice call to a regular telephone number. Think, calling the caterer down the street to arrange for lunch to be brought in.

Skype for Business Online Transition without Telephony

This is the simpler case to consider. If you’re using Skype for Business Online with just its included features—chat, IP voice, IP video—then there’s little to do. You’ll add new users directly to Teams. Everyone (old and new) can use Teams via its web app or via the downloaded app. You’ll determine what “coexistence mode” in which you want to run Teams and Skype for Business Online.

  • Skype for Business Only” mode. Or as I like to call it, “Head in the Sand mode.” Skype for Business alone is used to deliver collaboration services.
  • Teams Only” mode. Teams alone is used to deliver collaboration services. This is where you’re headed.
  • Islands” mode. This is the default coexistence mode. Skype for Business Online and Teams will exist side by side. Users will use each client app for their respective services.
  • Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration” mode. This coexistence mode is primarily intended for customers with Skype for Business Server installations. It allows for some interoperability between Skype for Business and Teams.
  • Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings” mode. This mode shifts the meetings features from Skype for Business to Teams.

We recommend starting with the “Islands” mode when planning your Skype for Business Online transition. Use this mode and get people going on Teams as quickly as you can. Yes, using Skype for Business Online for chat and calling while using Teams for channels and conversations is clunky. But we feel that users will want to move to Teams more quickly as a result. Once you’ve reached a “critical mass” of users on Teams, you can switch to Teams Only mode and move the remaining users over to Teams as well.

Skype for Business Online Transition with Telephony

I wrote an extensive piece about planning for Teams Telephony. You can find it here.

If you’re already using Skype for Business Online and Telephony, your planning has already been done. You’ll have to choose which coexistence mode to go with as described above. In addition, you’ll have a few other things to think about.

  • Phones. If you have phones that you use with Skype for Business Online, you’ll have to confirm that they will also work with Teams. Chances are good that the same phones will work, but chances are also good that the phones will at least require a firmware update. Presume the worst and hope for the best here.
  • Audio conferencing services. If you use Microsoft for your telephony “minutes” then you’re all set. But if you use a third-party audio conferencing provider (example, PGi), you’ll have to plan to transition away from that provider by July 31, 2021.

Where to Find the Details

Planning your Skype for Business Online transition can involve a lot of details. I could go into greater detail here. But Microsoft has done a smashing job pulling the information together, so I’ll just point you there.

And if you need any help with this Skype for Business Online transition, you know who to call!

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