Microsoft Will Retire Skype for Business Online in 2021


August 19, 2019

Earlier this month, Microsoft Teams surpassed rival Slack by reaching over 13 million active daily users. It comes as no surprise then that Microsoft is ready to retire its legacy technology to make way for this groundbreaking collaboration tool. In fact, Microsoft recently announced that Skype for Business Online will be officially retired on July 31, 2021. Read our article below to learn the key details about this announcement:

What Are the Key Takeaways?

Skype for Business Server Will Not Be Affected: One of the most important things to note is that this will not affect companies that currently use Skype for Business Server; mainstream support for Server customers will be available until January 2024 and extended support will be available until October 2025 (in order to accommodate customers with specific geographic requirements).

Existing Online Services Will Not Be Phased Out: This will also not affect the service of existing customers – users will still have the same access to Skype for Business Online until July 31, 2021. Most likely, Microsoft does not intend to use a phase-out approach because customers can handle these transitions on their own using available coexistence modes. Additionally, companies can still add new users to their existing Skype for Business Online services, however this is not recommended since customers should transition to Teams as soon as possible.

New Office 365 Users Will Be Onboarded to Teams: Starting September 1, 2019, all new Office 365 users will be onboarded to Teams for chat, meetings, and calling. Notably, this is not the only change being implemented in 2019. Microsoft also recently began assisting with automated upgrades for smaller businesses in order to support the transition process for organisations with limited IT resources.

Support for Audio Conferencing Has Been Extended: Microsoft has also taken this opportunity to continue support for third-party Audio Conferencing integration, which has given Skype for Business Online customers access to dial-in numbers and PINs for Skype for Business Online conferences. Originally, this service was supposed to be discontinued in April 2020. However, in light of the recent announcement, Microsoft will run the service in parallel with Skype for Business Online until July 31, 2021.

New Features Are Being Added: Users worried about not obtaining feature parity as they transition to Teams can rest easy. Along with the announcement stating the official end date for Skype for Business Online, Microsoft also announced that it will be adding additional requested features for Teams, including Dynamic 911, shortened retention periods, Teams and Skype Consumer interoperability, and contact centre integration and compliance recording. Dynamic 911 and the new retention periods will be available by the end of 2019 and Teams and Skype Consumer interoperability will be available in 2020.

How Should Companies Prepare?

Invest in Training: Experts agree that training is pivotal to successful adoption for Teams. This includes developing user-specific communication strategies, sharing success stories, and hosting company demos. Many Skype for Business Online customers will also likely have to hire or train a migration expert to handle transitions. Microsoft recommends that leaders in charge should be Skype for Business and Exchange Deployment Planning Services (S&EDPS) certified and should have prior experience in Teams migrations.

Do the Research: Microsoft has also released many resources that help Skype for Business Online customers make a smooth transition. This includes free instructor-led training, planning documents, and FastTrack onboarding assistance, which provides access to online resources, supports technical assistance from engineering teams, and helps companies onboard solutions. FastTrack is available for companies with at least 150 licences set up with eligible subscriptions.

Get Started: Once these tasks are completed, companies can start deploying their Teams solution. Notably, our blog post on Teams migration strategies covers many of the steps organisations should go through when making their transition. As a summary, here are some of the key requirements for a Teams deployment:

  • Licences: To transition to Teams, all corporate customers must have an Office 365 subscription either through an E1, E3, E5, or F1 licence. For voice, customers will also need an Audio Conferencing licence (which can be found as part of the E5 licence or as an add-on for the E3 licence) and a Phone System licence (which can be completed either through the E3 or E5 licence). Note that all existing licences carry forward to Teams. For example, if a company has an existing Audio Conferencing licence as part of an E5 with Skype for Business, it can then be carried over and enabled with Teams.
  • Strategy: Microsoft recommends Skype for Business Online customers to plan for a direct upgrade, which means deploying Teams alongside Skype for Business in Islands mode and then switching the entire organisation to Teams Only mode. This is the quickest strategy for retiring Skype for Business Online. Otherwise, companies can implement a gradual upgrade, which assigns users to different modes depending on their specific transition needs.
  • Calling Plans: For calling in Teams, users must either have a Microsoft Calling Plan or Direct Routing with a third-party provider. Notably, customers that currently have Phone System with CCE for Skype for Business Online will need to migrate their services to one of these two options. Customers who already have Phone System with Calling Plans, however, can simply transition inbound PSTN calling to Teams. Even so, given Direct Routing’s global coverage, companies may want to consider transitioning to Direct Routing if they require voice services at multiple international sites. Additionally, Direct Routing offers the most benefits for companies that would like to take advantage of their existing SIP trunks, need increased flexibility, or prefer specialised voice support.

Are You Ready for Direct Routing?

Microsoft Teams is undoubtedly the collaboration tool of the future. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your Teams solution is optimised for your specific business needs – especially for voice. If you’re ready to get the most out of your Microsoft licensing investment, check out Pure IP’s flexible and quickly deployable Direct Routing solution, which includes failover engineering to geo-redundant secondary SBCs, 24/7 dedicated support, and international coverage in 90 countries.

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