Microsoft Nudging Skype for Business Users to Teams
Microsoft on Thursday announced some perks and prods for Skype for Business unified communications users, with the aim of moving them to the Microsoft Teams collaboration service instead.
The prod for Skype for Business Online users to migrate is the coming end-of-support date for the service on July 31, 2021. Microsoft hasn't wavered from its plans to end the online version of the product since its announcement a year and a half ago.
Back then, Microsoft had acknowledged that its customers still had a need to use Skype for Business Server on their own servers or premises. The acknowledgment implied that the server version of the product would continue.
Server Product Continuance?
Today's announcement reiterated that oblique assurance for users of the premises-based Skype for Business Server 2019 product.
"We recognize some organizations may need to maintain their Skype for Business Server deployment," Microsoft's Thursday announcement stated.
Microsoft had indicated back in September during its Ignite conference that new server versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Project and Skype for Business would be coming in the "the second half of 2021," but they would be sold under subscription-based licenses. Traditionally, such licenses have been reserved for Microsoft's online services, though, rather than for its server products.
The current Skype for Business Server 2019 product is in its "mainstream support" phase, ending on Jan. 9, 2024, which is a normal five-year phase. However, the product has just one year and 10 months of "extended support," which will end on Oct. 14, 2025, per Microsoft's lifecycle support search page.
Traditionally, the extended support phase (the time following mainstream support when feature development by Microsoft ends) had been good for a full five years. Possibly, Microsoft announced the truncation of Skype for Business Server's extended support phase at some point, but it seems to have gone under the radar.
Microsoft did indicate during Ignite back in September that Exchange Server 2019 just had two years of mainstream support, which was being done to move organizations to the subscription-based model with the coming new server products. Other 2019-branded server products apparently got their extended support pared down, too. For instance, Microsoft's lifecycle support pages currently show extended support phases of just two years for SharePoint Server 2019 and Project Server 2019.
The truncated extended support for these server products seems not to have been widely publicized.
Perks for Teams Migrations
Microsoft is offering free use of the Audio Conferencing feature of Teams for a year for qualifying subscribers with an Enterprise Agreement through March 31, 2021. This deal, described this week, isn't new. It had been announced back in September. The Audio Conferencing feature lets users with unreliable Internet connections join Teams meetings via a dial-in phone number.
The other perk mentioned in Microsoft's Thursday announcement is the availability of FastTrack support for organizations trying to move from Skype for Business to Teams. The FastTrack program is free for organizations with 150 subscriptions or more, but it just offers advice from Microsoft or its partners (no technician visits a site).
Moving to Teams from Skype for Business (Online or Server) isn't straightforward. Organizations can use a couple of methods, which Microsoft dubs the "overlapping capabilities method" and the "select capabilities method," as described in this document.
With the overlapping method, organizations use Skype for Business and Teams side by side, with the goal of getting to a "Teams Only mode." With the select capabilities approach, organizations use Skype for Business for some functions, like chat, and Teams for other functions.
Microsoft's announcement this week advocated the use of "coexistence" configurations for Skype for Business Server users to ease the transition to Teams. For instance, the "Meetings First" configuration lets Skype for Business Server users with Enterprise Voice "create meetings in Teams while continuing to use Skype for Business for chat, calling and presence."
In general, the complexity of migrating to Teams possibly may be a sticking point for organizations. Microsoft seems to be issuing a gentle reminder because of it, particularly with the impending end of Skype for Business Online.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.