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It’s been almost two years since Microsoft announced the July 31, 2021 retirement of their venerable Skype for Business (S4B) Online enterprise messaging and telephony app. Long-time users of Microsoft Office have experienced the app’s multi-year evolution from “Office Communication Server” to “Lync” and its current iteration of “S4B.” But the future of enterprise messaging is the Microsoft Teams app, and current S4B users are staring down a forced shutoff in about six months.
While there are currently over 115 million daily users of Microsoft Teams globally, the fact is that Skype for Business Online is still widely used. As proud early adopters of Microsoft Teams telephony, Amaxra migrated our business to Microsoft Teams for all of our unified communications (UC) needs well over a year ago. The result is Amaxra having real-world experience in the planning and implementation of in-place upgrades to new Microsoft-based UC solutions. And in our new remote working world, the integration Microsoft Teams delivers between the desktop and phone are even more critical to business success.
Regardless of where your business is on the journey from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams, Amaxra has tips on how to make the upgrade to Teams as frictionless as possible while also meeting the looming deadline of Skype for Business Online service cut-off date in just a few short months. In general, companies transitioning from S4B to Microsoft Teams will usually have users temporarily running both apps on their devices. During this temporary period of using both apps, users will be operating either in “Islands Mode” or with “Select Capabilities” in both apps.
Collaborating from an “Island”
Moving from S4B to Teams requires planning and effort from a dedicated IT organization. For some organizations with investments in Skype for Business Server hardware (either on-site or hosted in the cloud), their IT will choose for users during that transitory period to have both S4B and Teams installed on their devices. However, the two apps will have two very different backend infrastructures resulting in overlapping capabilities on the frontend user experience that do not interoperate.
For example, users at the same company who used make phone calls from the S4B app and now also have Teams can call each other on both S4B and Teams but can only make calls to outside phone numbers using S4B. A video call made from Teams to a S4B user won’t work and neither will internal voice calls between S4B and Teams users. In essence, the S4B and Teams users are on separate “islands” where voice calls and certain online meetings will only work for the users of whatever app they initiate the collaboration. Confusingly, chat messages sent from a legacy S4B user will often show up on the recipient’s S4B and Teams app.
Avoiding confusion with Select Capabilities mode
One option to avoid the confusing coexistence of S4B with Teams is to gradually move users in the organization to Teams with a “Select Capabilities” operating mode. In this migration method, the backend infrastructure of S4B and Teams are merged in phases in a way that keeps chat and voice on Skype for Business while Microsoft Teams for collaborative tasks such as video calls and team meetings.
The Select Capabilities transition is good for IT administrators wanting increased control over the set of capabilities available to users while transitioning from Skype for Business to Teams. And although users will have both S4B and Teams installed on their devices, this transition method may reduce end user confusion because a given functionality is only available in one client. However, some users will be frustrated that they won’t have access in the Teams app to common activities performed in Skype for Business such as chat and calling.
Integrated telephony for Skype and Teams is complex
While we touched on telephony in our discussion about “islands mode,” one key feature Skype for Business users can’t do without is integrated one-click calling to the publicly-switched telephone network (PSTN). Integrated PSTN calling capabilities for S4B uses either an on-premise or hosted public branch exchange (PBX) system; enabling businesses to replace their desk phones with low-cost, high-quality headsets from a variety of manufacturers. However, minimizing disruptions for telephony in a S4B-to-Teams migration adds another layer of complexity. The porting of existing phone numbers and other arcane “backend” tasks—such as removing Skype for Business Server and all related user attributes in Active Directory—takes time and effort to move between the old and new backend infrastructure.
Microsoft Teams has a 100% cloud-based telephony option that is nothing less than a “killer feature” called Microsoft 365 Business Voice. Amaxra highly recommends Microsoft 365 Business Voice as the most full-featured UC solution for SMBs with 300 or fewer employees. However, even though it is technically a “Microsoft-to-Microsoft” transition from S4B to the Microsoft 365 Business Voice infrastructure, in practice this migration still requires a lot of planning and effort from a dedicated IT team.
Choose a partner with Teams and telephony experience
For businesses still using Skype for Business Online, the time for making a migration plan to move your team over to Microsoft Teams is now. The next five months will fly by and this complex move isn’t for the faint of heart. If you have question about the best way to get started on a plan, connect with Amaxra. We are a Microsoft Gold-level Partner organization and our consultants are Microsoft Teams experts with proven experience in planning and deploying telephony integrations.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 425 708 8841 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.
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