Touted as the future of enterprise communication and collaboration when it was introduced by Microsoft in 2015, Skype for Business Online will be retired for good on July 31. After that date, it will no longer be available and integration with third-party audio providers will cease.
While the application has been a trusted video and chat tool for hundreds of millions of business users, its termination will ultimately be a good thing for those users.
It’s been two years since Microsoft first announced its plans to phase out Skype for Business in favor of its cloud-based Microsoft Teams service. At the time, the company noted that Teams had reached “feature parity” with Skype for Business Online, which meant organizations could comfortably transition to Teams without sacrificing features. In fact, Teams includes the best of Skype’s chat and videoconferencing features and adds more collaboration tools.
Reducing App Overload
From an end-user’s standpoint, the best thing about the move is that it will help bring clarity to a notoriously confusing market.
Real-time video and collaboration applications have evolved steadily over the past decade to meet the needs of increasingly distributed businesses that have employees working from multiple office locations or telecommuting from home. The problem has been that there have been too many programs performing the same basic functions, creating app overload that often impedes effective communication.
Workers commonly use multiple team collaboration apps to communicate with different audiences. Because these apps are built with a walled-garden approach to boost security, there is no way to bridge multiple tools with a single user interface. If four team members are on four different platforms, they’re going to have trouble just starting a conversation much less sharing and modifying files.
While Skype for Business allows only limited integration with telephony apps, Teams supports integration with more than 600 third-party apps, including popular video conferencing and collaboration platforms. That can substantially reduce the time users must spend switching between applications to communicate and collaborate with different audiences.
Persistent chat is another nice feature in Teams. In Skype for Business, chat logs are kept in Outlook or Exchange, but the chat itself disappears when the conversation ends. In Teams, users can access their entire chat history until they choose to delete them.
Teams also makes it easier to store team communications. Any time a new team is created, the application automatically creates a linked SharePoint site that collects and stores all documents and files uploaded by team members.
Although time is running out for Skype for Business Online users, Microsoft is offering services to help customers make the transition. Users who haven’t upgraded by the end of July will be automatically scheduled for an assisted upgrade, which can help reduce the number of technical tasks that must be done. If you schedule an assisted upgrade, you’ll be able to use Skype for Business Online until the upgrade is finished.
A better approach is to have Cerium’s Microsoft experts assist you with the upgrade process, particularly if you have a more advanced implementation of Skype for Business. We will ensure that Teams is set up for services such as enterprise voice and help to migrate users to the new platform.
Organizations that want to establish their own upgrade path will have to work quickly. Contact Cerium today to get started.