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Skype for Business is Going End-of-Life in 2021. Here's What You Need to Know.

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Skype for Business

Executive Summary

  • Skype for Business, first introduced in 2015, is being phased out in favour of Microsoft Teams.
  • The plan for the deprecation of the platform was announced in 2017, but the first practical steps will be taken in July 2021 with the shutdown of Skype for Business Online.
  • Skype for Business Server 2019 will be supported with patches and essential updates until 2025, but the product will no longer be updated or actively sold.

Introduction

Since the world changed for business in 2020, there’s been something of a war brewing in the world of digital collaboration.

Numerous contenders have entered the fray: Microsoft Teams, Asana, Monday, Slack, and many more.

But one is notable by its absence (or perhaps not, as the case may be), and that’s Skype for Business.

The fact that it doesn’t jump to the front of our minds when thinking about digital workplace platforms might explain why, yes, 2021 marks the beginning of the end for Skype for Business.

So, let’s take a closer look at what’s happening with Skype for Business between now and 2025, what is end-of-life roadmap looks like, and what’s taking its place (spoiler: it’s Microsoft Teams).

Let’s get started.

What is Skype for Business?

In many ways, Skype for Business was ahead of its time.

Of course, the world had been well aware of Skype and its online video calling functionality since 2003, but its business-focussed platform, introduced in 2015, was something different.

Unlike many other platforms at the time, Skype for Business offered many digital communication features that made remote working even easier. Along with its classic video calling tools, Skype for Business also offers:

  • Instant chat messaging
  • Audio phone calls over the web

Because it’s also integrated with Microsoft 365, the following Microsoft-specific features are also available:

  • Importation of contacts sourced Microsoft Outlook and Exchange.
  • Rudimentary collaboration on Office documents, with users being able to see if colleagues are working on the file.

Another unique feature of Skype for Business is the way it’s networked within a business. Unlike purely cloud-based platforms, it comes with an installable server option called, unsurprisingly, Skype for Business Server, with the latest major release the 2019 version. This style of deployment meant that all communications were kept within the business network, increasing security and eliminating the risk of external cyberthreats.

If this sounds restrictive, Microsoft also offers a cloud-based version called Skype for Business Online — but there’s some bad news on that front, because its days are numbered.

What is the end-of-life plan for Skype for Business?

The deprecation of Skype for Business probably won’t come as a shock to anyone, mainly because the plan for the platform was first announced by Microsoft way back in September 2017.

But the method by which the change will take place is always a bit of a question mark – especially as the end-of-life process can take many years.

Well, Skype for Business is no exception.

Following the announcement in 2017 – shortly after the introduction of Microsoft Teams, funnily enough – nothing more was set in stone until 2019, when the first milestone was revealed: Skype for Business Online would be discontinued in July 2021. They also confirmed that the server edition of the platform would continue to be supported, at least in terms of security patches and essential updates, until 2025.

If you’re curious about the specific dates, Microsoft has already marked the calendar for both flavours of the platform, as follows:

  • Skype for Business Online will be unsupported from July 31st 2021
  • Skype for Business Server (2015+) will be unsupported from October 14th 2025

In terms of functionality, the Skype for Business Online will stop working entirely in July, because it’s hosted by Microsoft itself, whereas Skype for Business Server instances will remain accessible on your local network.

That said, these Server installations will no longer be updated or receive security patches, and so will become security risks with every passing day. (Which is a roundabout way of saying you shouldn’t use Skype for Business Server after October 2025).

Skype for Business vs. Microsoft Teams

It might seem like a bit of a moot point because, well, Microsoft has already decided that Teams is the winner of this particular showdown – but how similar are the two platforms?

What will you be losing in terms of functionality when Skype for Business goes away? The truth is… not much. In fact, you’re probably gaining far more than you’re losing, especially if you’re not already using Microsoft Teams.

The truth is that Skype for Business was always limited by the fact that it was shackled to the original Skype communication platform. This meant that it would always be centred around video calls and chat, and not specifically on digital collaboration. The shift to Microsoft Teams opens the door to take everything Skype did well – video, chat, and audio calls – and blend them seamlessly with all the other handy stuff Teams can do.

That includes:

  • A platform built around collaboration structured to support siloed teams and projects, with chat and post feeds for each individual channel.
  • Real-time collaboration on Microsoft Office documents, including commenting and conversations.
  • Full integration with an ever-growing list of Microsoft apps, including Lists, Forms, To Do, Whiteboard, plus many third-party apps, including Zoom, Trello, and more.
  • An expansive development roadmap with updates coming thick and fast. With over 100 million daily users, Microsoft is heavily invested in improving Microsoft Teams.
  • Deep integration with the Microsoft 365 infrastructure, enabling features like @mentions and user groups based on Azure AD policies.

So, what’s the bottom line here?

Should we be lamenting the loss of Skype for Business which begins in 2021?

In our opinion, absolutely not.

While Skype has been a useful tool over the years, it was never completely optimised for business use, and so there’s no question that Microsoft Teams has a lot more to offer than Skype ever did. On top of that, don’t forget that a Microsoft 365 subscription doesn’t just get you access to Teams, but countless other business-focussed cloud apps and features too, including Microsoft Office, Exchange, SharePoint, and more.

Ready to make the leap to Teams? We can help

If you’d rather not wait until support for Skype for Business server ends in 2025 – and start enjoying all of the additional benefits of Microsoft Teams right away – the Get Support team can help.

As a direct Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider, we are ideally placed to help UK businesses get up and running with the full Microsoft 365 suite, including Microsoft Teams. Start today with a quick chat and we can get the ball rolling right away for one low monthly price.

To talk about Microsoft 365 and Teams now, call the team on 01865 59 4000, or simply fill in the form below.

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