Skype for Business Online to be Retired - What does it mean?

Microsoft have recently announced that they will be retiring Skype for Business Online on 31st July 2021. After this time, you will no longer be able to access Skype for Business Online.

If you’ve been paying attention this isn’t a massive surprise. Teams is the new-ish kid on the block, getting all the attention and had been earmarked as Microsoft’s communication and collaboration tool moving forwards. Once ‘feature-parity’ was announced, Skype for Business Online’s days were numbered.

I’ve tried to answer the most pressing questions I have seen asked below:

Why are Microsoft doing this?

The future is and has been for some time Teams. Microsoft are keen to move users over to Teams from Skype for Business as quickly as they can - developing, supporting and maintaining two (or three if including on-premises) platforms doesn’t make much business sense.

If you had asked me 12-18 months ago if it was a good idea for Microsoft to set a date for this, I wouldn’t have been too sure. But over that time, Teams has improved to the point where it is ready for prime time – in my opinion. Sure, there will be caveats or restrictions that Skype Online doesn’t have, but nothing is perfect. Over the next two years I expect Microsoft to create an even more compelling case to move.

I have personally moved to Teams as my only client months ago and have never looked back. I am sure Microsoft have looked at the numbers and user shift to Teams over time and factored that in when setting a deadline.

What do I need to do NOW?

Nothing. The Skype for Business Online you use today will still be the same until it is retired. The only planned updates to the service are patches. However, that doesn’t mean you should sit idle. Perhaps migrating your organisation will be a mammoth task and it is best to start the wheels in motion now? Maybe you are missing out on some great features by not moving to Teams now?

What do I need to do BEFORE July 31st 2021?

You will need to have migrated all users away from Skype Online to Teams by time of retirement. There is plenty of articles on how this can be achieved. Every migration will be different as no two deployment or set of users are the same. Microsoft has some great content on how to start the process here.

Will the deadline be extended?

It is hard to say really. There is precedent on Microsoft extending deadlines based on feedback (e.g. TLS 1.0, 1.1 or Skype Online ACP or Exchange Online UM which have all been extended at least once) or if movement is too slow (and it will impact too large a proportion of users). I certainly wouldn’t plan for any extension but at the same time I wouldn’t be shocked if it did happen.

What about SfB Server?

The announcement was keen to stress it only covers Skype for Business Online, so Skype for Business Server is safe… for now!

What about 3PIP?

3PIP devices such as Polycom VVX will have service maintained until 31st July 2023 - so you have 4 years warning! Bear in mind the features will limited in Teams Only mode compared to native Teams devices.

What about Hybrid?

If you run a Skype for Business Hybrid, you will need to migrate all online users to Teams (or back on-premises) before retirement.

Doesn’t Teams require an SfB Online back-end?

To some extent, yes. When configuring Teams or SfB users it is the same user entities being configured. For example, when configuring Teams or SfB policies for users it is all done against the same user in the Skype Online PowerShell module. I can’t say for certain, but I expect the same back-end infrastructure to remain in place, but forcing users to use Teams only.

Wrap Up

Hopefully you find this of use. If you have any other questions feel free to leave a comment.