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Microsoft sets end date for Skype for Business Online

Microsoft says it will stop offering Skype for Business Online starting July 31, 2021, making Teams the go-to Office 365 application for online calling and collaboration.

Microsoft has set an execution date for Skype for Business Online, telling customers it's time to get ready to use the vendor's cloud-based Teams collaboration software instead.

This week, Microsoft said it would remove the communication client from Office 365 on July 31, 2021. The consumer version of Skype, Skype for Business Server and the Skype on-premises version would not be affected by the closure.

Until Sept. 1 of this year, Microsoft will let businesses continue to add users to Skype for Business Online, which Microsoft includes in an Office 365 subscription. After that date, the new Office 365 customers would be added directly to Teams.

Microsoft claims Office 365 subscribers no longer need online Skype because Teams has had all of its features since August 2018. Microsoft describes Teams as a "complete" meeting and calling service.

Small businesses, which Microsoft has been pressuring to move from online Skype to Teams since November 2018, reported that Teams had many of the communication features of Skype, but that users found the former more complicated. Therefore, companies should expect to provide training for employees.

The end of Skype for Business Online will mostly affect companies using the cloud-based software for calling, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. Most companies that had used online Skype for messaging have already moved to Teams.

"Given Teams has achieved feature parity with Skype for Business Online, I expect that the remaining Skype for Business Online customers will quickly migrate to Teams," Lazar said.

Impact on Skype for Business on-premises

The bigger problem is the potential impact killing Skype for Business Online will have on companies using the on-premises version of Skype, Lazar said. Those businesses might demand clarity from Microsoft on its plans for the on-premises communications client.

"While Microsoft hasn't set an end-of-life date for Skype for Business on-premises, the retirement of Skye for Business Online will send another message to the on-prem customers that they will need to plan for an eventual move to the cloud," Lazar said.

Skype on-premises has a sizable user base. A Nemertes Research survey of 645 companies in North America, Western Europe and Southeast Asia found almost 36% using on-premises calling platforms and a tad more than 30% of them were on Skype for Business.

Companies that use Skype on-premises are concerned that Teams can't provide the same call quality or work effectively with the public switched telephone network that comprises all the systems operated by local, national and international carriers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has gotten traction for Teams among the 180 million Office 365 subscribers. Microsoft said this month that 13 million people use the application for cloud-based calling and collaboration every day, and 19 million people use it at least once a week. Microsoft released the numbers for the first time after two years of aggressively marketing Teams.

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