Lead Image © Ying Feng Johansson, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Ying Feng Johansson, 123RF.com

From Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams

On the Right Track

Article from ADMIN 58/2020
With the end of Skype for Business Online on the horizon, we look at how to migrate your company, fully or partially, to Microsoft Teams.

First came Office Communications Server, then the product was renamed Lync, and later Skype for Business Online – which will be discontinued at the end of July 2021. Until then, there will purportedly be no restrictions on its use. For this reason, all new Microsoft Office 365 customers started migrating to Microsoft Teams in September 2019. In this article, I show you how to migrate to Microsoft Teams.

Companies currently using Skype for Business Online can continue to add new users until it is phased out in 2021. However, as soon as Skype for Business Online is no longer available, the service's server, which in principle is still functional, will become orphaned from the Office 365 family. Administrators need to understand that the new Microsoft Teams [1] is not the next version of Skype for Business. Instead, Teams is a standalone product that offers new collaboration features and includes features from the SharePoint collaboration platform, OneDrive data management system, and Skype for Business meeting service. The right way to imagine Teams is to think of it as two products in one: a collaboration tool and a communication tool.

Teamwork Repositioned

As a collaboration product, Teams offers features similar to Slack that overlap and leverage the existing features of SharePoint, OneDrive, and the Yammer social network. Teams as a communication product offers many of the existing features of Skype for Business Server, which has always offered more possibilities than Skype for Business Online. Communication options include presence status, instant messaging, peer-to-peer calls, traditional phone calls, and audio and video conferencing. A "team" within Microsoft Teams describes a collection of people, content, and tools for different projects and outcomes within an organization. Teams can be set up so that only invited users have access or can be created as public teams, in which everyone in the organization can participate.

Teams are designed to bring together groups of people who collaborate closely to improve their productivity. Dynamic teams are possible for project-oriented tasks. Another variant is permanent teams that reflect the internal structure of a company. Conversations, files, and notes on team channels are only visible to team members.

In contrast, channels are special sections within a team that organize conversations by topics, projects, focus, or other aspects important to the team. Files that are shared on a channel and stored in SharePoint channels are places where conversations take place and where the work is actually done. Standard channels are open for conversations in which any person on a team can participate. On private channels, communication is limited to a subset of people in a team.

The teams an admin sets up can, for example, be aligned with the organizational structure (Figure 1). When migrating to Teams, companies currently using Skype for Business on-premises might need to consider several different ways in which team communication works, including the origin of the data. Larger companies might have established multiple Skype for Business pools in different countries to comply with legal requirements regarding the storage of call details, instant messaging (IM), uploaded content, and meeting recordings.

Figure 1: Team definitions can be aligned with the company organization.

The multi-geo capabilities of Teams do not currently offer the same level of control. However, the integration of contact centers and third parties also plays a role. Companies that have integrated contact center applications into Skype for Business or have invested in third-party reporting or management tools should be aware that few or none of the existing tools will work with Teams.

Difficult Merger

The Office Communications Server/Lync/Skype for Business federation model was very easy to implement and manage and offered a huge improvement in the ability to communicate and hold meetings with users from organizations that also use Skype for Business. In practice, the federation between customers and suppliers has resulted in a significant improvement in business relationships and overall customer service. However, guest access among teams is currently difficult to manage and creates an incoherent user experience. Microsoft has said it intends to improve this in future updates.

Although similar, meetings with Teams and Skype for Business have some essential differences. Although you can set up a dedicated Skype for Business pool to create interactive meetings with up to 1,000 users, Teams' meeting size is currently limited to 250 users. However, don't confuse this feature with broadcast meetings, now dubbed "live events" in Teams, which support meetings of up to 10,000 participants. Live events are one-to-many meetings rather than interactive meetings in which participants can only join in from a web browser.

Another difference is that whereas Teams can share desktops, a specific application window, or PowerPoint slides during a meeting, you cannot annotate them as you can in Skype for Business. Also, Teams meetings can be recorded, and these recordings can be stored in the cloud. With Skype for Business, meeting recordings could only be stored locally on personal computers. Teams can also provide a transcription of the audio recording of meetings if required, and the presenter's video background can be obfuscated.

New in Teams: IP Phones

Microsoft has introduced a number of newly certified Teams IP phones. However, the company stressed that basic features will continue to be available on Skype for Business Online certified devices when a user switches to Teams with their Skype devices. Microsoft has also restructured the call queuing service for Teams. In Skype for Business, this feature was still known as "response groups." Likewise, the automatic transfer and interactive voice response (IVR) functions in Teams are based on new code. At present, though, compared with Skype for Business, Teams lacks some features for managing call queues.

When it comes to interoperability, Teams and Skype for Business do not always work together seamlessly or perfectly. If you want to support larger groups of users on both platforms over a longer period of time, be sure to test the interoperability features to eliminate potential communication and management issues in advance. Certain interoperability scenarios may result in a company minimizing the need for Teams and Skype for Business to run in parallel.

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