As conferencing and collaboration tools go, Skype for Business has been good enough for many enterprise organizations, offering instant messaging, voice and video conferencing, as well as recording capabilities through a user-friendly interface. Also, file sharing and communications are encrypted for business-class security.

On the flip side, business users occasionally grumble that Skype for Business communications aren’t as reliable as they would like, with calls sometimes dropping mid-conversation or not connecting at all.

Love it or not, enterprise organizations and employees won’t have this prolific tool to consider much longer because Microsoft has announced Skype for Business Online will be retired on July 31, 2021, meaning the service will come to a complete halt after that point. Skype Consumer service and Skype for Business Server will not be affected.

Between now and the retirement date, Microsoft says current Skype for Business Online customers will experience no change in service and can continue using the tool. But next September, all new Office 365 customers will be onboarded to the newer platform, Microsoft Teams. Naturally, the software giant will subtly urge existing Skype for Business customers to make that transition as well.

Allaying IT jitters

Of course, risk-averse IT departments may have some reservations. Most have experienced software launches that aren’t really ready for release and therefore disrupt or break things. Microsoft says that should not be the case with Teams, though, and presented the tool as the next chapter in its vision for business communications.

“Over the last two years, we’ve worked closely with customers to refine Teams, and now we feel we’re at the point that we can confidently recommend it as an upgrade to all Skype for Business Online customers,” according to a blog by James Skay, a Microsoft Teams product marketing manager. “Customers who have already made the move tell us that Teams not only has helped them improve collaboration generally, it has also provided a rare opportunity to rethink the way work gets done in their organizations.”

That tagline about a new way to get work done should sound familiar. Slack, which arguably pioneered the concept of a cloud-based workplace environment built around social media-like channels, uses a similar phrase, “Where work happens,” to describe the approach

Both companies are actively seeking to move enterprise organizations away from legacy email and one-dimensional file-sharing repositories to scalable microservices architectures that can grow and seamlessly add new or premium features over time. The idea is that once a company invests in these environments, its workers will spend nearly all their communication and collaboration time within them. Google offers a similar workspace solution with Hangouts Chat, as does Facebook with Workplace. More conferencing-specific applications—such as Zoom, BlueJeans, and GoToMeeting by LogMeIn—are also available as options for enterprise organizations and could pick up enterprise customers as a result of Skype for Business Online’s retirement.