How Microsoft Teams & Skype for Business are Coexisting


Skype for Business was introduced in April 2015 as a replacement for Microsoft Lync, a communication app that featured instant messaging, audio & video calls, and meetings. Skype improved upon Lync in several ways, but the biggest change was its inclusion in Office 365 packages. This made it much easier to quickly create calls and meetings and introduced the ability for users to chat with people outside of their organization. From 2015 until August 2018, Skype for Business served as the main communication app in Microsoft Office 365 plans and was a major focus of development for the Microsoft team.

On March 14, 2017, Microsoft announced the General Availability of a new chat-based workspace app called Microsoft Teams. In addition to all the communication features in Skype for Business, Teams includes a much stronger integration with other Office apps, file storage & sharing, and hundreds of ways to customize user workspaces. Initially, Teams lagged behind Skype for Business in functionality, but in October 2018, Teams reached feature parity with Skype and became the primary communication client in Microsoft Office 365. As of March 2019, Teams is available in 44 languages & 181 markets and is used by more than 500,000 organizations, including 91% of Fortune 100 companies.

teams logo.png

The largest differentiator between these two lies in Teams’ collaboration capabilities – namely channels, teams, the ability to access & share Office files, and product-extending add-on applications. These features allow users to collaborate with only the specific people they need on items and projects in real time without the need for a physical meeting.

Do I Have to Switch over?

For the time being, no, your organization will not be forced to switch from Skype for Business to Teams. Microsoft understands that Skype is still widely used and may be required in some cases. That being said, Microsoft recommends that businesses use Teams or begin planning for the upgrade process from Skype to Teams. Since October 1, 2018, Skype for Business hasn’t been included in plans for new Office 365 customers with less than 500 users and they instead receive Teams in their deployments. As a part of their Intelligent Communications initiative, Microsoft intends to continue improving on Teams and building stronger integrations between Teams and other Office apps. While there is no deadline in place for required upgrades or end of Skype support, it is expected that Microsoft will begin enforcing the switch sometime in the next few years.

Coexistence & what that means here

As it currently stands, Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business are coexisting in the Office 365 landscape. Organizations have the ability to choose to use one or the other, but interoperability options are also available. These options are intended to soothe the process of migrating by allowing users to begin experimenting with and getting accustomed to Teams while still relying on Skype for everyday communications. Because Teams will eventually replace Skype for Business, it’s important for businesses to get their users comfortable with Teams while still relying on Skype to avoid downtime or general confusion.

The five deployment choices between Skype and Teams are Skype only, Teams only, Skype with Teams collaboration, Skype with Teams Collaboration & meetings, and Islands Mode. Each of these options provide full capabilities of the two products but vary in how each app is used and what it’s used for.


Teams or Skype only

The simplest possible deployment options are Teams only & Skype only, as they only require only one app and not two. As you might assume, a Teams-only user will use Teams for all communication and a Skype-only user will use Skype for all communication with no data or conversation history is shared between the two. In either situation, users can join existing meetings or calls taking place in the other app but can’t initiate one. Choosing a Teams or Skype only deployment will limit confusion among users while allowing them to join the calls and/or meetings they need using the other app.

Islands mode

In Islands Mode, Skype for Business and Teams operate as two separate, standalone products that do not communicate with each other in any way. As such, there is no interoperability between the two and it is up to the organization to determine how they plan to use each one. This lets organizations pick and choose how each app is used to best fit how they operate, but requires good communication to avoid confusion and a well thought out exit strategy. Islands Mode allows for the richest Teams experience and is the recommended upgrade path for those companies who adopted Skype for Business Online.

Skype for Business with Teams collaboration

This method also makes use of both apps, but unlike Islands Mode, Teams is used only for its channels, teams, and file sharing. This allows companies to take advantage of their existing investment in Skype for Business and begin the process of adopting Teams at the same time. Skype for Business is used for instant messaging, audio/video calling, and meetings in this mode. The Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings mode works the same way, just with Teams as the meetings platform instead of Skype for Business.

A Teams user and a Skype for Business user having a chat conversation between the two apps.

A Teams user and a Skype for Business user having a chat conversation between the two apps.

Respective futures

Microsoft Teams

As noted earlier, Teams will be the main communication app in Office 365 going forward. This means it will be a focus of development and likely be updated with new features and tools on a regular basis. Recently, enhancements coming to Teams were announced which include customized backgrounds, Intelligent Capture, Microsoft Whiteboard integration, and live captions/subtitles. Microsoft is actively assisting smaller customers with the Skype to Teams upgrade process and providing training content and best practices for making the move.

Skype for Business

Although Microsoft will be committed to developing Teams, they will continue to support the Skype for Business service and client in Office 365 for the foreseeable future. There is currently no end-of-support date set regarding Skype for Business.


Sign up for a free Microsoft Teams Demo

If you’re still using Skype for Business and want to get a jump start on the process of moving to Teams, or are just curious about what Teams has to offer, we’d love to help! Sign up below for a free 60 minute demo of Microsoft Teams.

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