Microsoft introduced Microsoft Teams at the end of 2016, announcing it as a way of combining workers, content, and conversations for easier and more effective collaboration. Upon launching in 2017, Microsoft indicated that it planned to replace Skype for Business with Teams in the long run.
Teams has certainly proved popular, with more than half a million organizations using it, adopting it quicker than any previous Microsoft product. Such is the success of Teams that Microsoft has announced that Skype for Business Online will be retired at the end of July 2021, although users running the application on internal servers will be supported up to 2023.
Teams represents a whole new way of working rather than just improvements to Skype for Business, although many features of the latter are still available in the former. Video quality is significantly improved and a clever “background blur” feature means viewers remain focused on the speaker. Unlike Skype for Business, users can join a meeting directly via a browser without having to download a plug-in, which caused problems for secure environments in the past. Meetings can be recorded and stored in the Microsoft Stream cloud without any further processing as was needed previously.
Chat in Teams is much improved with intuitive and useful organizational features. It also supports rich formatting so that different colors, fonts, etc. can be employed. Files can be shared via OneDrive, rather than P2P as before, so their content can be audited for safety purposes.
Teams has a dedicated calling feature that keeps all contacts, history, voicemails, etc. in one place. It retains the option to use a traditional telephone handset if desired. For those who prefer this option, Microsoft has developed appropriate hardware with partner manufacturers so that it fits seamlessly with the software, whereas with Skype for Business the telephone controlled the software, which did not always make for the most consistent or reliable experience. While Teams still allows for a selection of hardware to be used, there is much more integration available. Additionally, although Microsoft Calling Plans, the company’s cloud calling service, is still available as it was before in Skype for Business Online, not everybody is confident or feels secure using this; Teams allows for direct integration with existing telephone systems and other providers as desired.