For many organizations, Skype for Business (formerly Lync, and before that, Communications Server) has been a staple communication and collaboration platform. This type of application — one that provides the ability to communicate quickly and effectively through instant messaging, check someone’s availability via presence status, place a phone call and spin up an ad hoc or scheduled meeting — is both commonplace and expected as part of our business toolset. As many of us already know, Microsoft Teams is now here and it is changing the way we work, collaborate and communicate on a daily basis.

Microsoft Teams takes these capabilities to a whole new level by enabling users to continue to communicate and collaborate in a single application, while also directly integrating the rest of the Office 365 suite of collaboration tools — SharePoint, OneDrive, Flow, Planner — into one application interface. At the same time, it opens the door to integrate with third-party applications in brand new ways, such as through such as Adaptive Cards, Tabs, Channels, Bots, etc.

With all of these new capabilities available, many organizations are looking to transition their organizations from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. For situations where both clients need to coexist, either in the long term or the short term as part of a migration, one of the biggest hurdles in making this transition is understanding the coexistence and interoperability capabilities between these two products.

Microsoft Teams Coexistence Modes

Currently, Microsoft Teams offers five coexistence modes, some of which have yet to be officially released, that can be assigned to users based on individual use cases or needs:

1) Teams Only

Teams Only mode means just that. Any user assigned to this mode is using Microsoft Teams for all communication and collaboration functions. In this mode, users will continue to use the Skype for Business client to join Skype for Business meetings scheduled by Skype for Business users only. If a user attempts to log in to their Skype for Business client while in this mode, they will be redirected to log in to Microsoft Teams. This mode is essentially the “end-state” mode that a user should be assigned as part of a migration from Skype for Business.

2) Skype for Business Only

Similar to Teams Only mode, a user assigned to Skype for Business Only mode will use Skype for Business for all communication and collaboration functions. In this mode, users will only use the Microsoft Teams client to join meetings scheduled by Microsoft Teams users. This mode may be utilized in a situation where an organization is not ready to enable Microsoft Teams for the entire organization or is looking to limit the initial rollout to a small pilot. This mode may also be used in a situation where security requirements or other technical dependencies require certain users to remain in Skype for Business with limited access to Microsoft Teams.

Important Note: Today, Skype for Business Only mode does not turn off the ability for users to log in to or use Microsoft Teams. Microsoft is planning updates to this mode to turn off the ability to use the productivity functions of Teams (Channels, Files, etc.), but this capability is not yet available. If you want to fully limit access to Microsoft Teams today, users should not be licensed for the service.

3) Islands

Islands mode allows a user to use both Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams for all communication and collaboration functions. Users in this mode can schedule meetings using either Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams, and can use either client to initiate communications via 1:1 Chat, Calling or Meetings. The primary caveat to Islands mode is that all inbound public switched telephone network (PSTN) calling will be directed to Skype for Business while in this mode; however, users will be able to place outbound PSTN calls from the Microsoft Teams client if this capability is enabled (applicable to Calling Plans only).

This mode may be used in situations where an organization wants to experiment with Microsoft Teams and begin the user adoption process, but also allow users to continue to use Skype for Business as they do today. One major consideration in using this mode is that it may cause end-user confusion in some deployments as both platforms are capable of performing the same (or similar) functions.

4) Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration (Coming Soon)

Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration mode retains all communications capabilities in Skype for Business (1:1 Chat, Calling, Meetings) and turns these options off in Microsoft Teams. Users in this mode will not have the ability to use 1:1 communication features in Microsoft Teams, but will have the ability to utilize all the productivity capabilities, such as creating and joining teams, sharing files, participating in team chats, collaborating on files and so on. This mode may be used when an organization is looking to utilize Microsoft Teams for productivity capabilities but is not ready to move communications capabilities to the platform.

5) Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings, aka Meetings First (Coming Soon)

Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings mode (also called Meetings First mode) retains Chat and Calling in Skype for Business but moves the Meetings service from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. Users in this mode will have the same capabilities as Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration mode, with the added capability of using the rich meetings experience that Microsoft Teams provides. This mode may be used when an organization is looking to utilize Microsoft Teams for productivity capabilities, as well as use the Microsoft Teams meeting service, but is not ready to move all communications capabilities to the platform. This also may be a common scenario for organizations that have a large on-premises or hybrid Skype for Business deployment but want on-premises communications users to benefit from the new meetings capabilities in Microsoft Teams.

Now that you have a firm understanding of the different coexistence modes, my next blog post covers how these different modes interact with each other and what you’ll need to know if you have both Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams deployed in your organization.

Learn more about CDW’s services for Microsoft Teams deployments.

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