Unless you’ve been hiding away from the world for the last couple of years, chances are you’ve heard about all the goodness that is Microsoft Teams. You may also be aware that, on a long enough time frame, Skype for Business Online will eventually be deprecated, with Microsoft Teams becoming the single client available in Office 365 to handle all your communication and collaboration needs.
As depicted above, there is of course another Skype for Business (SfB) topology that’s out there supporting SfB users today, and that’s Skype for Business Server On-Premises. At the end of last year (2018), we saw the release of the latest on-premises server version: SfB Server 2019, with mainstream support through to 2023 (and expected extended support through to 2025). The key takeaway here is that there will continue to be Skype for Business users in one shape or another for some time.
Why Still On-Premises?
There’s a number of reasons why an organisation may choose to continue to use Skype for Business Server on-premises rather than move to a pure cloud offering. There may be specific features that are available on-premises that haven’t made their way into Office 365 (yet). They may also be utilising an on-premises bolt on application provided by a 3rd party vendor, such as Polycom for Video Conferencing interop or Enghouse for a Skype for Business native Contact Centre solution that means they need to remain on-premises until 3rd party cloud offerings catch up. Or they may simply have a large and complex voice environment that’s going to take some time to migrate to pure cloud services, with users well bedded in with Skype for Business Enterprise Voice for telephony and Chat for Instant Messaging (IM).
For the purposes of this article, let’s imagine that we’re dealing with an organisation that falls into the latter category. They have seen what’s available within Microsoft Teams, they like it, but they need to keep voice and chat modalities within Skype for Business Server on-premises for a while longer. For Meetings and Collaboration however, the organisation is keen to take advantage of the Teams meeting experience, as well as all the collaboration capabilities that don’t exist within the Skype for Business Server platform. It’s also important to ensure there’s only a single way to do things: having overlapping modalities from Skype for Business and Teams will ultimately lead to end user confusion and a less than ideal experience.
An Introduction to Meetings First
Developed to handle precisely the use case outlined above, Meetings first allows an organisation to split the Unified Communications modalities offered between Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams: Calling and Chat remains in Skype for Business, with Meetings and Collaboration provided from Teams. Enabling Meetings First will also remove buttons from each client, ensuring there’s no confusion as to what client is used for what. This includes reaching into Outlook and removing the Skype for Business Online Meeting button, leaving only one way to create an online meeting: via Teams.
Understanding Coexistence and Interoperability
Before I run through Meetings First configuration, it’s important to understand how coexistence and interoperability work when Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams is enabled within a single Office 365 Tenant. If you are running both clients, and haven’t changed a thing, you’ll most likely be running in “Islands Mode”. In this mode:
- No connection between Skype for Business and Teams
- An IM sent from Skype arrives in Skype client
- An IM sent from Teams arrives in Teams client
- Federated IMs (from people outside your org) are always received in the Skype for Business client
- This includes an IM sent from a Federated Teams client, this will also arrive in the Skype for Business client
For all other “modes”, what you choose will have an effect on where your chat messages are directed, where my calls ring, and which meeting options you have. Here’s a diagram from Microsoft that explains this logic further:
Look at the modes above, there’s one that matches what I’ve described is the expected outcome for Meetings First: Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings:
Now that we know which mode to choose, let’s run through setup for a single user.
Whilst coexistence and interoperability modes are configurable globally for all users, for this example I’ll be modifying configuration for a single user:
- From the Office 365 Admin Portal, open the Microsoft Teams Admin Centre
- From the Users menu, search for the user you want to move across to Meetings First, and select
- From Teams Upgrade, select Skype for Business with Teams Collaboration and Meetings. Optionally, select Notify the Skype for Business User if you want a Teams notify banner to appear in a user’s Skype for Business client, nudging them towards Teams
After the above configuration has been completed, you may need to wait some time for the changes to take effect. It took approximately 2 hours for my clients to update.
Once everything’s had time to marinate, the first thing you will notice is the Teams Upgrade notify banner that will appear in the Skype for Business client. This is the only noticeable change you’ll see SfB side:
On the Teams side however, things are a little different. Notice that the calls and chat buttons have disappeared:
If you open Outlook, you will also notice that the New Skype Meeting button is also gone, ensuring all new meetings are created in Microsoft Teams:
At this stage, I’ve successfully configured my end user to use Skype for Business for Calls and Chats, and Microsoft Teams for Collaboration and Meetings. All new meetings will now be Teams meetings!
But what about all their existing Skype for Business meetings? What happens to them?
Introduction to the Meeting Migration Service
Probably the most useful thing I’ve come across in a long while, Microsoft now have a Meetings Migration Service (MMS) to take care of meeting invite updates. Superb. This service is not used solely for Meetings First: it’s used whenever a meeting invite need to be automatically updated, including:
- When a user is migrated from on-premises to the cloud (to SfB Online or Teams)
- When an admin makes a change to the user’s audio-conferencing settings
- When an online user is upgraded to Teams only from SfBO (cloud to cloud)
It’s worth noting that this service can also be disabled at the tenant level, with meeting migrations manually triggered via PowerShell for a given user.
When can’t MMS be used?
The meeting migration service can’t be used if either of the following apply:
- The user’s mailbox is hosted in Exchange on-premises
- The user is being migrated from the cloud to Skype for Business Server on-premises
In these scenarios, Microsoft has made available a client side meeting migration tool, available here.
Once I updated my user’s configuration to support Meetings First, a check of the meeting migration status showed a pending migration:
About an hour later, the migration request had been completed:
A check of my meetings does indeed show my Skype for Business meetings have been converted to Teams meetings automatically. A meeting update is sent to all meeting participants to accept new meeting details, and the room I invited automatically accepted the updated meeting invite:
If you’re looking to dip your toes into Teams meetings and collaboration, but still have on-premises infrastructure you can’t get away from just yet, Meetings First might be just for you. I encourage you to get familiar with coexistence and interop options available: these will help you make the transition from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams at a cadence that’s right for you.