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Warning: Microsoft Teams Free (classic) will be gone in 2 months

You may have already known this... but did you know you'll lose data migration unless you switch to paid?

Microsoft will officially kill its legacy free Teams app for business, Teams Free (classic), on April 12, with all chats, files and other data lost unless you switch to a paid version.

News of the premium push on Microsoft's productivity app was covered by The Reg in January, but we're told some sysadmins on the free plan are only now waking up to the fact that they'll either have to convince corporate to switch to a paid plan or manually migrate all of their company's Teams data.

Microsoft has presented two paid options for moving off Teams Free (classic). The first is to shift to Microsoft Teams Essentials for $4 per user/month, where users will be treated to the terrifying prospect of group meetings that could last "up to 30 hours." (It does happen. A painful migration involving several international employees across plenty of time zones, or an ongoing outage/cyberattack where staffers are firefighting across time zones and it's necessary to record progress/ do handovers.) Essentials users also get 10GB of cloud storage per user, and can include up to 300 participants per meeting.

The second paid option is to upgrade to Microsoft 365 Business Basic for $6 per user/month, where you get everything Essentials users get, plus 1TB of cloud storage per user, meetings recordings with transcripts, the ability to manage customer appointments with Bookings, and access to web and mobile apps.

Microsoft has provided an option for those who need to stay on a free tier. They can migrate from Microsoft Teams Free (classic) to Microsoft Teams (free). Confusing? A little. And there's a catch.

Microsoft notes: "You'll be able to view and save files in your current account through April 12, 2023, however, none of it will transfer to your new account."

It also notes that those on current Teams Free (classic) have to move to the more recent Teams Free by signing up again.

Users of the new free version will still have access to unlimited group meetings (up to 60 minutes long), can include up to 100 participants per meeting, and will gain 5GB of cloud storage per user – hopefully storage they won't lose access to later.

Sysadmins on Reddit had questions, especially in light of the KB5021751 update last month, which, among other things, looks through Windows PCs to find out-of-date versions of Office software.

One sysadmin queried: "How can one confirm that the Teams installed on a user's PC is licensed as part of their 365 and not the free version? If one is found to be using the free version but is already qualified/licensed for 365, how can we force that upgrade so that the user retains their history? ... Would MS already have detected and migrated them?"

Another asked: "Can we switch to the paid plan, and then downgrade to the free plan to keep our chat data? Switching from the current classic free plan to the new free plan removes all chat data... you have to manually migrate it all :("

To check which version of Teams you are using:

  • Open Microsoft Teams and select your profile picture in the top right hand corner of the app.
  • You'll see Microsoft Teams Free (classic) or another version name at the top of the menu.

The last time freebie fans were this worried was when Microsoft spammed administrators of Teams Free organizations to suggest they should upgrade to avoid imminent deletion of data. The Windows giant later explained that this was a mistake, and that a bug in the works had sent the mail. It said the original message was meant for admins of unused Teams Free accounts that had sat dormant for 90 days (plus a 30-day grace period). At the time, users concerned about end dates were told they'd get an automatic extension "and won't have to worry about any data loss."

A Microsoft spokesperson told us: "Beginning April 12, 2023, Microsoft Teams Free (classic) will no longer be available. Customers may use the newer free version of Teams, or upgrade to another version of Teams, such as Teams Essentials or Microsoft 365 Business Plans, which are designed for small businesses." ®

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