Microsoft recently announced that it will be retiring the current free version of Teams on April 12, 2023. A new version of Teams will be available after that date, but I won’t be using it, and neither will my football team. The tricky transition between free versions and Microsoft’s efforts to get organizations to pay to retain data made me look for other options.
To keep data from the current free version of Teams, you’ll need to pay for a subscription. Several options are available, but they already require some form of monthly payment. There is no option to move chats and some other types of content to the new free version of Teams.
In March 2020, I wrote about how Microsoft Teams changed my soccer team during the pandemic. We have used the platform for virtual classrooms and communication for years. I have since migrated my team to WhatsApp Communities, in part due to Microsoft’s botched transition from a free version to another.
Microsoft won’t even support mixing paid and free users. This means that if I wanted my football team to make the switch, I would have to choose between losing our chats and having to manually transfer all saved files to the new free version or pay for each member of my team. Neither is tenable.
To be clear, the new free version of Teams would be fine if I plan to start using it in April, and it will be fine for some organizations. But my team has already used the soon-to-be-retired free version of Teams. That means there are years of messages, meetings, and files stored there. When Microsoft Teams Free (classic) is retired, all of our data is gone.
It’s possible to download files before retirement and then upload them to the new free version of Teams, but with years of spreadsheets, presentations, videos and photos to sift through, the migration would require some work. And that effort hardly seems worth it when other content, such as messages, won’t carry over to the new free version of Teams. As far as I can tell the Teams Export API (opens in a new tab) which allows you to export messages in bulk requires a paid license.
To be honest, even if it were possible to bulk export all my data and then import it into the new version of Teams, I would probably choose to switch to another platform. Microsoft clearly has the technical capabilities to retain the data. It does exactly that for anyone paying to upgrade to a paid license. Company decision makers have just decided that free users do not get this privilege.
The obvious question is if I lose our data anyway, why not just upgrade to the new free version of Teams from scratch? I guess I could, but I’m nervous about what will happen in the future. If I start with this new version of Teams, will Microsoft do something similar in the future? Although WhatsApp isn’t perfect, it has a reputation for adding features for free users, not removing them.