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Cloud Skype phones require firmware update by July 1

Businesses face a July 1 deadline for updating the firmware and permissions of cloud Skype phones.

Businesses using third-party desk phones with Skype for Business Online must update the devices' firmware by July 1. The phones will be unable to connect to the Office 365 cloud without the update.

Microsoft is changing the authentication model for cloud-based Skype phones. Currently, devices from four certified vendors -- AudioCodes, Crestron, Poly and Yealink -- connect to Office 365 using the same identification code.

Moving forward, Microsoft is giving each vendor a unique identification code, a change that will take effect on July 1. In addition to installing new firmware, businesses must grant each hardware vendor permission to access their Office 365 accounts.

However, AudioCodes, Poly and Yealink have not yet released new firmware. Crestron first released desk phones for Skype for Business Online in March, so the firmware of those devices is already up to date.

"This is a little bit rushed," said Tom Arbuthnot, principal solutions architect at Modality Systems, a Microsoft-focused systems integrator. "Microsoft has announced, 'You have to do this.' But none of the firmware is [available] yet, so you can't really do it."

"For bigger customers with a slow process, this may be a bit of time pressure on them," he said.

The change affects Skype phones that connect to Microsoft Teams through a cloud gateway. Businesses with on-premises Skype for Business that use cloud email or cloud voicemail also need to update the firmware. Companies with only premises-based equipment are unaffected.

The new authentication model will provide greater security. For example, it would prevent phones from an unapproved hardware vendor from connecting to a company's Office 365 account.

Although not revolutionary, it's a nice addition to the security features of Office 365, Arbuthnot said. "It's Microsoft tightening its model," he said.

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