Office 365 Migration (2) – The needs and the means

If you’ve missed the previous post on O365, and/or haven’t got a clue what this product is, please read the previous blog post on this page. With that out of the way…

What are this ? This are this !

The one true Cloud

What do we understand under the concept of ‘migration’ ? Migrating to an O365 environment can start from something as simple as ‘moving away from your mail provider, that gives you a address’ to ‘getting your entire company in the cloud, files, authentication and the whole shenanigans‘.

As an IT implementer for your customer, you’ll need to converse with the end-user to figure out his exact needs. As an end-user you’ll let to have your IT implementor allow to ask you tons of question and have him perform a thorough audit of your current situation. More on this a bit further in this post.

Both parties will get the most out of it, this way.
There’s nothing more frustrating (well maybe there is, but you catch my drift) than having bought a product after which you realise this wasn’t really the thing for you.
Resellers will lose credibility, end-users will be needlessly frustrated and in the longer run, Office 365 will get a bad name for the wrong reasons.
Yes, there are right reasons for not liking O365. There are many cases in which O365 is not the thing for you. Sound advice from an IT professional will help you (I’m looking at both parties) make the right choice.

For the purpose of this entire explanation, we will create a completely non-existing company, entirely not based upon true facts or totally not taken from a real-life situation (insert disclaimer here).

We’ll call it Contoso Zupertails Inc. Shinra ShortStraw LLC.
Kudos to those that get the joke.
This company will be our example end-user, with its very own end-user needs.


Rolling start

pure nostalgia

Asking the correct questions will automatically get you a push in the right direction towards a succesful migration.
Don’t be bone idle and dare to ask questions. Standardisation is a wonderful thing for an IT provider, but leave some room for customisation.
You don’t want to end up being just a box-mover even though the box will be a virtual one in this case.

Eventually, you will create your own checklist, when having set up your own workflow for selling O365 as an IT partner. For now the following list of considerations is a fine way to start your audit.
Depending on the situation, some of these questions will be unnecesary.
I’ll also explain WHY you should ask these questions, as this is often a list that gets forwarded to either Microsoft or a CSP.

    • What is the current e-mail program (and is there room for change) ?An often unasked question that leads to unforseen timing issues in even the easiest of migration processes.
      E-mail in Office 365 is shown to advantage in its native functionality : an Exchange server in the cloud.
      Tons of functionality will be lost (calendar, contacts) when, for instance, using only IMAP or when trying to integrate your O365 in Microsoft Mail (default mail client in Windows 10) of Mozilla Thunderbird (mail client for cavemen or Linux users, not necessarily the same).Calculate extra time into your estimate, as an Outlook-to-Outlook migration is the easiest and fastest way to migrate.Also, if Outlook 2007 (or older… *shiver*) is still at play, you need to upgrade to at least version 2010 (with all necessary updates). Don’t listen to all those other websites that tell you that Outlook 2007 is compatible, because you’ll be in for some serious horror stories.
      Preferrably upgrade to the newest version of Office, which is something easily achieved through O365, as some subscriptions come with a physical copy of Office.
    • Know the current mail setup inside-out (and dare to innovate and change)
      Ex(c)ellent advice

      If change is considered a bad thing, maybe migrating to O365 isn’t your cup of tea.
      The process of migration is often linked to fear, as well as by customer as by implementer.

      That being said, it’s of the utmost importance to be aware of the current mailflow, amount of mailboxes, aliases, distribution groups, public and/or shared folders, …
      Also check if there’s any device such as an all-in-one printer or a standalone device sending out mail from the domain name to be used in the O365 environment and make note of the model and make, so yu can look up its compatibility.

      Make note of every human entity, wanting to use your O365 setup within the environment of the end-user, because of the way the licensing system works.
      It’s not 100% true, but as a rule of thumb, you pay per physical user.

      With this knowledge, you can go and create a plan for the new mailbox setup, which doesn’t need to be a true one-to-one copy of its predecessor.
      For instance, in O365, shared mailboxes, aliases and distribution lists are completely free, whereas some (older) mail providers might charge you a small fee for this. The same goes for a mail forwarder.

      Don’t feel offended. For the purpose of being a completionist, here’s a short explanation of the mailboxes.

      a regular mailbox :  at the time of this writing and depending on the subscription, you get either a 50GB or a 100GB limit mailbox with your O365 mail subscription. Full Exchange support (calendar, tasks, contacts, …) and webmail included.
      Generally used as ‘’.

      a shared mailbox : theoretically the same concept as the above. With the exception that no paid license is needed for this type of mailbox. You’ll need to configure user rights to the mailbox in order to allow others to access this, as a shared mailbox cannot be opened directly.
      Hey, nothing’s really free, right ?
      Usually, a shared mailbox is used as boxes in which multiple users can mess around. All changes made by user A will be seen by user B. In the past, this cloud only be achieved through IMAP.
      Another classic reason to use a shared mailbox : user X leaves the company, but you want his mails to be archived and visible for a certain list of people. In this case you can convert a mailbox to a shared box after which your paid license for this box gets released and can be used for somebody else.

      an alias : essentially an extra label that allows a mailbox to be addressed through an extra email address. E.g. the original mailbox could get an alias or in order to make the mailbox address more accessible.

      a distribution list : a list of mailboxes grouped together under one general mail address.
      Sending to a distribution list will cause the mail to be received in all the members’ mailboxes.
      If user A deletes the mail from his mailbox, user B will not know this.
      The general consensus in using a distribution list, is that it’s mostly used for internal communication. O365 even allows turning on/off the option for this list to be available to the internet, so that you can use for example a list to contact all your technicians in one mail.

      forwarding : not really a mailbox as it’s more of a feature you can activate on a mailbox (or even automate on a server-level. If set to a specific mailbox, a forwarder does nothing more than what its name already provides : it forwards mails to an other mail address (even outside your organisation)

  • Do you have access to DNS management for the domain which is to be integrated in O365 ?Migrating to O365 requires you to edit certain DNS records (more on this in a future post, where the actual process is explained). The time required to do this, is a crucial factor for a swift and painless migration.
    When you’re in the situation where you don’t have access to some form of DNS management interface and you’ll have to be e-mailing an internet provider or a webdesigner to get this process done, you’re best to consider moving the DNS name to another host, for your own personal ease of work.
    Sometimes, the DNS management is done by a webdesigner, as given as example above, because he or she created a website and held onto the domain management. In cases like this, it’s imperative to communicate beforehand with all parties included, in order to smoothen the entirety of the process as much as possible.
  • Does your IT Department have the expertise and time to complete the migration successfully?An often recurring question.
    Seeing as the aspect of ‘time of implementation’ has been touched a couple of times already, it’s no surprise the ‘expertise and time’ question appears here.
    For a succesful migration to work out, you’re going to need time.If you as a user will not plan your potential downtime, this WILL result in a large amount of unnecessary stress for your users and your IT implementor.

    O365 training
    Office 365 training links in the portal

    If you as an IT implementor do not plan your migration correctly, there WILL be downtime. A lot of it.
    It’s imperative that you notify all users (see below) of potential changes in their mail and data environment. On a small scale, this can be handled quickly by having a simple chat or sending a mail a couple of days before the actual migration.
    On a larger scale, this might involve training your users (and yourself).
    The Office 365 admin portal has handy links for this purpose only.

    Always have an IT partner ready as a backup in this case. And for good form, inform THEM as well on when you’re about to migrate 🙂

  • Have you discussed this with all your users ?The impact on time of availability of your users’ work environment is a factor not to be overlooked.
    As a father of a partly authistic kid, I can assure you that some people do not handle sudden changes very well.
    Communication is key in all of this.
    Even if it’s just informing your users of changes that are about to happen, the slightest status update is helpful in explaining why user X’s cell phone starts giving notifications and why user Y’s Outlook says ‘not connected’ in the taskbar.
    Depending on the situation, you’re going to have to either give the users a small heads-up or you’re going to have to write manuals and configure tons of computers.
    Yeay ! Job opportunities !
  • Do you have access to everything related to the internal network ?Often, you’ll need to move away from a local mail server or you’ll have to have access to users’ computers. Those users might not always have full rights on their computers to change settings.
    Very few firewall settings might have to be changed, mailboxes might need to be accessed on a local server etc. etc.
    These are just a few possible reasons for you to need access to the local resources on the user’s network.

A lot more questions remain to be asked, depending on the situation, but I guess you can already relate to this by now, after having read all the above.
Let me just Google that for you, right here, in case you want more information on this topic and what questions you need to ask yourself before cloudifying your mail and data situation.

In my next post, we might actually get our hand dirty and start doing things.

Office 365 Migration (1) – food for thought before you start

Obligatory blah blah

Office 365 logo

Having to give daily support on this (I can say ‘amazing’) product, I’ve decided to write a couple of mini-guides on migrating you current mail environment to an Office 365 as well as related topics.

Some screenshots are taken from , a website by Alex Fields, who is a great technical blogger, so I gladly link back to his site.


Seeing as teaching new techniques to human beings is always about helping people remember the ‘why’ in order to better understand the ‘how’, I’ll try to get into a bit more detail in every piece of the explanation and guides.

Before starting out, I’m going to give a tiny commercial heads-up on Office 365 products (no, I’m not sponsored by Microsoft in any kind).
If you’re a business user and you use Outlook ‘like a bawz‘, but hate all the fuss and the inability to easily interact with all your colleagues and customers, this is the thing for you.
O365, as I’ll be calling the product from now on (it types faster), starts low-cost at just ‘mail in the cloud’, but can go as far as cloud authentication and co-authoring documents, following up on workflows depending on the content of a file etc. etc.

I’m not going to play the devil’s advocate and give you a full lowdown on why you shouldn’t use Google For Business, as this product has its own amazing features as well. Heck, I even use it myself, for my own domain name. Aaaaannnd just to prove my point : co-authoring a document is still easier in Google Suite (which is the other/newer name for Google For Business).


The concept

YESIf you’ve been living under a rock or you’re not into IT fashion words, I’d love to give you a small recap on the entire concept of O365.

Financially, there are two sides to this idea :

  •  as a reseller, you’re guaranteed a small recurring fee per month/year for all your customers that you deliver onto the platform. Preferably using a Microsoft CSP to help you out. Do not expect to get rich overnight. O365 as a business model requires you to sell the product as your own, adding extra value to the product, which brings us to the second financial side…
  • as an end-user or business-owner, what stops you from taking out your credit card and just paying Microsoft directly the same amount you would probably pay your IT partner, were he to just sell you the product, is the extra value and direct support you can get from him.
    I think we can all agree that in Microsoft’s eyes you are a small fry. Yes, even you, business-owner with 50 E3 accounts. This relates especially to the first-line support calls you will receive from a call-centre in Casablanca or Islamabad.
    O365 requires less but still sufficient support as if you’d be running your own data- or Exchange-server. Keep this in mind when making the purchase.
    – Will you install your own Active Directory from scratch ?
    – Are you up to configuring your own send and receive connectors ?
    – Do you have a plan in mind to perfectly set up your file structure in the cloud ?If all three questions can be answered with a ‘YES’, then hesitate no more and get your credit card out, surf and figure it out yourself.
    Google will be your friend in this journey.
    The basic setup can be a bit overwhelming, but Microsoft has made managing your O365 environment relatively easy when you use only the web-interface.


Now that we’ve passed the money barrier, let’s talk practical specifics.

A general misconception (and I can totally understand the confusion here) is that O365 is a box you can buy in the local IT-minded supermarket.
It’s probably a misconception, BECAUSE THERE IS AN ACTUAL BOX YOU CAN BUY.

A wild bunch of Office 365 boxes in their natural state : unopened

We have to thank the lovely product managers at Microsoft for this confusing product naming here.
No, the actual products I’ll be talking about, are subscription-based products with names such as Business Premium (confused already ?), Exchange Plan 1, Office 365 E3, ProPlus etc.
The product name ‘Azure’ will be thrown around a lot too.

As a user, you’ll be paying Microsoft either directly or indirectly for a cloud-based solution that hosts your files, mail, calendar, without the hassle of maintaining your own physical server.
Other advantages include an always up-to-date version of Microsoft Office, an online collaboration platform (yes I’m talking about Sharepoint), a communication tool (Microsoft Teams, which used to be Lync/Skype for Business) and tons more.

The aforementioned Azure will also net you a true cloud server, if you’re in the running for something more than the default solution. As short-sighted as this very brief summary of Azure is, this post doesn’t really shed much light on Microsoft Azure.
Let’s say that calling it a ‘cloud server’ is an insult 🙂



If you’re still reading this and haven’t run away in total disgust of either having to resell or having to use a Microsoft cloud product please keep an eye open for the next post on Office 365.
Also, that other fashion word, ‘Powershell’ : you’ll be hearing it a lot in advanced trainings.
Embrace it, don’t fear it.
If what you read in the above lines gives you the same feeling as watching a TV test signal, also don’t worry too much. Powershell is just a way of typing commands, just like good old DOS.
Plus you don’t HAVE to use it. It just helps with advanced management tasks.

There’s tons of online help available. Microsoft also allows you to play around in a 30-day trial environment.

Last but not least : ‘no stress’.
Happy reading.

Also : read onward here 

Creating a catch-all address on an Exchange 2013/2016/O365 mail environment

*incoming wall of text*

Seeing as Office 365 is such a hype right now, I decided to create a catch-all address for a customer of ours on his personal Exchange Server 2013.

=== Still to do, because lazy –> add pictures for more attractiveness 🙂 ===

According the t3h intarwebz, this is supposed to be easy.
Unfortunately one only gets half the info when having to configure this.
A couple of trial-and-error moments later, the following checklist lead to the result needed (also applicable in an Office 365 environment btw)

  1. Go to https://your_server/ecp/ (or and choose ‘mail flow’ in the left column.
  2. Go to the ‘accepted domains’ menu on top and make sure the domain to which the catch-all address is to be assigned, is set as domain type ‘internal relay’.
    I will explain why.
    In a next step we will create a server-side mail rule for the catch-all mailbox. In order for a NDR to not appear when we send a mail, we need to make sure the domain is set to ‘internal relay’. This causes mail rules to be executed before the server actually checks if the mailbox exists, thus enabling a filter possibility.
  3. Next, we want to create a mailbox in which we’ll drop all the catch-all mails (unless you already have a user or shared mailbox set up to receive this, of course)
    I’m not going to go in a lot of detail on this, as this is rather basic stuff on an Exchange Server (left menu ‘recipients’, top menu ‘mailboxes’, blah blah…)
  4. Not always optional (especially not literally doable in O365) –> restart your Microsoft Exchange Transport service on your Windows server. (if you have the classic white-paper setup with a front- and backend server, restart the service on both servers)