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Tag: Office 365

Why I Love Office 365

OK, so my company is a Microsoft partner, and we’re supposed to like everything that they throw our way right? That’s actually not true. I’ll certainly give most things that they do a fair shot. It’s also true that I’m willing to sacrifice a certain amount of capability for either ease of use, or for the way that Microsoft products work well together, but as I noted in a previous post, I only gave up my BlackBerry when Microsoft came out with a product that was worth using.

My company is small (currently 6 people) and widely distributed. Cloud solutions make perfect sense to us,and we have been using Exchange Online for over 2 years now. Our requirements for SharePoint went beyond what was possible in BPOS’ offering, but since migrating to Office 365 6 months ago, the  new SharePoint online fits the bill, and more and more of our corporate assets live there now.

UnlimitedViz is currently primarily a SharePoint services company focused on Business Intelligence, and a significant portion of those services involve architecting SharePoint environments at a lower level, which involves sizing servers, making resource decisions, etc. I personally love designing solutions and watching them come to life. We are certainly more than capable to maintain our own SharePoint infrastructure, so why would we want to use an admittedly more limited version of the product that is maintained by someone else?

Pretty much because it’s maintained by someone else.

As mentioned above we’re small, and we need to be focused on what we do best, which is providing services to our customers, and building product. Maintaining internal systems, no matter how good we are at it, is a distraction, and a significant cost, both capital and operational. The per user cost of Office 365 is pretty simple to justify from just a cost standpoint, but there are many more benefits that are brought to the table.

No matter what the location of a team member, they can easily access what they need to. Lync brings that down to the voice and IM communication level. No need to mess around with access methods, VPNs, Firewalls, Reverse Proxy servers and the like. We can get to our content easily on site, at home via whatever device we happen to need. Granted, I could set that stuff up on-premise, but now I don’t have to! I also know that my data is safe, and the performance is going to be good. Two months ago, Exchange online suffered an outage for about two hours (the only hiccup I’ve experienced so far). My initial reaction was “what can I do to fix this”, but that was quickly superseded by  “It’s not my problem to fix”, so I just sat back and got other work done.

As we bring more customers onto Office 365, supporting them just gets simpler. A simple client request can be acted upon immediately by launching a browser window, and connecting to their site, seamlessly. With most onsite installations, I need to start a virtual machine, connect through a VPN client, and then hope that the correct tools are installed on the VM, or the client site, depending on the access mechanism. I try to keep a VM image available for every type of VPN client used, which is a hopeless and necessary task due to the incompatibilities between clients. In my opinion, the world will be a better place when VPN clients are eliminated (or at least consolidated”).

Customers using Office 365 don’t need VPN clients, and it makes it that much easier (and cheaper for them) for us to support them.

There a a whole bunch of great features about Office 365 (Shared OneNote files accessed via Windows Phone, browser and client is a good one, not to mention Lync), but the reason that I really like it is that it’s solid, it works, and it lets my business focus on using its tools, not maintaining them.

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SharePoint Online Fall 2011 Service Update Starts Oct 20

Today, Microsoft sent out a bulletin to SharePoint Online users notifying them that they would begin rolling out the Fall 2011 Service Update. This is the much vaunted update announced at the SharePoint Conference 2011 that includes BCS services. For those that don’t already subscribe, the list of new features can be found below (copied from the official email).



Business Connectivity Services (BCS) <WCF Connector> *Enterprise plans only

Enables connecting to external systems via web service based endpoints

External Sharing: Windows LiveID support

Allows Office 365 tenant administrators to invite external users to a site collection. They sign in with a Windows Live ID-based user name and password.

Windows Phone 7 “Mango” (official support and http:// connectivity)

Windows Phone 7.5, codenamed “Mango,” now enables both small business and enterprise Office 365 customers to access SharePoint Online lists and document libraries from their Windows Phone.

Recycle Bin: deleted site self-recovery

Self-service ability to recover sites from a site collection’s recycle bin

Browser support: Internet Explorer 9

Adds official support for the Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) browser

Browser support: Chrome

Adds official support for the Chrome browser


How to Add the SRV Records for Office 365 to a DNS Provider

The documentation provided with Office 365 combined with the new interface make configuration of it much simpler than with BPOS. However, it isn’t without a few small bumps. I ran into one of these when I was setting up our own organization to use the Lync features. One of the requirements was to add two SRV records to our external DNS, as per the image below:


There are actually some great guidelines and walkthroughs for setting this up with specific registrars, such as GoDaddy. However we’re using DynDNS, which is not one of the ones documented. Fair enough, I can find my way around a configuration screen, but the problem was that our DNS provider is somewhat old school. The SRV records are considered advanced (and therefore assume that I know what I’m doing with DNS), so instead of giving me nice, clearly defined fields like TTL, Port, and weight, I am presented with a single TXT field entry screen.


This is fine if you’re a DNS expert, and know how to construct the strings, but I’m not. After a fair bit of hunting around, I was able to sort out the following syntax for adding the requisite SRV records:

Host TTL Type Data 60 SRV 1 100 443 60 SRV 1 100 5061


Take special note of the period at the end of the data field – this is in fact required. Once these values were added, we were off to the races with Lync – which is awesome by the way…

Your mileage may vary depending on your DNS provider, but hopefully it will help if you’re in a similar situation.


How to Manually Migrate from BPOS to Office 365

UPDATE – 13/10/2011 – Before walking through the steps described below, please read all of the comments, particularly the guidance from Microsoft Online Services.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about Microsoft Office 365, which is Microsoft’s bundled offering of online versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and Office. In case you’re unaware, Lync is what was formerly known as Office Communication Server, combined with LiveMeeting.

The product packs quite a punch, and if you haven’t already, I would urge you to check it out, particularly if you’re a small business. The value proposition is extraordinary, and you can get out of the business of managing your infrastructure, and focus on your core business. What’s even more compelling is that if you can’t or don’t wish to move completely to cloud based services, you can still move those pieces that make sense (to me, email is a no brainer), and work in a hybrid model. Microsoft is the only online vendor that I’m aware of that can offer this hybrid approach.

As a relatively small company, we have been using hosted email for over a year now, in the form of BPOS, which is the previous version of Microsoft’s online offerings. As a partner, we’re very interested in moving to Office 365 as soon as possible, but the migration plan for current BPOS customers won’t begin until some time after the final release of Office 365. Given the compelling features in Office 365, we didn’t want to wait, so we figured out a way to migrate manually.

Now, by migrate, I’m referring explicitly to email. This article does not cover the migration of SharePoint content, but given that we didn’t have much content in SharePoint Online, this wasn’t going to be a problem for us. Also, because the two services are using two different identity types, you can migrate your email now, and let the content get migrated later.

The secret to the manual migration is Outlook. Since Outlook 2010 can connect to multiple Exchange servers, it becomes the intermediary. This approach is very likely not suitable to large environments, and your mileage may vary, but it did work well for us.

1. Set up your Office 365 Account

No matter what domain you actually used with BPOS, there’s an underlying domain that you got when you signed up, that took the form and all users that you create can receive mail addressed to, no matter what domain that they are assigned to. Office 365 follows the same principle, except that the form of the domain is All users that will be migrating need to be created in the new Office 365 domain.

2. Login to the New Account

Normally, when a new account is set up in Office 365, the user is given a temparary password. This password is only good for logging into the main Office 365 portal and setting the users password – it won’t work for anything else, like Outlook access. Therefore, it will be necessary for you to log into to set the account password before continuing. (Note, don’t be confused by the domain – is the hub for Office 365 – the equivalent in BPOS is

3. Connect Outlook to Office 365

You don’t need the client integration tools to connect Outlook to Office 365, which is good, because at this point, we’re not ready to install them. We simply need to connect Outlook to the new server. First, from Outlook, click File – Add Account


Next, fill in your account information. Name, email, and password are all that you should need, but make sure that you use the right email address,


After you click next, you’ll be prompted for credentials – these are the credentials for the new account (, and you’ll enter the password from step 2 above. Outlook will then configure the account, and you should receive a success message. Once you do, click finish.

In order to continue, you’ll need to close, and restart Outlook. On restart, Outlook may prompt for the new profile, and after that, it will prompt for the credentials again. It does this because single sign on is not yet enabled for the new account. That will come later. Once credentials are given, Outlook will take a minute and set up the new mailbox. Once that’s complete, we’re ready to move on.

4. Move Mail Messages

When you start Outlook, you should now see at least 2 accounts in the folder pane, the BPOS account, and the new Office 365 account. Drag one of your folders from the BPOS account to the Office 365 node.


Repeat this process for all of your folders. When complete, open your inbox, select all if your messages (or all of the ones that you wish to migrate) and drag them to the inbox of the new account. This may take a few minutes, depending on the size of your inbox. Once done, repeat this for your sent items folder.

What happens is that the messages are moved locally on your system from the local cache of your BPOS account, to the local cache of your new Office 365 account. Then once that is complete, you can continue to use outlook as the accounts are synchronized in the background. This can take a significant amount of time, likely several hours depending on the size of your mail file, so plan accordingly. While synchronization is in process, the status bar will tell you, as you can see below.


5. Move your Calendar Entries

Calendar entries are a little bit trickier, because there’s no obvious way to select all calendar entries. In addition, the folder browser goes away when you select your calendar. It is however completely possible.

First, select calendar, and ensure that your BPOS calendar is the only one selected. Then, select the View tab, Click the Change View Button, and select List. This will present you with a list view of your calendar entries.


From the list view, simply drag all of the entries that you wish to migrate to the Office 365 calendar in the calendar pane.

6. Move Contacts, Tasks, and Notes

For each of Contacts, Tasks, and Notes, firs click on their heading, ensure that the BPOS account is selected, and drag them to their equivalent Office 365 account section.

7. Repeat As Necessary

Repeat steps 1-6 for all of the accounts that you wish to migrate. I know, I never said this approach would scale, but it works for us…..

This manual copy process can be carried out over a period of time. During this time, new mail will continue to be delivered to the BPOS account, so it will need to be manually moved again once the delivery changes, which is the next step.

8. Make DNS and Administrative Changes

As long as a domain is assigned to BPOS, you cannot assign it to Office 365. That’s why the user accounts on Office 365 have so far looked like Once the bulk of the mail has been moved, we are ready to decommission the domain from BPOS, and to assign it to Office 365.

Once complete, all new mail will be delivered to Office 365. However, because DNS changes are not instant, there may be a period of time where mail cannot be delivered. Mail may also continue to be delivered to the BPOS accounts for a period of time, which will work because BPOS only cares about the name portion of the email address. It is a good idea to perform this step during off-peak times.

In our experience, the BPOS had a little trouble letting go of the domain, and this led to delivery failures for the better part of a day. Try to do this during a period of low traffic, and don’t plan anything for the following day.

EDIT – JULY 2011


It appears that the glitches that happen at this point are more systematic that I had originally thought. The Forefront that is used by Microsoft Online will hang on to your domain until explicitly cleared. You will need to contact either Office 365 or BPOS support to get your domain flushed out. You will also need to de-associate your Office 365 users from your domain, so that you can also remove it from Office 365 and set it up again. You will have no mail for this period. In our case, this lasted for one day, but we were discovering the problem at the time. You should also note that the support staff that can make the required Forefront changes only work regular business hours, North American Central time, so plan accordingly.

If the domain gets stuck in Forefront, you will be able to send receive mail from within online services, send mail outside, but outside mail coming in will receive a relay error.

A) De-Associate All users from the main domain

You can’t remove a BPOS domain that is in use, so you will need to change the default domain for all users using it. You can replace it with any of your configured domains, but I would suggest re-adding them to the default domain,, which in the case of BPOS is

This is done from the BPOS admin console, Select Users, User List, and click on the the user that needs to be changed. from the edit user screen, simply change the Domain setting.

If one of the users that you’ll be changing is yourself, you’ll need to login with a different account that has administrative privileges. You can’t edit the domain setting of the user that is currently logged in.


B) Remove the domain from BPOS

Once all of the users have been de-associated, you can remove the domain. From the BPOS admin console, select Users, Domains. Select the domains that you wish to remove, and click the Delete button.


If the domain that you are removing is the default for your BPOS account, you’ll need to change the default first. You can’t remove the default domain.

C) Remove BPOS entries from your DNS records

In all likelihood, you’ll have 3 DNS records that are associated with your BPOS account. AN MX record for mail, a CNAME record for domain validation, and a CNAME record for autodiscovery. These records should be removed before proceeding.

D) Assign the domain to Office 365

From the Office 365 admin console, you can now add your domain to Office 365. Under management, click on Domains, and then Add A Domain. Follow the domain addition wizard. The first thing that you will need to do is to add a CNAME record to your DNS for validation purposes. Once that is complete, you will be routed to a page where you are instructed to make the rest of the changes to your DNS records.


Most of the records are fairly self explanatory. However, the server records can be tricky. I would caution you to stick to the recommended TTL values though. Our DNS provider ( has a rather open ended approach to SRV records, and it was not immediately obvious as to how to construct the records for Lync, given the instructions in Office 365.


Searching around a little, and hacking a lot, I finally came across a combination of values that work. I include them here in case anyone else runs across the same issue. Based on the entry form above, the values that I used were:

Host TTL Type Data
_sip._tls 60 SRV 1 100 443
_sipfederationtls._tcp 60 SRV 1 100 5061


E) Associate your users with the new domain

At this point, you should use the user management tool in Office 365 to set the users’ domain to the one just set up, much like you did when de-associating the users. Again, as with BPOS, you can’t change the domain property of the current logged in user, so it’s a good idea to create a generic admin account for this purpose.

If the DNS gods have been smiling, and you’re lucky, and it’s the right day of the week, email will be flowing. In reality, it’ll be a while before you can receive mail, but you should be able to send right away. In any event, you’re ready to reconfigure the users’ workstations.

9. Uninstall BPOS Components from User Machines

You’ll likely have at least one, and as many as 3 applications installed from BPOS. There’s the Single Sign on Client (pictured below), Office Communicator 2007, and Live Meeting 2007. It’s a good idea to uninstall all three from the client workstations.


10. Install the Office 365 Client Software

When the user logs into the Office 365 portal using their new ID (, they’ll see a Download link on the right side of the screen. From there, they’ll need to perform steps 2 and 3, Install Lync, and then configure the desktop. If they don’t already have Office 2010 installed, that should be done first. The desktop configuration tool sets up all of the desktop applications with the exception of Outlook.

11. Create New Outlook Profile

You could set up the new mailbox a number of ways, but given that the new account name will likely be the same as the old account name, I prefer to create a new mail profile for Outlook, set it as default, and configure it from scratch.

To do so, you’ll need to make sure that Outlook is not running, and then open up control panel. Within control panel, you’ll find an icon for Mail (32 bit). Open it.


You’ll first need to click on Show Profiles, and then the Add button, to create a new profile. You can name it whatever you like, but be sure to select it as the default profile for Outlook.


Then click OK. The control will close, so you’ll need to open it again. Once you do, click on the “Email Accounts” button, and configure the Office 365 account as described in the Office 365 documentation.

You’ll need to repeat steps 9 to 11 for all users that you need to migrate.

As I mentioned above, this a a pretty labour intensive way to accomplish a migration, but it does get you from A to B, and you can start using the features that make Office 365 so compelling. Given that UnlimitedViz is a partner, we really couldn’t afford to wait, and in the end, I’m really glad that we didn’t…


Talk Technet Episode 13 Now Available

The Talk Technet episode that I did last week on SharePoint is now available as an MP3. You can download it here. It was the first time I’ve done something like it, and definitely had fun with it. I think that we covered a fair bit of ground, and you may find it interesting, if you’re bent that way.

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