Thoughts, information and reflections about technology

Installing office 365

Notes –

  • this post will be updated/ revised a bit.
  • This method will work for about 20 users or less since it is a manual migration of the outlook data. If you have a large organization it might be too time consuming.
  • Figure about 20 hours at least for 10 users.

IMPORTANT – If you are already using outlook. BE SURE YOUR OUTLOOK/EXCHANGE DATA IS BACKED UP.. Repeat – back up your existing data. Just in case you missed that, be sure to do a backup prior to migration.

I just installed the academic (A3) version of office 365 in a small school. Previously they had been on Server 2003/ exchange 2003 for in house email and calendar sharing. External email for some key people was through their domain. That system has worked well for a decade.

Trying to migrate to Exchange 2013 on Server 2012 R2 which was also a domain controller simply didn’t work. The documentation is lacking and security has been increased dramatically. One major problem was that if the web based exchange control panel broke (which was the only management interface) It becomes very difficult to try to fix a problem with certificates etc.

We opted to move to Office 365. Here are some of the  things we found in  doing that:

 

  • We successfully installed in an environment where there are XP Machines. I’m not sure how long we have until they no longer work but we can get by for now.
  • Our .EDU domain was through Educause. All they do is point your nameservers. Any changes to DNS records have to be done at your host.
  • We used a low end hosting package with the new Cpanel hosting from Westhost.
  • When you set up 365, you are set up with an office domain such as mycompany.onmicrosoft.com. You can , AND SHOULD, use your own domain.
  • In order to verify domain ownership, you need to set an MX or TXT record. I was trying to do this in the advanced DNS Settings.
    • Support said that setting up a custom zone would require waiting until the overseas tech support returned Sunday night.
    • When I tried to change the settings in the advanced DNS controls, it seemed that I could not use @ and, of course, could not duplicate an entry for example.com or www.example.com
    • I though of using something like 365.example.com but that would cause a lot of grief down the road.
    • When I spoke with another 1st level tech, he mentioned that the MX record could be set in the mail portion of cPanel. That worked to provide ownership of example.com. 365 was now happy that we owned the domain.
  • The next step was to set up the users. The A3 plan includes 25 faculty/staff accounts. One was already used by the owner at onmicrosoft.com. You simply set up the users and get a temporary password. Be sure to record that. Also, create an admin email user for yourself with a strong but easy to use password.
  • There is a very important step that you need to take in order to get the autodiscover/automatic exchange connection to work. You need to set a couple of additional MX/TXT records.
    • You need to go to set up your domain and choose your domain purpose ie 365/lynx
    • There are some additional settings for autodiscover. I added these in either the MAIL or DNS settings. I set the records under EXCHANGE and ADDITIONAL OFFICE 365 RECORDS.
    • I didn’t set the record for the include:spf.protection.outlook.com -all . It seems to work without that being set. That is something I need to look at later.
    • IF you don’t enter these settings, the machines will not be able to autodiscover the settings. Trying to find the host name for a manual setup is just about insane.
  • When you go to the client machines, log on as an administrator. We installed on about 15 machines with a mix of xp and Win-7 32 bit running Office 2010.
  • NOTE – I had trouble working with portal.office.com with the versions of Chrome I was using. I used either Firefox or Explorer.
  • After you log on, go to portal.office.com. Log on as yourself. Close the annoying messages. Go to the * in the top right. When you click that you should see Office 365 settings, click that.
  • Then go to SOFTWARE.. – NOTE – you want to go to DESKTOP SOFTWARE, and not install. I don’t believe that office 365’s apps will run on XP.
  • Click on SETUP and run that. The process takes about 10 minutes.
  • When it completes, log out of the admin user.
  • Log in as the machine’s user. Most of the machines I set up were not roaming profiles.
  • If you have an existing exchange or plain outlook PST you will need to eventually copy your data from the old database to the new one.
  • If you are migrating from an exchange server, then you will probably need to work with the existing profile first.
  • Go to Portal.office.com and log on as the user. Reset the password.
  • Start outlook. Go to FILE ACCOUNTS and set up an new email account. If autodiscover is working properly, then all you should need is the account name and password.
  • Once you have the account, go into FOLDER VIEW. It’s a bit tricky but you should be able to copy all of the information from the old folder to the new folder with your 365 domain.
  • Once all the data is moved over, you will probably find that you cannot delete your connection to the old exchange server. If that is the case, you will need to create a new profile with just the 365 connection.
Keep in mind that the migration process has more booby traps than a temple in the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movies.. If you start with a solid set of backups, then you should be able to recover.
One final note – Once you have your installation of 365 running, note that Microsoft does not back your data up.. You need to look into third party software that will back up your 365 data.

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