Moving all of your email onto Office 365 is pretty easy; making it work properly once it's there is another story. As a salable product, I find Office 365 extremely curious; it's workable enough if you have a decade or two's experience beating Exchange into submission ... but a little too complex for anyone else. The cloud is …
Waste of Time
Actually, archiving anything at all... Powershell I guess?
Re: Waste of Time
We have our own (standalone) mail server and a rule in the O365 backend that forwards copies of all email to that mailbox. You could just use a gmail mailbox for that purpose however.
You can also do a surprising amount with the domain rules. ("If an email is addressed to person X, Bcc it to persons A, B and C".)
In general it works reasonably well but is let down by a lousy administrative interface..
As a linux user of office365
I find it extremely annoying.
With chrome I cannot access all features, though firefox support is better - eg. cannot setup mail filters.
Oftentimes it will show the old web interface, I used to be able to get around this with a custom http-header - this seems no longer to work though. Nasty old webmail it is then.
Sometimes it will bounce me to livemail instead of office365, which of course I cannot log in to.
Not exactly an enterprise solution!
What does this mean for IT?
As an inexperienced sysadmin i dont know if this is good or bad for IT job ecosystem. Yes it means companies will need an IT guy but it also means usability will go down. I find IT moving so fast but in different directions. The majority bound by Microsoft's grip and this backwards and forwards motion (depending how you see directions) between UI and Powershell.
Think back 20 years or so.....
"Hey lets DOWNSIZE & we can sack the WHOLE IT department"
12 months later:
"Shit. Lets bring some of them back and rename it RIGHTSIZING"
Re: Think back 20 years or so.....
Crap management then?
I thought the world has moved on to Postfix.
Exchange probably is the only non-"Internet" E-mail system in widespread use. I wonder if its still possible to use over NETBUI or whatever that was called. This somehow makes it a truly complex and fragile product. There are rumours that a single broken file can take down a whole server.
Anyhow, don't paint yourself into another corner. Try to find solutions which are sustainable. Running your own e-mail server can still be done even when your vendor closes down, at least when you have a normal, open source, package.
Yeah - agreed. Postfix and Exim - two solid options for a smtp server nowadays. Couple that with Dovecot or Cyrus for imap/pop3 - and you get as much functionality as you desire. Even server side filters (but manageable from the client) with Sieve support. It is beyond me why people still believe in re-inventing the wheel - instead of getting a solid solution in place which will survive the whims of vendors and fads of the industry. Yes, some of the stuff above takes a good while to learn - but then, it works, it is reliable, solid and efficient in terms of hardware resources. You can even plonk a web interface on top of it, such as Horde - and you get contacts management and calendars as well - including sharing options.
Just get it done once, and get it done well.
I can tell you why - users (all the way up to CEOs) are to emotionally attached to Outlook... And Outlook sucks as IMAP/CalDav client (try to find a caldav plug-in for outlook - at beast you'll pay arm and a leg).
I've seen my colleagues. Outlook sucks as an e-mail client. It's the first one I've seen in years which cannot do normal quoting.
Struggled with Sendmail's documentation for about 15 years whenever I needed to change anything before finally replacing it with Postfix as part of a planned dist-upgrade a couple of years ago. I've found Postfix much easier to use in a moderately complex email environment as a replacement, together with Dovecot and Amavisd. It's probable there exist some extreme volume and highly complex mail environments where Sendmail is the only tool sufficiently flexible, but these would probably be places employing full time email admin people who can write their own sendmail.cf configurations, which uses a very nasty custom macro language reminding me of Perl on steroids.
Unfortunately what you call 'normal' quoting has been replaced by Outlook style quoting, since the inexorable rise of ... well ... Outlook.
I've moved about a total of 60 clients to 365 (spread across 3-4 different companies).
The main reason? Cost.
Any business with less than 50 users can go with Plan P which is £4-per-user per-month.
Also, my larger client I've signed up to E3 licences. So for £13.75 a month they get e-mail and Office 2010 professional.
If you know what you're doing, it is also a piece of pee to migrate across. We haven't had any issues with the mentioned spam filter, but it's early days.
We also earn 20% commission on sales :-)
Re: My experience
So someone paid you, say:
*************over £200 a month (oh, plus 20% so that's over £240) ***************
to provide them with an office suite and hosted email for a small business. BARGAIN! (spot the sarcasm).
Guess the monthly cost of my employers setup with 50+ staff, 400 students? Zero. Literally, the Office licenses were one-off purchases on VL pricing some years ago and they haven't needed to upgrade. They also get hosted email for free if they wanted (we run Linux servers for lots of in-house and external hosting stuff already and email is barely scratching a config file to enable). We use hosted webmail that we get for free with our annual domain hosting package. It has a spam filter we can configure. It also doesn't charge us any extra if we suddenly double the number of staff.
Win for you, obviously, with your 20%, but not really a sensible proposition for ANYONE who has a brain and/or knows a guy in IT even through a third-party.
Some people don't want to configure stuff and don't know what's possible themselves, but suggesting that Office 365 is ALWAYS a good deal for someone with up to 50 users is ridiculous. If you are big enough to have an IT guy, even a part-time one or an external one, they should damn well not be costing you £200 a month for Office and email on top of your usual costs and their wages. If your IT guy doesn't SAVE YOU his wages in his first year compared to the alternative, you should ditch him. Guess what I would suggest your clients do for you?
Re: My experience
As it stands I can see Office 365 being fine for small businesses where you just need to buy a few workstations but can't justify purchasing file, web and mail servers. For large corporation or even Government Dept's I would imagine it would be a nightmare, especially, if you ever need to migrate off it again.
Issues I have had.
Setting up shared mail boxes then have have to use powershell.
Trying to copy bulk mail from one User to another involves Exporting mail to a local Outlook client as a *.pst and then importing it back.
No easy fix for my initial noob mistake, where my mail was being sent out with the default email@example.com. I ended up having to set up all my users again, as it was easier than using powershell to define my own senders address.
Also some of the tutorials and help are terrible, often with out of date instructions. e.g. listing Host servers that will not be relevent to your account, etc.
Re: My experience
"If you know what you're doing" - and office365 support doesn't:
ME: we have delays in email delivery to some users.
TECH: you have to change your DNS MX records - you can't have multiple MX servers with the same priority... It creates bottlenecks....
TECH: Yes, sir - it creates bottlenecks
ME: What about hotmail.com? It has multiple MX servers with same priority?
TECH: You have to change MX records.
ME: Get me your technical supervisor - someone who knows what they're talking about.
SUP: you can't have multiple MX servers with the same priority... It creates bottlenecks....
ME: F^%$@#^%$#^, m^%#&^%s!!!
Re: can't justify purchasing ... servers
Any company that can afford "Workstations" can afford servers. They probably cost much less.
Re: can't justify purchasing ... servers
If a company has "Workstations", what keeps them from installing a mailserver on one of those? The difference between a server and a workstation mostly is how its used. The base hardware is identical as the servers we have today were heavily influenced by the workstations of the past. (Of course workstations tend to have better graphics cards, etc.)
Unless of course by "Workstation" you mean some Windows 7 Home box with hardware which crashes every time someone thinks about entering the room, then you are probably an idiot.
Re: My experience
No, you don't know what you're talking about.
If you have 2 MX records of the same priority, one to Microsoft's servers, and another going somewhere else, then yes, a lot of your incoming messages are going to get lost. Your Hotmail comparison is ridiculous because... guess what? THEY'RE ALL GOING TO HOTMAIL.
Re: My experience
"Guess the monthly cost of my employers setup with 50+ staff, 400 students? "
I presume you don't take a wage and do it all for free then?
I support an office of 30 users and contract about 20 hours per-month.
They are traders and most of the operations are hosted off-site. Everything is managed well and they hardly have any problems.
That's what I would call cost saving... Rather than having a full-time IT bod on £40,000-a-year.
Guess what I would suggest for your company?...
Re: by "Workstation" you mean some Windows 7 Home box
As in: Idiots inside the IT Dept call them "workstations;" Idiots outside the IT Dept call them "CPUs" or "Hard Disks," ...and the rest of us call them PCs?
Re: My experience
"If you have 2 MX records of the same priority, one to Microsoft's servers, and another going somewhere else"
When you assume, you make an ass........of yourself.
....just use Google Apps instead?
*ducks whilst all the Google haters rage*
I just loved this article. Thanks for the good laugh at lunch time. I have managed and set up many customers on both BPOS and Office 365 since its launch. I have migrated a couple from one to the other as well. And you are absolutely correct in saying that NEITHER can be managed by a non technical person. We have a large team of consultants and engineers in our company and even some of them struggle at times. We found that the only way to responsibly move very small customers with no money onto this service was to then make them sign a support contract with us so we could sort out the invariable messes. Therefore we get the PS for moving them to Office 365, the 50p a year commission from Microsoft AND a monthly retainer for support. The customer gets a system that, apart from the rather stupid issues with missing or duplicate emails etc, a pretty robust and reliable system. It's always on, always available and does what it says on the tin. BPOS was terrible, always going down. Office 365 is just better. The long and the short of it is that Microsoft don't, even though they advertise it that way, intend consumers to manage it themselves.
Different way of working
Some of the restrictions that you mentioned and the usability of the Office365 solution is designed to work in a different way to how an organisation works.
An example would be: if you email out a weekly newsletter to all your members of staff (and you have a significant amount of staff) then your organisation is not thinking in the right way for 'cloud' computing.
With massive circulars like this an intranet site with audience targeting maybe better suited as provided with Office365.
If you want to replicate exactly what you had before then you will need experts to replicate and manage it for you, as you did before.
Re: Different way of working
Why didn't I think about that? "You're conceiving it wrong!" Brilliant!
And Metro really is the best possible UX ever designed, honest! If you disagree, you're just conceiving it wrong! Just change your entire collection of business processes, no big deal.
Sent from a flying chair,
Re: Different way of working
What this sounds like, ironically, is the Lotus Notes fanboys' typical defense of their beloved pile of festering feces: "Notes doesn't suck, you're just using it wrong."
Actually, now that I think about it, that's the generic fanboy's response to anything, e.g. "You're holding it wrong."
Re: Different way of working
And if the corporate news letter is sent to clients/customers/external parties?
Warning Unix fanboys ahead
Oh no we have to use Powershell, didn't you unix boys want command line tools and then you're suggesting we get a fisher price UI to control everything.
Yeah I remember those days, idiots who know nothing clicking a few check boxes and pressing a few buttons. What's that? You're an Exchange Administrator? No you're not, you can click buttons and hope it works.
As for Lee Downling's comment
"Win for you, obviously, with your 20%, but not really a sensible proposition for ANYONE who has a brain and/or knows a guy in IT even through a third-party."
I like how you say that but then have previously mentioned the cost to your employer being Zero, ever heard of Total Cost of Ownership?
Managing Linux boxes though, I bet that keeps you in a job.
Job protection at it's best, even for guys with a brain.
Re: Warning Unix fanboys ahead
Sure - i want command line tools. Shell - even better! Was very exciting about PowerShell... Till module required for Office365 coexisting server work would only install under 2008 32-bit or Windows 7.
PowerShell sucks! And none of it documented. Not even MS support (3-rd level and up) knows how to use it.
Re: Warning Unix fanboys ahead
Well Powershell seems to have 2 gigantic flaws:
1. It doesn't seem to be as well designed as normal Unix shells are. It's still to complex.
2. It came about 20 years to late, so there is next to no support in 3rd party applications. What's the use of having a powerful shell if it can only connect very few parts of your system. Since there is little use, 3rd party vendors won't implement it. People who want decent command lines have moved to something unixoid years ago so there neither is pressure from your customers.
Re: Warning Unix fanboys ahead
I used to work extensively with <Microsoft.Products.thecompany.ps> - hey! Looks Linux-y, yes?
Linux is built and administered entirely openly from well-developed and rehearsed UNIX scripts and shell stuff. As usual, Microsoft threw out 'effort' with me-too scripting. And yes, as someone pointed out - it's poorly documented, adopted and loved.
Exchange is a monster of APIs, old code, new code, extensions and plug-ins all in one. Sendmail and postfix really is Fisher-Price by comparison, however learning to type commands (command line /file config) keeps the lay-off at bay I agree.
Microsoft is just too late to the 'appliance' concept since it doesn't up-sell their licensing model - even in the cloud with Office365, it's all about product, not service as per Google Apps.
Nice article though1
Last I checked, I have several linux boxes at a SOHO business that I worked at 5-7 years ago. Last time I checked, he's called me twice with issues - both of which were actually network switch issues and not linux server issues. So, what's the TCO in that case compared to windows admins?
Ohh on Windows...
On Windows you can be lucky and your customer knows that he has no idea and leaves the setup alone. Then it might break every few months. Maybe it'll last for a year without breaking.
If you are unlucky it thinks it knows about Windows and messes with it. Of course it will deny having done so. Then it breaks every few weeks or more.
When something breaks many sysadmins will find that they often don't actually have ways to fix them. Windows does a good job at hiding the cause of problems and the way to fix them. So instead of the straight forward approach of determining the error and correcting it, you often spend hours wiggling with controls until one time it mysteriously works.
WHEN TF are you from?
I manage all my Linux boxes with a GUI. It's called webmin. And it Just Works. Next!
Speaking as a sysadmin who has barely touched a Microsoft product for the last several years, I think it would really be fantastic to see a sysadmin blog post on this site sometime which deals with something other than Microsoft products.
Maybe you should solicit the editorial staff with a proposal to write your own blog, then. It seems rather pointless to complain in a comment on the blog about how the blog's content, which is clearly about the author's own experiences, is not suitable to your own experiences.
I frankly have to question the sanity of someone who reads an entire series of articles and then complains that the content is uninteresting or irrelevant. It's not like Trevor's blog is new, so the content should not come as a surprise.
For my part, as someone who deals quite heavily in Windows and virtualization, I find Trevor's blog posts quite enlightening much of the time, so I say for him to keep doing more of the same!
Or, you know...ask. Got a product you'd like me to talk about? Perhaps you can send me a review, or give me a link (if it's FOSS.) I write about what I work with; but i am a nerd, and I do enjoy exploring new subject matter. If I can do it, I try to.
So...what would you like to hear about?
That's actually a big problem. The software market on Windows is heavily fragmented. You'll have dozens of commercial vendors selling the same kind of software. Each one with its own problems.
Hey, but why don't you start with Praxident:
I had to install the client on 2 identical PCs (both new and freshly installed). It worked perfectly on one, it consistently crashed on the other. It uses just about every "technology of the future" of Windows since the 1990s. So of course there are parts using Active X and other parts using .net. You'll need to install both. It also depends on Microsoft SQL server which it uses in the unmaintainable version without management interface. They actually moved to M$SQL at a time when MySQL was already popular.
Agreed. And if it has to be about sendmail, so be it.
"something other than Microsoft products"
"a sysadmin blog post on this site sometime which deals with something other than Microsoft products."
Nice idea, not gonna happen in any sensible way here.
In the world of matching business "solutions" (sorry) to real business need rather than IT providers weekly/monthly/quarterly targets, there's so little to sell, so little to get "20%" (or whatever) on, so few opportunities for Porsches...
some people need exchange
Issue 1: Some companies are welded to Outlook. To be blunt, Outlook is dreadful on anything but an Exchange Server.
Issues 2: ERP and other systems that require exchange hooks. By and large, other 3rd party hosted Exchange products cost a small fortune.
For a few dozen users, hosting an Exchange server in-house is far more expensive and that's before bandwidth considerations are taken into place when the majority of the workforce may be mobile.
If someone can educate me on a viable alternative for a small business faced with either of the above issues then I'll gladly stop paying next to fark all for Office365.
Not limited by the above, then Google Apps or run your own mailserver(s).
"But while PowerShell was an absolute necessity for Exchange 2007, Exchange 2010 largely removed the need and started moving us back towards an MTA as easy to use as Exchange 2003. Businesses without dedicated email admins were winning the war of usability!"
Oh, you still need it for Exchange 2010. For small mundane things like:
* restoring user's email after they've 'accidentally' deleted something that's past the retention time you've set on the dumpster when they've hard-deleted the item outright 'by mistake'
* setting up the majority of the settings for unified messaging (gods that was a pain in the arse during the migration!)
* Or for that matter, importing retention rules from a previous version of exchange.
* enabling single item recovery (dead useful for users that like to hard delete their email ALL THE FREAKING TIME- See first )
* finding out who the nimrod that's using 85% of the server's mailstore because they like sending 100+ MB PDF files to half the company (yeah; in-house send/receive limits got turned on after that incident- Still don't know what the previous mail admin was smoking when he turned them OFF!)
* and other, more eldritch and cthulu-esque level settings or tricks that you only have to do during inital setup or every great once in a while.
I have a text file sitting on my work computer full of powershell snippets for exchange, and JUST for exchange. I'm not even going to start on the fun you can have with the AD powershell extensions.
This sums it up for me...
"The customer gets a system that, apart from the rather stupid issues with missing or duplicate emails etc, a pretty robust and reliable system."
An E-Mail server that sometimes decided to not deliver E-Mail (or duplicates it) is not robust or reliable; that is the very job it is supposed to do and it's failing. This is what amuses me about Windows admins, is that they think it's normal to have to go through heroic struggles to keep a file server, print server, web server, or e-mail server running. It's not (once you get away from Microsoft products.).
Maybe this blog should be renamed "Fisher price blog for windows admins" instead
My company has moved across to the 'free' Google Apps solution, for reasons of cost only (which allows *some* integration with Outlook, which, like it or not, is a preferred mail client with most companies). The result has been slightly disastrous because the company has always used MS Office software for it's communications internally and with clients, consequently we have staff complaining bitterly about their lack of ability to be able to present documentation in the way they have been able to do so in the past. The solution would be to use Office 365 in our case, as it would allow users to get a lot closer to the way they present their work when working from external locations. Like MS or not, it's here to stay, but agree that some improvements need to be made if this report is correct. (Note: as we don't use Office 365 I can't say the report IS correct!)
...you're not making sense, sorry - your people either have no clue how to set up properly Outlook with Google Apps Sync or you just don't know what you're talking about: since when sharing a document (presentation etc) by email in Outlook has anything to do with your IMAP provider?
FYI if the staff complaining then IT never managed to finish their job - one of the most important part of any migration is proper training for the end users, y'know.
...of Office 365 is pretty much the same as the article. General setup was ok, although the move for one of my clients from BPOS was a bit of a pain because of some weird auto discover issues which ended up with me having to manually remove entries from Windows Credential Manager.
It works well as a general rule, and is fairly well featured, but little things (big things for my clients!) like the daily recipient limit can be a right pain, and Microsoft's stance is essentially "tough".
Powershell is pretty powerful, but some of the things that you have use Powershell to do could have easily been included in the web admin, like password expiry options and the ability to create Email Contacts.
One amusing thing about the whole setup is the fact that their quarantine notification messages for spam appear in the Junk Email folder for quite a few users... :)
I'll never understand why would anyone migrate *TO* O365...
...instead of going with the either the free tier or the $50/year/user full Google Apps Business, Zoho or if you really need emails delivered in msecs then managed Rackspace email & collab suite etc: http://www.rackspace.com/apps/email_hosting/
They are all either cheaper AND better than any bugfest MS managed to comb together or at least much better for similar price.
Also Microsoft's reliability track record is HORRIBLE, horrible - back in B(ig)POS years they used to have hours long outages at least twice a year, worldwide and, despite all the pre-O365 hype about having a better architecture, as I heard so far it hasn't changed much (no, I never seen a system-wide Google outage nor hours-long Rackspace downtime.)
Amazing what a mess things become when the parasite load of shareholders becomes large enough. MS has a lot of of mouths to feed and it shows.
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