Waste of Time
Actually, archiving anything at all... Powershell I guess?
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 …
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..
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 :-)
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?
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.
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.
"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?...
"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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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,
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."
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
"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...
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.
"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.).
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... :)
...instead of going with the either the free tier or the $50/year/user full Google Apps Business, Zoho or if you really need emails delivered in msecs then managed Rackspace email & collab suite etc: http://www.rackspace.com/apps/email_hosting/
They are all either cheaper AND better than any bugfest MS managed to comb together or at least much better for similar price.
Also Microsoft's reliability track record is HORRIBLE, horrible - back in B(ig)POS years they used to have hours long outages at least twice a year, worldwide and, despite all the pre-O365 hype about having a better architecture, as I heard so far it hasn't changed much (no, I never seen a system-wide Google outage nor hours-long Rackspace downtime.)
If you are going to make a major messaging system change, why stick with M$? It is still the most costly option for basic functionality and users like the Gmail type "fisher price" interface better than Exchange. If you can't handle Gmail because Google has a habit, or a business really, selling user data, Lotus SmartCloud is less costly and it looks like something which was developed for the browser... and you don't have to deal with all of the MS proprietary (only works well with IE) nonsense.
Why do users choose Office 365? Outlook integration that works as well as tlaking to a real Exchange server. Public folders, contacts, distribution groups, integration with sharepoint, etc.
Basically, Office 365 can make outlook do all the things that it does when hooked up to Exchange. That's why people use outlook. They want more than mail. They don't want 15 different programs with poor interoperation and integration tied to 15 different servers to achieve the same thing.
This is why Exchange and Outlook still rule the corporate messaging roost. There is no replacement; no alternative. Not even Zimbra is a complete alternative to Exchange + Outlook.
I use Google Apps for my personal consulting company, and it – mostly – does what I want it to. Its attempt at “public folders” however is at best shamefully inadequate, and it needs company-wide global contact list. These can be bought as “add ons” from third parties…but remember what I said about not wanting 15 different programs…
And yeah, there’s Lotus. So what? Both users are impressed. “It’s not Microsoft” isn’t a reason to switch away from a software stack that companies have been using for decades. Besides, IBM is yet another megacorporate. Prove to me they have any more soul than Microsoft.
No viable alternatives exist. In order to walk away from Microsoft, you need to make compromises. Not everyone is ready to make the same compromises you are, and everyone has differing business requirements.
Or are you going to tell everyone to “hold it different” and just think/do/say things exactly like you? Because if you are, what exactly makes you/your chosen software/etc better than Microsoft, again?
I’ve little love for – and zero faith in – the beast of Redmond. But don’t expect me – or anyone else – to spontaneously develop a righteous zealotry or deep abiding faith in anyone else, either. My faith – and my business – is earned. Not through arrogance, but through the hard work of making a top notch product and backing it up with comprehensible, accessible, easy-to-use and friendly support.
If you’ve a candidate company or ten for me to invest my time and effort into, I am all ears. Until that time, I’ll just keep on doing what every other businessman and sysadmin does: choose “the least worst” from amongst a series of lacklustre and disappointing alternatives.
Gmail has folders (labels), distribution groups and contacts. They don't have integration with SharePoint, but they also have a solution... don't use SharePoint.
Lotus Domino is pretty great as compared Exchange for enterprise use. It is far superior to M$ in clustering tech, platform options, and functionality. You can use Domino as a web server, content server, development platform in the Workspace. You would be surprised how many large shops, like 20,000 plus users, are on Lotus. Primarily because no one wants to manage a million little NT servers with MS Exchange's DAG clustering. With Lotus, you can run a mission critical application (e-mail) on a mission critical platform with mission critical RAS features. The one place where MS has Lotus is in the client interface, primarily because Outlook looks like Windows. It isn't leading Lotus, as with all MS tech, because of any inherent technology advantage.
Labels aren't PUBLIC FOLDERS. "Folders" are totally different than PUBLIC FOLDERS. Maybe if you knew what you were talking about, you might understand what real groupware brings to the table.
Also: Google’s pathetic attempt at replacing SharePoint? *shudder*
Look, I’m not a big SharePoint fan…but I’ve seen implementations that legitimately boost productivity for the companies that use them. Boost it in ways that I struggle to find a serviceable replacement for.
SharePoint is basically “website creation and integration for complete idiots.” Sure, an IT nerd can whip up something – anything – to do what SharePoint does fairly easily…but the point of SharePoint is the ability to not involve IT. It’s a smug individual who can just smirk and say “well, just learn $huge_array_of_new_technologies and keep teaching it over and over to all that sales droid/accountant/HR drone/etc’s replacements!” Or better yet “just buy another sysadmin to deal with every single request for a new website feature or alteration!”
Obviously you don’t have to deal with real budgets.
SharePoint offers nothing to nerds and sysadmins. It’s a hell of a thing for USERS though, and that’s what you’re missing here.
I get that you don't feel you need Microsoft. Others do. Until you actually have used the products you're deriding enough to know what some of the most basic feature offerings are (like the difference between a folder and a public folder,) perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to snipe.
As I’ve said before, non-Microsoft groupware alternatives boil down to “compromise by accepting less-capable functionality,” or “do without various elements of functionality” or “pay a lot more money in nerd salary than the cost of licensing.”
Shockingly, billions of individuals and businesses just aren’t interested in any of those choices. I wonder why.
Oh, and just so we're clear; I'm not at all saying Microsoft offer the best product from a technical standpoint. I loathe exchange.
But almost nobody puts technical considerations first in a purchasing descision. People care about UI and they care about workflow. Maybe that's not how things should be, but it is how they are.
"What the customer wanted was the power of Exchange with a Fisher-Price-and-Crayons "
Yeah - we get that a lot - "Just give me the idiots guide to this"
My usual response?
If you are an idiot you won't be able to do this.
If the customer doesn't want to have to think much about complex technical stuff I really don't blame them. However they need to make a choice - either pay someone who can do the complex tech stuff properly or live with the inevitable fuck-up.
I do wish that MS would stop bloody flip-flopping on direction though.
...To mail servers with arbitrary limitations and per-user licencing costs. Save the money and get a hosted Linux VM with Exim/Postfix, Dovecot and Kronolith. Maybe Apache and IMP or Roundcube. Maybe some anti-spam and AV tools as well. Bam, done. Then you can fairly easily write some scripts to generate a reasonable config for your other customers, make it cloud-deployable, whatever.
Yes it takes work and some command line skills to admin that, but evidently so does Office365, and as a bonus it requires no Exchange-fu and causes much less rage.
(A recovered Exchange admin.)
Just got done a migration of many thousands of Notes users to Office 365 and it was not a happy thing. What you described about limitations of management and support are exactly correct. As far as the cloud goes I have also done Google Apps migrations in the last year with generally very positive experiences. O365 is just not ready for prime time. It wasn't engineered from the ground up as a multi tenant environment. For a SMB the management tools might be sufficient but for an enterprise they are terrible as is the quality of support.
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