Real First Post

The new blog site is up!  Now the hard part starts… adding relevant content.

Let me begin by explaining the process I just went through.

In the last year and a half, I have been working extensively with Microsoft’s Office 365. The company I work for migrated from an on premises Lotus Notes Domino collaboration platform to Office 365 in the cloud. Up to that point, I had not been an “email administrator.” I was originally pulled into the project because I have been a Windows Server administrator for many years, and I have also been the primary administrator of the company’s external and internal DNS. Because of the way we did the migration, some fancy DNS modifications were needed, so I was added to the project. (More on the way we did the migration another time)

As we worked more and more on the project, I started taking on a larger and larger role. Part of this was due to my knowledge of Active Directory. The decision had been made that we would federate the on premises Active Directory with Office 365 in the cloud. The goal was to have no on premises mail servers after the migration. One thing led to another and I am now the lead admin for our Office 365 tenant. I have added and provisioned new email domains, performed litigation searches for our legal department, configured shared mailboxes, provisioned SharePoint team sites, and on-boarded entire new business acquisitions. I’ve learned a lot. Through all of that experience, both good and bad, I have decided to focus on Office 365 in my career.

Now, because of the organization of the IT department at my current employer, I will still be doing lots of other things as well, but my biggest responsibility right now is Office 365. And I really do like it. I decided to start writing about my experiences with the platform, both to keep track of the things I’ve learned, and possibly to help others that may be new to the environment.

For some time now, I have had a blog hosted by DreamHost using WordPress as the content management system. This was fine and I only casually maintained the site. It was put up mainly because I thought I needed a blog because everyone else had one. There were a handful of useful articles, but nothing spectacular. In addition, I had purchased my own personal Office 365 tenant during the planning phase of my company’s big email migration project. I had determined that if we were going to Office 365, I needed to know something about it. I’ve used my personal Office 365 tenant primarily for testing.

Last weekend, I decided it was time to go all in with Office 365. It was time to move my primary domain into Office 365.

I started by making a full record of the DNS entries currently used by the Internet domain that hosted both my personal email and that old WordPress blog. I knew there would be DNS changes, and it is always best to have everything fully documented before starting. With DNS fully documented, I signed in to the management portal for my Office 365 tenant and added the Internet domain to my account. I had to create the verification TXT record in DreamHost’s DNS. Once ownership of my domain was verified by Office 365, I completed the process of adding the Internet domain to that tenant.

At this point, my old Internet domain was living in two worlds. The Internet still believed that the domain was using DreamHost and WordPress for the website/blog and Google Apps for email. Office 365, on the other hand, was fully configured to receive email for that domain. The next step was to create all of the old DNS entries that I had documented previously in the Office 365 DNS management system.

A side note here: It is a very nice feature to be able to completely manage your DNS through the Office 365 management portal. They do not lock you into hosting everything through your tenant if you do not want to. I have other sites that use my personal Internet domain name that I may not ever move to Office 365. I was able to manage CNAME, A, TXT, SRV, and MX records as I wished.

I added an account (and P1 license) for my wife and youngest daughter. Since I already had an account using the test Internet domain I had originally used for my Office 365 tenant, I just changed my primary email address to the one I was transferring from Google Apps and added an alias for the test account to my mailbox. Office 365 was now ready to start receiving our email.

Now, the moment of truth. The domain was registered with Network Solutions. I signed in to my account there and changed the DNS servers from DreamHost to Microsoft. Then, I went to bed.

The next morning, I checked my 365 mailbox and found that I had received a couple of new email messages on the domain I had transferred from Google Apps. Awesome! Everything was working.

So, now how do I get all of my email history from Google Apps into Office 365? I considered pulling everything down to my Outlook client and exporting it to a PST. From there I could just copy it back into my Office 365 mailbox. I am on a rural Wi-Fi Internet solution that is not fast at all. (The price we pay for living outside of town) The thought of downloading my mailbox and my wife’s mailbox on that slow connection and then uploading the whole thing again did not make me happy.

I remembered that we had investigated migration services for the project at work. I found my notes and settled on a service called MigrationWiz. They offered exactly what I was looking for. Cloud to cloud migration of my mailbox from Google Apps to Office 365. They actually migrate just about anything you would want if you have something different. Because I didn’t want to risk losing anything from my huge mailbox or my wife’s, I opted for the Premium service that allows up to ten migration passes on a mailbox. That way if there were some people still holding on to the old MX records and sending mail to my old Google Apps mailbox, I could just run new migrations and grab the changes. This worked like a champ.

We have been completely on Office 365 for our personal email accounts all week without a hitch. I was even able to set up a pass-through account for my oldest daughter who now has her own “grown up and married” email account.

So, this weekend, I created the blog site you are on now. It was very easy. The interface for editing the site is much like you would find in any of the current Microsoft applications. The ribbon tool bar is there and is just as intuitive as the one in Microsoft Office 2013. I picked a theme and layout, modified the pages accordingly, and created my first post. My oldest daughter is a graphical design person, so she is working on some new graphics for the site. Watch for those in the days ahead.

I did decide to have some separation between my personal, family domain and the domain I am using for this blog. I registered the name (and the .net equivalent) and added them to Office 365 in much the same way as the family domain. This was all smooth and painless.

My only complaint at this point is that it would be nice to have multiple public sites. I can add as many email domains as I want to my single Office 365 tenant, but at this time we are restricted to one public site.

In answer to a question on Twitter from @DarrellCWebster, I have connected Microsoft Word 2013 to the blog and used it to edit and post this first entry.

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