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Microsoft Exchange has been a core business application for years, but Microsoft's introduction of Office 365 gives enterprises email as a service. The notion of Exchange email without the need for an Exchange infrastructure sounds compelling. But the move from Exchange to Office 365 requires planning and preparation to ensure a smooth and successful migration.
Are you ready to move to Office 365? There are a few important questions you need to ask to gauge your readiness before making the switch.
A company's identity is closely tied to its domain name, so it's important to plan ahead and decide how Office 365 will interact with Active Directory and the domain name.
How will you handle your domain name and Active Directory in a move to Office 365?
You'll need to redirect email traffic from your local Exchange servers to the Office 365 service.
The easiest way to do this is through partial re-delegation. This is where the company retains control of the domain, but the administrative console for Office 365 adds the company's domain name to the service.
However, Microsoft can't simply abscond with any domain's email; there has to be some proof that you actually control the domain name. This normally involves providing the logon credentials for the domain name system (DNS) server. Microsoft adds a text record to the DNS server and verifies its existence. If successful, Microsoft acknowledges that you own the domain and allows email to redirect to Office 365 services instead of local Exchange Servers.
The alternative to partial re-delegation is an approach called identity federation. This is where end users log on to Office 365 using their regular Active Directory credentials and the company handles authentication and continues to manage password policies. The difference here is that a local Active Directory Federation Services server provides a token that then passes to Office 365 to handle the logon for email services.
In effect, this offers a single sign-on approach to Office 365 that does not expose the company's DNS server information. However, identity federation can pose additional complexities for a company. Small and medium-sized organizations will almost always use partial re-direction, which does not require any additional local servers or services.
This is part one of the Exchange admin's Office 365 migration checklist. Stay tuned for part two, which covers user migration and account management.