Getting Started with Office 365 User and Service Configuration

2015-03-March-Creation-of-Adam.jpg

A colleague who works in email migration compares the Office 365 migration process to the Book of Genesis, although he breaks the journey down into four days instead of seven: 

  • Day 1: Plan, Plan, Plan
  • Day 2: User Creation and Configuration
  • Day 3: Email Configuration and Migration
  • Day 4: Configuration and Migration of other Services including SharePoint, OneDrive, Lync, Yammer

Unlike debates around the Bible, no one would argue that the four day estimate is anything but symbolic. The length of an Office 365 move can vary depending on the number of users and amount of content involved, and depends on factors such as authentication methods and interoperability with on-premises environments.

2015-03-March-Pogrebivsky.jpg

Let's dive into the basic day two activities, including setting up and configuring all users and services. Several administrative rounds are usually required before your users are ready to go.

Prepare yourself to traverse Office 365 admin center user management, purchasing and billing settings, the Exchange admin center, the SharePoint admin center profile, OneDrive settings, and more.  

1. Select a Plan

Microsoft currently offers six business plans. It also provides specialized plans for educational institutions, government and non-profit. The business plans range from $5 to $20 per month/per user and can be purchased online in a few minutes. And many customers covered under Microsoft's Enterprise License have access thorough that agreement.

The quantity of licenses required depends on the number of active users. For example, you can reassign the licenses of dormant or disabled users to someone else, which can be done on a service by service basis as well.

2. Create User Accounts

There are three different ways to provision user accounts in Office 365: Active Directory Synchronization, Active Directory Federation or manually in Office 365 (there are variations on this, including using custom authentication providers and multi-factor authentication).

Active Directory Synchronization assumes current use of Active Directory (AD), and will replicate all the accounts and many settings to your Office 365 tenant. To use this option, you will need to install, configure and run a DirSync utility on a computer with access to your local AD.

Active Directory Federation integrates your current AD, rather than replicates it, and provides the convenience of single sign-on. However, it does require an investment in the deployment and maintenance of the additional servers needed to manage this integration.

Manual provisioning of user accounts is ideal if you don't have an existing AD environment or wish to move completely into a cloud managed model. An administrator can do the whole process using the Office 365 portal. For more information on all three options, see "Plan for managing Office 365 user accounts using Azure Active Directory" or "Three ways to manage user accounts in Office 365."

3. Assign Service Licenses

Once user accounts are created, you must assign service licenses for them. The default access for users will be for the Office 365 portal unless the account is configured to include specific services such as Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, etc.

For example, an administrator might have to visit Admin>Office 365>Users> and select a specific user, configure multiple settings, and then apply appropriate licenses. If no licenses are available, the administrator may need to purchase more user licenses.

The same process needs to be repeated for each user when adding them manually, often starting at the same point, even if departments or workgroups share some of the same settings. After adding users and assigning licenses, the mailbox settings, user profiles, personal sites and/or OneDrive for Business (as needed), and other settings need to configured. More specifics about service oriented settings will be discussed in the next article.

Some tools can help specifically with adding users, such as the Office 365 Admin Dashboard, adding users in bulk via a CSV file, and PowerShell cmdlets. The Bulk add users wizard enables administrators to add multiple users from a comma separated values (CSV) file, although you first have to create the CSV file. The wizard is limited to user configuration and does not apply to service settings.

Each of these administrative tasks and the tools used to complete the tasks take a great deal of time and effort. In most cases, multiple administrators need to log into various portals or run a number of tools in order to accomplish their goal. 

This goes back to the day one tasks -- “Plan, Plan, Plan.” A great deal of advanced planning is required to ensure that all of these tasks will be completed and in the right order. In discussing user creation and configuration alone we have looked at multiple administration portals, tools and methods. Creating a new Office 365 environment can be daunting when you take into account everything that administrators need to attend to, but with the proper planning, and a few good tips and tricks, the rewards can be well worth the effort.

In next month’s article, we’ll look at day three: email configuration and migration and the administrative/logistical challenges inherent to those tasks.

Title image "Creación de Adán (Miguel Ángel)" by Michelangelo Buonarroti