Prep for a Migration to Exchange Online

Whenever there’s a new service or software system that could potentially solve your IT issues, you do not want to purchase and commit to it immediately. It is a common practice to sign up for a trial account or deploy trial software to verify the new tool will solve your problems. This article will give you some tips on what you need to be aware of when deploying a pilot program, using a trial account for Microsoft Exchange Online.

For every new service that is to be deployed, it is always wise to do thorough testing to study how the service will impact the organization. Microsoft Online Services includes Microsoft Exchange Online, which provides email infrastructure. Because email services are considered a business-critical system, thorough testing is important.

The Process

A successful trial consists of a few stages, including:

  • Planning the trial
  • Deploying the trial
  • Executing the pilot program

Creating a trial account is as easy as 1-2-3, but if it is not planned properly, a successful pilot program will be difficult to achieve.

Planning the trial

Here are a few key areas we need to take note of :

BPOS email domain

Here, your options include:

  • Use a sub-domain of your existing domain (preferred)
  • Use a subdomain of (see Figure 1)
  • Use a new domain

If you want your users to use the trial email offered by BPOS, expect your customers to be seeing [email protected] instead of [email protected]. It’s acceptable and recommended to use email addresses of the pattern [email protected].

Identify the users/stakeholders for the pilot program

Users are needed to verify the feasibility of the new service/system, and management needs to be included to ensure a successful trial.

When selecting users, it is important to assign at least one user from every department to test and feedback on the service/system, ensuring that there aren’t any compatibility issues with their respective department’s business critical systems.

Management plays a vital role in the pilot. Not all users will cooperate with IT during testing and feedback, so management can have a part to play in gaining cooperation.

Finally, users have to be kept notified of the status of the program. Whenever there’s a scheduled downtime or service update, all pilot users must be kept in the loop.

Do not modify the MX record

The MX record is used to tell external domains where the company’s domain is located. Changing the MX record will also mean that some emails might get routed into the old mail server. Always use a subdomain ( for all BPOS trial accounts.

Co-exist with Exchange or not?

If your organization is currently on Exchange, Exchange Online is flexible enough for your pilot users to trial Exchange Online, while keeping the rest of your user base with your current on-premises solution.

Deployment of the Exchange trial

Once you have finalized planning, it’s time for you to deploy the trial. Some important key points that you will need to be aware of include:

  1. Verify the domain. Verification takes up to 48 hours. Do not expect to be able to use the new domain immediately after verification of the domain.
  2. Sign In Application doesn’t work on Linux. If you are planning to use BPOS on a Linux box, don’t expect it to be flawless. Microsoft only released the BPOS Sign In Application for Windows and Mac.
  3. Make minimal changes to your network configuration. You do not want to do too many customizations to the current configurations just to make a service/system work. Why? Undoing them will make more work for you if the trial doesn’t pan out.
  4. Migration Tool doesn’t work on SBS. If you plan for your local Exchange server to co-exist with the trial and your environment is on SBS, you will need an extra member server to install the Migration Tool onto.

Back-Out Plan

As with any service, every trial service that you deploy for users should have a back out plan. For Microsoft Exchange Online, setting and using a trial is fairly simple, but here are some guidelines for cleaning up a Microsoft Exchange Online deployment:

When a local Exchange server didn’t coexist with Exchange Online …

  1. Archive the emails from Microsoft Exchange Online to your local PST
  2. Reconfigure the user Outlook’s profile to point back to the local server
  3. Import the PST that you’ve created in step 1

When a local Exchange server coexisted with Exchange Online …

  1. Archive the emails from Microsoft Exchange Online to your local PST
  2. Remove forwarding — Use Microsoft Online Migration Tool to do it
  3. Reconfigure the user’s Outlook profile to point back to the local server
  4. Import the PST that you created in step 1

Proper planning for trial services is just as important as planning for the implementation. The success rate of production deployment approval will be much higher if you plan well.

Do you have any related tips? If yes, drop me a note! I would like to hear from you!

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