Prep for a Migration to Exchange Online

Making the move to Exchange Online could solve some of the IT problems your network administrators face, but don't try it until you've successfully concluded a pilot program. Here's how to test it out with minimum disruption.

 By Jabez Gan
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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 microsoftonline.com (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 alice@omazzaff.apac.microsoftonline.com instead of alice@omazzaff.com. It's acceptable and recommended to use email addresses of the pattern alice@bpos.omazzaff.com.

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 (bpos.omazzaff.com) 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.

This article was originally published on Mar 1, 2011
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