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One of the benefits of Office 365 is that users can easily access their data from any device, anywhere in the world, and share it with other users. In addition, Office 365 is available through various subscription models, from a basic Office package to Azure services, SharePoint and Exchange.
Considering cloud vs. on-premises
The administrative overhead for a cloud service is low for several reasons. For example, organizations don't have to set up an Exchange server, unlike the on-premises version. As a result, the administrator no longer has to worry about deploying the necessary patches.
The monthly costs are transparent. Naturally, they should be considered before deciding between cloud and on-premises. The regular fees for the cloud service are offset by the costs of licenses, hardware and maintenance (e.g., electricity costs) for the on-premises solution. In addition, the administration and support staff must possess different skills than for the cloud version.
In the following sections, I will discuss the basic setup of Exchange in Office 365. If you would like to evaluate the service yourself, you will receive a 30-day free trial account after registration.
You should keep the user ID and password for your registration in a safe place, as they will be needed later for the general administration of Office 365.
Choosing the domain
After a short registration process, you can set up Exchange. On the next page, you are asked to provide a domain where you want to receive and send emails later. Of course, the mailboxes are also based on this domain.
On this page, you can accept the subdomain of onmicrosoft.com specified by Microsoft (which is fine if you only want to evaluate the service). If you have your own domain, you can continue with it here.
Next, the domain must be checked, i.e., you must verify the domain belongs to you.
Microsoft provides very helpful documentation for each configuration step. It is usually tailored to a leading hosting company for each country, but transferring the process to other providers should not be a problem for an experienced administrator.
Setting up mailboxes
In the following step, you create the first few users, including their mailboxes.
The login information is then shared with the users. For this purpose, Office 365 sends the access data for new users to an alternative email address. The message contains a link the user must follow.
On the landing page, the user then enters the credentials contained in the email. This immediately registers the user at the Office 365 portal. Here for example, the user can download the Office package or use OWA.
The wizard then asks whether existing emails should be migrated. However, this step can also be done later.
Customizing DNS entries
The next task is to customize the domain for Exchange. Again, Microsoft has provided helpful instructions here.
The wizard displays the required entries for the DNS, including the MX record, based on the domain specified above.
Finally, the Office 365 Admin Center opens automatically.
The users you just created should be able to send and receive email now.
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In the left area (sidebar) you can open the Exchange Admin Center (EAC) for further configuration steps. This looks exactly the same in the online version as in Exchange 2016/2019.
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