My Office 365 Subscription Experience

I set up my first trial of Office 365 last year during the beta.  It was a pretty smooth process for E-Mail, requiring an MX and confirmation.  I didn’t really care too much about SharePoint.  Lync … well … Lync requires a lot of DNS stuff, none of which was possible to do myself in my registrar’s control panel.  For a trial, it wasn’t worth getting them to set up the records for Lync manually.

Before the Christmas holidays, I signed up for another trial, this time choosing the P plan for professionals and small businesses.  The 25 GB mailbox was tempting … I’ve a number of email accounts (personal, MVP stuff, Microsoft stuff) and it’s been annoying for me to use, and some folks I know just send 1 email to all of them to get me – my clear delineations weren’t clear to others.

Problem: Partner Selection

This morning I decided to subscribe to the P plan.  Payment was easy.  The issue I had with the signup process was from the channel point of view (I work for a distributor).  Way off to the side, almost invisible, was the option to Add Partner.  This was where I could optionally choose to add a qualified Office 365 partner.  I thought “I’ll do that and choose one of our customers (a reseller) that has signed up with our O365 distribution channel”.  Up popped a screen and it asked me for the partner ID of the reseller.  Huh!  I’m pretty sure folks in Microsoft think that every MSFT partner lives in the Microsoft Partner Network website and can shout out their numeric partner ID like a soldier does their serial number.  Not quite!  When faced with this, I did what any customer will do – I clicked cancel and completed the payment without specifying a partner. 

Email Setup

First thing was to get my email address configured.  The MX was set up last year.  But my account (the default administrator) was set up with a damned address.  I configured my sign-in to use my domain but the sent email still used the MSFT domain.  I edited my account in Admin –> Users –> <Select Account> –> More –> Change Mailbox Settings, and removed the “other address” from Email Options.

Email Migration

I wanted to import a Hotmail and a Gmail account.  Hotmail was smooth and easy.  I went into Options – See All Options –> Account –> Connected Accounts.  Here I added the details of my hotmail account.  All the folders and email were imported nice and smooth.

Gmail is a different beast.  You have to enable POP access in your Gmail account (Settings –> Forwarding And POP/IMAP).  That beast is importing 1.5 GB of email right now, and it appears to have 2 issues:

  • My 10 year old folder structure in Gmail is being ignored.
  • Read emails are being marked as unread.

Both are very unhelpful.  And no, I was not going to set up mail rules – why the frak should I have to do that to recreate a 10 year old folder structure?  I’m in the midst of trying to find a realistic alternative.  No, I won’t be installing Exchange to do this (COME ON MAN!).  This seriously impacts the migration of customers from Google Apps to Office 365.  Try tell any user that you’ll only import their Inbox, their folders will be lost, and all their email will be marked as unread.  You’ll be lucky if your not flayed alive.


It appears that the only option I have (that doesn’t include paying for a 3rd party tool) is to configure Outlook to connect to both Gmail (to create an IMAP connected PST) and O365.  Then I can import the Gmail PST into O365.  That will take a wee while (1.5 GB of email).  So much for cloud computing easing my bandwidth demands during migration.  MSFT has been talking up a “soon to be released” PST Capture tool since October 2011.  It is not available yet.

Remember: Office 365 primarily sells to small and startup businesses.  They don’t have Exchange.  They probably have nothing or are on Google Apps.  Office 365 seems to have forgotten that.

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8 Comments on My Office 365 Subscription Experience

  1. The problem with GMAIL is that it’s not using real folders. It rather uses “tags” and creates a folder-view. For an end-user there is no noticeable difference, technically speaking there is. That’s also the reason why the “folder-structure” isn’t retained when moving away from gmail. Google does wants you to feel the disadvantages when leaving them 😉

    About the “connected”-account option. It’s great to add multiple accounts to Office 365 but it’s not the way to go for email migrations though. Mainly because of the restrictions (as you have noticed). THe built-in tools for migration are great (they retain read-status), but cannot always be used (thanks Google!). Another option is to download all your Gmail data into a PST (quite a hassle) and upload it to Office 365. Your usage experience will be better, but the effort to make the move will increase as well.

    • Michael,

      I take a very different perspective to this. Microsoft needs to win competition from Google Apps. If the offered migration is painful (PST transfer or the issue I’ve encountered) then people will wonder if it’s worth migrating. It’s up to Microsoft to figure out a clean migration from GMail. One can hardly expect Google to do it for Microsoft.


  2. Aidan,

    I think you’re right up to a certain point. Google has – of course – no interest in helping Microsoft. Now, the discussion about good an evil set aside. Have you tried looking at the IMAP migration tool that is available in Office 365?


    • I did, and it didn’t work. It refused to connect to my Gmail account. IMAP is configured – I use it for Outlook connectivity.

  3. Agree Aidan

    so what if they are not real folders in GMAIL but simply tags/meta data, MS needs to read this and recreate in the appropriate folder structure in Office 365 otherwise its just a massive pain. What if I have 1000+ users in Gmail, do I have manually create POP/IMAP for them all, no chance but I guess MS will say use a third party migration tool.

    I wonder what its like going the other direction from Office 365 to Gmail..Does this create the same sorts of challenges ?

    • Hey John,

      I figure if you are dealling with 1000+ users then you’re on one of the higher O365 plans and have access to real support. I’m operating on a tighter budget and opted for the P plan where I can post on some forum and a genius will inform me that I need to enable IMAP on Gmail 🙂

      I know people have done the migration – but it wasn’t working for me.

  4. Andreas Erson // January 12, 2012 at 10:22 AM // Reply

    I’m thinking Office 365 must be a good choice for all the SBS (includes Exchange) customers.

    But I absolutely agree, they should obviously make it as easy as possible to migrate neatly from competitors.

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