Managing Hybrid Deployments w/ Mailscape
Many organizations are in the process of or have already moved to Office 365 and are interested in managing their hybrid deployments. Financial incentives and the flexibility O365 provides have moved many organizations to consider moving to the cloud. Whether you are just dipping your toe in the water, migrating at full force or maybe already full in the cloud, the components of a hybrid deployment are critical to your user’s experience.
Gaining visibility into the cloud is a challenge with limited reporting tools available however. As users in North America recently noticed, the Service Health Dashboard (SHD) is not reliable enough. However, rest assured if your organization does decide to take the jump to Exchange Online, help is available.
Why go Hybrid?
Frankly, several reasons exist ranging from cost savings to risk management. Once management has decided to move users to the cloud, going “all in” and moving all users at once can be problematic (ok, a nightmare). Hybrid deployments allow Exchange administrators to slowly move batches of users to the cloud while keeping others on premises. This presents a smaller gamble for the Exchange Team, as this approach gives them an opportunity to smooth out any wrinkles that may occur during the process. According to Brad Anderson, corporate vice president, Windows Server & System Center, “this approach helps organizations avoid placing all of their eggs in one basket. Having all of your data in a single place makes you vulnerable to the occasional outage, and it also puts you at the mercy of your access to a particular physical or virtual location.”
Another reason that organizations go Hybrid is the rich coexistence. In a hybrid deployment, some of the benefits include synchronization of the “GAL” or Global Access List, which contains contacts. Along with this, there will be Free Busy and Calendar sharing, and integration of Mail Tips. Additionally, there is support for Exchange Online archiving, and users can be moved back and forth between on-premises and the Cloud (offboarding) with a single point of management.
Finally, even though Microsoft provides tools to move users from their on-premises Exchange environment to Office 365, they do not provide a way to migrate back. Moving a group of users back and forth in and out of Exchange without a Hybrid solution in place is much trickier than copying PST files. In short, when a user is moved 100 percent to the Cloud changes are made to the users account in Active Directory. Moving them back means going into the on-premise Active Directory environment, and reversing those changes. In a Hybrid configuration, since Exchange and Active Directory work so closely together, users can easily be moved back and forth between on-premises Exchange and Office 365.
Now that you are giddy with excitement we should note that many challenges exist. For starters, when email is hosted in the cloud the Exchange team loses an element of control. Other issues include the fact that monitoring Office 365 can be very complicating, as can troubleshooting in the event an outage does occur. Even licensing challenges exist. Has pessimism replaced your excitement? Well cheer up, no one likes a fickle Exchange administrator. Tools exist that will make your life easier.
After the major Exchange Online outage on June 24th Microsoft admitted that the SHD failed to notify many users and that they are dedicated to “improving our proactive monitoring, prevention, recovery and defense in depth systems.” If Microsoft’s native tools are not enough where can you turn?
One tool that is uniquely designed to help you monitor and manage Hybrid deployments is Mailscape by ENow Software. A finalist in The Best of TechEd 2014 Awards, Mailscape for Exchange Online automatically tests that the networking components, mail flow, Active Directory Federation Services, and DirSync components are setup correctly. Other capabilities include:
- Network Port verification
- Ensures that all necessary ports for a Hybrid deployment are open. Also monitors connection response times.
- Microsoft End Point verification
- Validates that all appropriate End Points for Exchange Online, ADFS and DirSync are available.
- Internal Network monitoring
- Verifies that users at your location can access Microsoft Datacenter’s via your network.
- True ADFS functionality testing
- Automatically performs a single sign on to verify that all components of ADFS are functioning correctly.
- True DirSync functionality testing
- Modifies an attribute of an on-premise user and then verifies if the change is made in the cloud directory.
- 365 Mail flow testing
- Automatically sends mail from Office 365 to on premise servers.
- Automatically sends mail from Office 365 to the Internet.
Mailscape also contains over 50 customizable reports out of the box. You can customize existing reports as well as create new queries with minimal efforts thanks to our extensible reporting engine.
Hybrid deployments adoption rates remain high. In fact, Microsoft has noted that O365 is the fastest growing business in company history! In short, it’s not a matter of if you will be migrating, but when. These deployments have several moving parts that need to be monitored in order to ensure reliable messaging and calendaring services. Email is mission critical, therefore make sure your team has as much visibility into the cloud as possible.
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Managing Hybrid Deployments w/ Mailscape