Analyzing Updates for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook Since June 2016

The hot spots of change inside Office 365

One of the touted advantages of cloud services is the delivery of “evergreen” software. In other words, users don’t have to do anything to upgrade their software because it all happens in the cloud. Normally, this is a good thing because the updated software delivers new functionality and features. However, the constantly changing nature of the software can also be disruptive for administrators and users alike, especially when something is updated without warning.

In the case of Office 365, the author team for the “Office 365 for IT Pros” eBook keep a vigilant eye on what’s happening across all elements of the service plus associated technology like Azure Active Directory. We observe, learn, analyze, and then figure out whether any changes are required in the content of the eBook. Updates are then published weekly to incorporate changes and customers who have bought the current edition of the eBook can download fresh copies from (EPUB and PDF versions) or Amazon (Kindle). Well, we let Amazon know that a new version has been published. They make the decision whether to advise purchasers whether an update is available.

Given that we track changes made to the chapters in the eBook, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the change log for Office 365 for IT Pros to determine the “hot spots” or places where most change has occurred since the third edition was first published on June 1, 2016. Here’s the distribution of the 160 recorded updates over the 23 chapters in the eBook up to and including the version released on December 10, 2016.


Some of the changes Microsoft applied to Office 365 in that period don’t show up in our data if we didn’t cover them. We have to apply a certain amount of editorial control over what we cover as otherwise the book would be even larger than its current 430,000-word 900-plus page size. In addition, some of the changes that we’ve recorded are relatively small and insignificant whereas others (like the introduction of Microsoft Teams) are very large and important. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, the change log does identify the major hot spots pretty accurately.

The top 10 chapters in terms of updates since June are:

Chapter Title Updates
9 Office 365 Groups 27
23 Doing more with Office 365 14
19 Reporting and Auditing 13
22 Delve and MyAnalytics 11
1 Introduction to Office 365 9
5 Managing Office 365 9
18 Security and Compliance Center 9
7 Managing mailboxes 8
10 Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Teams 8
2 Making the move 7

It’s easy to explain why so many changes were made to some of these chapters. For example:

  • Chapter 9: Lots of change has occurred for Office 365 Groups, including the provision of guest user access, the new AAD-based policy for group settings, the introduction of Microsoft Teams, and lots of experience gained from managing groups in the field.
  • Chapter 23: The introduction of SharePoint modern team sites. The introduction of Microsoft Stream as a long-term replacement for Office 365 Video. The advent of Yammer Groups based on Office 365 Groups. The introduction of Microsoft Teams as yet another way to collaborate within Office 365.
  • Chapter 19: The addition of new audit event sources for the Office 365 Audit log. The introduction of Advanced Security Management (ASM). The addition of Activity Alerts.
  • Chapter 22; Subtle changes in the Delve user interface including a new way of displaying user profile information. Changes in the Delve cards. Renaming of Delve Analytics to be MyAnalytics. New information from real-life deployments about the effectiveness of MyAnalytics in the field.
  • Chapter 1: More information about Office 365 user numbers and revenues. Introduction of the U.K. datacenter region. Comparison between Office 365 and Google G-Suite. New mobile applications.

Apart from providing insight into where change is most frequent inside Office 365, the exercise gives us some guidance as to where we should focus coverage for the fourth edition, which we hope to publish in March 2017. It also tells us where we need some structural change (for instance, chapter 9 is now far too big and needs to be split) and where we can cut (chapter 17 covering eDiscovery for Exchange and SharePoint can probably be discarded now). The focus for eDiscovery inside Office 365 is now firmly on the functionality exposed through the Security and Compliance Center that applies to multiple workloads, so that’s what we will concentrate on in future.

A similar case could be made for chapter 16 as Microsoft is pressing forward with the development of data governance policies to replace retention policies for all workloads. However, the development of the new data governance policies is less advanced than the eDiscovery functionality, so chapter 16 might be retained (no pun intended) for another edition.

This data underlines the constant change that’s occurring inside Office 365. It would be impossible to cope with this degree of upheaval through a printed book. I’m glad we went down the eBook route…

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros,” the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

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Microsoft Office 365 Administration Inside Out – Lost in Updates?

It seems like some of the issues that might have been anticipated when Microsoft Press laid off its editorial staff in July 2016 are bearing fruit. At least, some of the promised titles that should have appeared by now have not shown up. And you’ve got to believe that the trauma and upheaval caused by last July’s transition of responsibilities for book production to Pearson (a perfectly capable company) have not been helpful.

One of the titles that was expected by now is the long-awaited update for “Microsoft Office 365 Administration Inside Out”. Originally released in October 2013, the current book is now very much out of date. That’s no fault of the authors because the world they wrote about in 2013 is not what we see today. The new book was scheduled for release in October 2016, but I can find no trace of it on Amazon or in any other bookstore, including Microsoft Press’s own online store.

The second edition of Microsoft Office 365 Administration Inside Out is supposed to be part of the “current book service“. Purchasers will receive periodic updates for the web (online) version for 12 to 18 months after the original publication. I believe that three updates are planned for the Office 365 book. Readers have to connect to to access the updated content, which cannot be downloaded to an eBook reader. Helpfully, Microsoft says that the “web edition can be used on tablets that use current web browsers.”

Of course, the “Office 365 for IT Pros” eBook team are well aware of the problems of keeping content refreshed and current when it covers a service that is in a state of constant flux. We always thought that the October 2016 date was going to be a stretch because of the fact that Microsoft would make so many announcements about new functionality around the Ignite conference in late September.

I guess the original book could have been published with the knowledge that some of the Ignite content would be omitted, the plan being to issue an update soon thereafter. But perhaps the author team decided to wait so that they could document features such as Microsoft Teams and guest user access for Office 365 Groups. If so, it would be nice to know when the book is coming rather than just seeing “unavailable” everywhere.


Microsoft Office 365 Administration Inside Out – Currently Unavailable

In any case, issuing updated content online and not providing refreshed copies of the PDF, EPUB, and MOBI format books seems like a bad plan. It’s hard for readers to cross-reference and match up new content against an old version of a book and much better when a completely new version is issued. I imagine that the reason why Microsoft Press plans to only issue updates online is to avoid the cost of layout for a new version – and perhaps re-indexing.

The Office 365 for IT Pros team is interested in seeing what the authors of “Office 365 Administration Inside Out” produce and how Microsoft Press updates the content as promised. By comparison, we update content for Office 365 for IT Pros weekly and we do so by issuing fully-updated PDFs, EPUB, and MOBI (Kindle) formats. We do not index the book anything because the search facilities in eReaders are pretty good at finding information as required. Our latest update is dated 3 December 2016 and is available to anyone who purchased a copy of the third edition.

It would be nice to only have to update a book three times in 18 months but I fear that this approach is impractical given the subject matter. Office 365 flexes and changes so quickly that if you don’t keep up, you’d be faced with a massive rewrite every six months. Anyone who looked through the change log for Office 365 for IT Pros will soon realize the volume of change that occurs within the service. It seems better to update weekly and keep pace that way. At least we can say that every update we issue reflects the current state of the art (in our eyes). That’s a nice position to be in.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

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Heading to IT/DEV Connections in Las Vegas

The annual IT/DEV Connections conference takes place in the ARIA Hotel, Las Vegas next week. After the rush-and-bustle and massive scale of the Microsoft Ignite conference, Connections will be very different. Relaxed. Time to think. Time to chat. Time to ponder. At least, that’s the theory.

Last-minute speaker snafus aside, I’m looking forward to the event. The conference is a nice size and is focused on practical issues of implementing Microsoft technology rather than the (sometimes) colored view that emits from the folks who inhabit the Redmond campus. Because the Redmondites use the latest and greatest software and have access to internal resources that no one outside their closed community can use, it is logical that their view of the world is somewhat different to that of an administrator who struggles with “last season’s” technology, complete with bugs that have since been fixed or features that might no longer exist. In any case, we’ll have fun discussing all that needs to be discussed.

Among the (technical) heavyweights of the Exchange/Office 365 community who are speaking in the Enterprise Collaboration track this year are:

Andrew Higginbotham, co-author of the “Exchange Server Troubleshooting Companion“. Andrew is speaking about Exchange virtualization mistakes (that he’d like you to avid), Office 365 migration and administration for small businesses, and troubleshooting Exchange performance, disaster recovery, and migration.

Paul Cunningham, traveling over to join us from Brisbane, Australia. Paul is Mr. ExchangeServerPro and has contributed to many books, including the unique and (we believe) tremendously successful Office 365 for IT Pros ebook.

Paul Robichaux, who collaborated with me on the Exchange 2013 Inside Out series, will address the serious topic of monitoring Office 365 and explain what works and what doesn’t. Paul’s second session looks at how to go beyond Office 365 in the world of the Microsoft cloud.

Ståle Hansen, a well-known personality in the Skype for Business (and Lync) world, is speaking about how to design global voice solutions with Skype for Business and how to succed with Skype for Business Meeting Broadcast.

Jeff Guillet (Expta), who seems to get more energy as the years go by (perhaps he has shares in Duracell), is speaking about how to confirm a “proper”! SMTP relay for Exchange on-premises and Exchange Online. Jeff also has an interestingly named session called “Autodiscover is Hero of Exchange Motherland”. Make of that what you will…

Jaap Wesselius and Michel de Rooij, MVPs who know their way around PowerShell syntax and even understand it from time to time, will conduct a workshop on Monday morning that promises to tell people some advanced secrets of the dark art of scripting. Maybe they have been reading too many Harry Potter books…

That’s just a brief glance into the speaker line-up – there are many others who deserve mention but I can’t fit into this space.

Apart from running around to help make sure that things run smoothly, I’ll be speaking about “MyAnalytics and the rise of machine learning inside Office 365” on Tuesday. I also have the pleasure of introducing a fine panel from the Exchange development team on Wednesday when the challenge exists to “bamboozle the Exchange experts”. The members of this panel include Greg Taylor, David Espinoza, Brian Day, Ross Smith IV, and Jeff Mealiffe, all of whom are well-known within the Exchange community. It should be interesting – that is, if the folks at Connections come up with some difficult questions.

More details about the IT/DEV Connections sessions for 2016 can be found in the catalog.

No doubt some folks will find their way to the Scheduled Maintenance party in the Ghostbar of The Palms Hotel on Tuesday (9pm-midnight). Passes to this party are by invitation only. Request yours on this site. And if you attend the party, please be sure to turn up for Wednesday’s sessions with a smile on your face. You know it makes sense.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros,” the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

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Ignite done, now on to Connections!

Leaving the controlled bedlam that is Microsoft Ignite behind, I travel to Las Vegas next week for the more intimate and less stressful IT/DEV Connections event, where I’ll be chairing the Enterprise Collaboration track. If you want to catch up with what happened at Ignite, I published five articles on

Office 365 News from Ignite – Day 1: The keynotes, Exchange 2016 CU3 and the Outlook REST API, the Outlook apps have completed their move to the Microsoft Cloud – but not for everyone, and no change in the reported number for Office 365 monthly active users.

Yammer and Office 365 Groups ConnectThe Yammer community will have been relieved to have heard Monday’s announcement that the long-awaited and much-promised connection between Office 365 Groups and Yammer is coming (Figure 1). According to Microsoft, the new capabilities will be delivered in a series of phased updates. However, only new Yammer groups will be able to take advantage of the linkup with Office 365 Groups.

Office 365 at Ignite – Exchange, SharePoint, and more: There’s lots to hear and learn about relating to Office 365 at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta this week. All of the product groups are putting their best face forward to impress and amaze customers with what has happened or what will happen inside the service. Here’s some of what I have been hearing.

Office 365 Groups News from IgniteOffice 365 Groups occupy a special place in Microsoft’s collaboration strategy. The link-up between Yammer and Groups was the headline news for some people, but a lot of other facts were revealed at the Ignite conference, mostly around operational improvements to help tenants manage groups better. Here’s some of what I encountered.

Wrapping up Ignite – more Office 365 Snippets:  Some of the things I found out or explored during the week include a solid DLP roadmap for Office 365, how BMC Remedy creates incident tickets from DLP audit events, that Veeam now offers a backup for Exchange Online, how QUADROtech’s ADAM plans to drag public folders into the 21st century, the delights of recording a special version of the Office 365 Exposed podcast, why Office 365 will use classification policies in the future, and my continuing frustration with the old OneDrive for Business sync client. Maybe the new client will fix all known ailments.

I also participated in three sessions:

The Grand Exchange debate – why you would or would not want to move mailboxes to the cloud. This was a fun exercise with Greg Taylor and Steve Conn of Microsoft designed to surface the reasons why people want to stay on-premises and debate whether the reasons hold true. We didn’t want to come up with a definitive answer because no such answer exists. Instead, we wanted to provoke a discussion and I think that we succeeded in that respect.

The Ultimate Field Guide to Office 365 Groups. Microsoft gave a lot of information at Ignite about future developments for Office 365 Groups. This session provided a counterweight in that it focused on how groups are used in the field.

Meet twin sons of different mothers (MVPs and Exchange engineers). I chaired this panel session where most of the questions were about on-premises and hybrid configurations. Karim Battish and Jeff Mealiffe of Microsoft were busy answering, but Andrew Higginbotham and Jeff Guillet had some views to share too.

All-in-all, it was a busy time at Ignite. The value of the conference is not all in the breakout sessions, interesting as they are. I actually get a lot more from meeting people and companies to take the pulse of what’s happening in the technology spaces that I care about. After all, you can always watch the Ignite sessions online.

In any case, it’s time to get my head down and finish the sessions I have to deliver at IT/DEV Connections and at the UK UC Day a week or so afterwards…

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros,” the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

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Fun and Games (and $2220 to be won) at Microsoft Ignite


Anyone who has attended large technology conferences that include a vendor exhibition know the routine. Cramped booths, disinterested staff sneaking looks at their smartphones instead of engaging with conference attendees, and giveaways that range from the banal (the ubiquitous t-shirt emblazoned with the vendor logo) to the frankly weird (anything electronic that features flashing lights).

It’s easy to complain about how vendors attempt to be noticed at exhibitions but it’s a lot harder to come up with new ways of engaging with potential customers, especially if you want to do something different that’s a bit of fun. Sybari, the company that revolutionized anti-virus scanning for Exchange at the end of the 1990s, had the right attitude when they launched a series of impressive stands with great giveaways at TechEd events. I remember a Harley-Davidson motorcycle being given away one year and a Mini car on another occasion. Sybari were never less than interesting. That is, until they were acquired by Microsoft.

Which brings me to the Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta next week. Ignite has a very large exhibition because vendors know that this is a once-in-the-year opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a huge number of potential customers and partners. The space for stands has been bought, stand designs commissioned, and vendors are honing demos, messages, and giveaways for next week. The Ignite exhibition area will be a bear garden of noise, signs of all shapes and sizes, and people.

Apart from Microsoft, it’s going to be hard for any other vendor to stand out and attract attention at Ignite. This is the challenge that faced the marketing team at QUADROtech, where I serve as an external director. A discussion over a couple of drinks brought an idea of leveraging the current Pokémon Go fad. Not that I know much about Pokémon, apart from the observation that having the app active on a smartphone makes people bump into others as they stroll the streets of Dublin. Even so, the idea of searching for and “capturing” special people to score points is one that can be applied in many different circumstances.

QUADROtech is offering conference attendees the chance of winning $2,220 by participating in a game to capture “QTmons”. Instead of being a “virtual creature”, A QTmon (pronounced “cutie-mon”) is a personality in the Office 365 world –  perhaps an MVP or a Microsoft engineer – who is at the conference. Each QTmon is assigned a points value. A full list of the QTmons is available online.

After registering with QUADROtech at booth #1948 (hint – registration is only possible when the Ignite exhibit hall is open, register as soon as the hall opens on Monday to get maximum game time), players score points by “capturing” a QTmon by taking a picture of the QTmon (and themselves) on their smartphone and tweeting the resulting photo. To score, the tweet has to contain the number of the QTmon and the special #QTmon hashtag. Something like:

“I captured #QTmon #50 at #MSIgnite.”

A QTmon is captured (image credit: Michel de Rooij)

A QTmon is captured (image credit: Michel de Rooij)

QUADROtech is providing players with t-shirts and extra points can be scored if the QTmon signs the shirt and the signature is visible in the tweeted photo (hint – use something like a black Sharpie for the signature). Extra points are also scored by taking pictures of QTmons at special events, such as the Scheduled Maintenance party on Monday night. An online leaderboard will help players track their progress.

The game is intended to provide some lighthearted fun during a serious conference – but the serious matter of $2,220 in hard cash is there to be won and I imagine that QTmons will be pursued with vigor during the week. Remember to be polite when you ask a QTmon for a signature and a photo!

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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A new sponsor for Office 365 for IT Pros

The Office 365 for IT Pros book has a new sponsor! The author team is delighted to announce that QUADROtech has agreed to support the project for the next year. An update to the book has been issued containing a new chapter authored by QUADROtech along with a set of regular updates to chapters. See the change log for details. PDF and EPUB formats of the updated books are available at now. An update for Amazon Kindle is making its way through the Amazon publication process and will be available shortly

All of the author team have day jobs. Mine is as an advisor to companies, Paul runs the site and writes books like the recently released Exam Ref 70-345 for deploying Exchange 2016, and Michael is a busy consultant in Belgium. Without sponsorship, it would be impossible to dedicate the time and energy required to keep the Office 365 for IT Pros project pushing ahead. We would lose the ability to keep the book as up-to-date as possible and we would not have the time to poke into the corners of Office 365 to understand what really happens.

As part of their sponsorship, QUADROtech is making some free copies of the book available to people who sign up on their site.

We’re very grateful to the support that Binary Tree provided over the last year. Without their help we would not have been able to issue the third edition. At least, not in the content-rich form that it is. We look forward to working with Binary Tree in the future.

Now that sponsorship is in place, we look forward to being able to improve the content in the third edition even more and to prepare for the publication of the fourth edition, probably in early 2017.

Thanks for all of your support.

Tony, Paul, and Michael

Posted in Cloud, Delve, Delve Analytics, Email, Exchange, Exchange Online, Office 365, Office 365 Groups | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Reasons not to move from on-premises Exchange to Office 365

As many readers will be aware, Microsoft’s Ignite conference starts in Atlanta on September 26, 2016. I am speaking at a number of sessions. Possibly my favorite is the opportunity to debate Greg Taylor from the Microsoft Exchange development group on the topic “The Top Ten reasons not to move your Exchange on-premises mailboxes to Exchange Online“. The debate will be chaired by Steve Conn, who might have quite a task on his hands as those who have seen Greg in action in the past understand how excited he can become. I’ll be the calm, logical one with the scintillating comments. Or not. We’ll just have to see.

In any case, we need to understand the reasons why people might choose to leave their mailboxes on-premises so that we can debate the rationale and reasoning. I’ve put together a list of the most common reasons I know of and would appreciate your help in recording others, if they exist. Please reply to this topic with your reason and we’ll add it to the mix.

I doubt that we will get to debate more than 10 topics during the 75-minute session… But you never know!

Thanks for your help

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Backup and recovery

  1. Microsoft uses Native Data Protection and doesn’t take backups of Exchange Online data. I like to have the security of backups, just in case an administrator or a user does something stupid – or we are hit by a ransomware attack and have to restore some mailboxes.

Stability and robustness

  1. Our Exchange 2013 infrastructure delivers better availability to our business than we believe is possible from Office 365, especially with all the horror stories we hear about multi-hour outages for essential components like AAD and EOP. The SLA results as reported by Microsoft are accurate for the entire service but don’t reflect the experience of individual tenants.
  2. Our server infrastructure is modern, we’re up to date with Windows Server, and we think we have a highly cost-effective platform for the next five years.
  3. Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016 are feature-rich email servers already and Microsoft is doing a good job in transferring some excellent technology from the cloud, like Managed Availability, simplified DAGs, and automatic DAG activation. We don’t need anything else.
  4. Our Exchange admins are the best in the business and have our Windows servers humming beautifully. Why would we plunge into the unknown world of Office 365 and all its component parts?
  5. When a problem happens inside Office 365, it seems like no one knows what is really happening and you have to fall back on Twitter and Facebook to gain some insight into how widespread the problem is and when it might be resolved. That’s an unacceptable state of affairs for our business. In other words, monitoring and reporting for Office 365 to understand the current state of affairs on a minute-by-minute basis is poor when compared to what we can do inside an on-premises environment.
  6. We’ve heard that the Office 365 support is pretty poor at times and you have to wait before you can get to speak to someone who isn’t reading off a script and might actually be able to help. That’s a big concern when you consider moving from a tightly managed and well-supported on-premises environment.


  1. We want to use our own keys with Exchange and AAD RMS and Exchange Online doesn’t support BYOK. In other words, I don’t trust Microsoft to protect the privacy and security of my organization’s email and documents, if we let them own the encryption keys.
  2. The fact that the Office Graph records every interaction between Office 365 users is downright scary in a “big brother” kind of way. There’s no way that my users want or need to know the kind of information that Delve Analytics reports.


  1. My Microsoft sales person is selling Office 365 because they are compensated on that basis. They’re not interested in listening to our desire to remain on-premises and that makes us believe that the move to the cloud is great for Microsoft and probably less good for us.
  2. We don’t trust the costs cited by Microsoft for Office 365. You start off with a low monthly cost but then need to spend more to get the functionality that you really need, like AAD Premium or a high-end plan. We also think that you have to spend a lot of time managing licenses to make sure that you’re not overpaying for unused licenses.
  3. There’s no guarantee that Microsoft won’t increase the costs of all the bits we need to buy to create our Office 365 environment at a higher rate than inflation to achieve their goal of a $20 billion annual revenue run rate for commercial cloud products by mid-2018.
  4. Exchange is the fulcrum of an ecosystem we have constructed to serve business needs. To move to Office 365, we’d need to do a heap of redevelopment to make sure that Exchange Online delivers everything that we need. That work costs money.


  1. Giving users a standard 50 GB mailbox quota only encourages them to keep stuff that they should delete immediately. If we want to give 50 GB quotas, we can, especially now that storage costs are so low and Exchange 2016 does such a good job of supporting JBOD.
  2. We have users in some pretty remote places where Internet access is not great. The cloud’s not for us.
  3. Office 365 requires customers to keep software components at a far more recent level than we are accustomed to on-premises. It seems that we would be constantly updating Exchange 2016 to maintain support for a hybrid connection or Outlook to make sure that clients can connect to Exchange Online. That seems like a whole heap of effort for not a lot of return.
  4. The rate of change inside Office 365 is too rapid and challenging for our business users to cope with. No one wants to see a new client interface every three months. We like the stability and robustness we can assure through our own deployment.


  1. Public folders are all the collaboration tools that any reasonable person could want. It will take us forever to move the data out of public folders and to realign business processes around new types of collaboration tools. That’s a real hidden cost of migration both in terms of getting the work done and the business disruption. We just can’t take that cost on now.
  2. There seems to be a lot of SharePoint wrapped up in Office 365. Who wants to go near that stuff?

Out of the box thinking

  1. I do want to move to the cloud and am thinking about migrating from Exchange to
  2. We believe that Microsoft will fulfil their commitment to support Exchange 2016 until 2025. Why would we ever move until they stop supporting on-premises software?
  3. If we migrated to the cloud, Ross Smith IV and Greg Taylor would hate us very much and that would be no fun.
Posted in Cloud, Email, Exchange, Exchange Online, Office 365 | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments