My migration to Exchange Online

By jpsmit
January 6, 2015

Being a freelance consultant I have a domain registered, which comes with email and hosting. When I started my company back in 2008 I took the most cheap solution (typical Dutch) and everything went fairly well. Every now and then I had an email outage but only a couple of times a year and not for long periods of time.
Nonetheless this started to annoy me that much that I decided to move to the cloud: Exchange Online

This was back in March 2014, just after another outage. I wrote the words ‘Exchange Online’ as TODO on the whiteboard in my study. But moving to another email provider is pretty scary, for me at least: You don’t want to be left without for a couple of days (or worse). So I postponed it again and again until the next outage in November 2014, after which I decided to really move during Christmas.
This after all is a time of limited email traffic so I felt confident to make the journey.

The first step was checking out which ‘plan‘ I needed, the $4 or $8 a month plan. Basically the difference is unlimited storage, but ‘Basic’ already is 50 Gb per user.

Next step is registering and I’ll save you from the rest of the steps because they’re pretty well described in other blog posts and in

When logging in you’ll get an Office365 portal with the typical Outlook items and an Exchange Online admin section. Being a developer it was an eye opener to find the number of options you can configure, because this is normally the system engineers domain. Suddenly you’re an Exchange administrator!

Next step is configuring the domain to be used, otherwise you’ll end up with <your name>@<your company> but it was pretty easy: just add some DNS fields and you’re done.

Then finally the actual reason I started this blog post, which obviously isn’t a post like my regular ones but it might be helpful for others. Like mentioned I’m a freelance consultant and I own the domain ‘’. For tracing reasons I provide a customized email address to every customer, supplier or other contact I need to provide an email address to. The customization means I put the contact name in the email address, so for example for LinkedIn I would use “linkedin(at)”. In this way I can setup Outlook rules, but it is also traceable which source used this email address. More than once I found one of my email addresses in a place it shouldn’t be like a spam list. Some time ago I actually was able to inform a Dutch blog of their compromised CMS before they knew it……

When configuring Exchange Online you need to have a license for every mailbox you create. Since I don’t want to create a mailbox for each and every email address, I configured a ‘Catch All’ account at my previous provider. I was under the assumption this was ordinary, but it appears Microsoft has a policy not to allow catch all accounts because they attract spam. While this is a viable reason, it is not very handy for me so I started my search for a solution because this had to be fixed.

Luckily I found the solution in this blog post by YourItHelp. It describes you have to tell Exchange Online upfront it is not authoritative for your domain, which means it shouldn’t manage its accounts. By disabling this it assumes accounts exist in other locations and Exchange Online is just functioning as relay in case it cannot find a recipient.

After that you can configure a rule to catch all email which has a recipient ‘outside the organization’, this is perfectly described in the blog post from Your IT Help. Although I still had a short fight with the catch all rule definition (I found out it also caught all of my outgoing email 🙁 ), I’m very happy with the result and Exchange Online integrates very well with my Nokia 930 so I found out 🙂

I’m one step closer to the cloud!

Cheers, Jean-Paul

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