Considerations for Meeting Multi-Factor Authentication Requirements in Office 365


Many organizations have stated policies for requiring multi-factor authentication (a.k.a. “2-step verification”) when accessing sensitive data from outside the corporate network. When moving  to the cloud, you are moving the data outside of your corporate perimeter, and you are also allowing your user to access it outside the same perimeter – both the data and the user lives outside your firewalls. This changes the rules of the game, and the existing service access policy must often be updated to reflect these new parameters.

If not considering the big picture, what cloud and SaaS actually means, and by not considering modern security measures such as Conditional Access or Rights Management Services for protecting content instead of just limiting access, it is easy to implement a too complex solution that lead to low user adoption and basically no usage in the mobile context (which Office 365 is very much about). The added complexity of an “MFA everywhere mindset” can actually give an opposite effect – people finding their own ways to solve the problem through rogue IT solutions based on commercial cloud services. A good rule of thumb when designing the service access solution is that “it should never take more time to get connected to do the work than it takes to actually do the work”.


This article presents considerations to take when meeting multi-factor authentication (MFA) requirements during an implementation of Office 365, to avoid introducing a solution that causes revolting end-users and decreased business productivity.


While multi-factor authentication is often considered as “the silver bullet” when it comes to service access security measures, it is vital to understand the type of innovation that has been going on for the last 5-10 years, and with that the new kind of services that now are available that can protect the content rather than just limiting the access. Multi-factor authentication comes with a cost of complexity for the end-user, and you often find that for the kind of information most users handle day-to-day – multi-factor authentication is not required if an alternative is put to place instead (and there is a wide array of alternatives). Here is a list of example content protection solutions, part of Office 365 and/or EMS/Azure AD Premium, that could be a replacement for, or supplement to, multi-factor authentication:

  1. Azure AD Identity Protection: This service utilizes machine learning and anomaly reports to both present current risk events in your organization and to automatically act on them. As an example, the service can detect credential theft by analyzing log-on behavior (such as simultaneous logon attempts from different continents of the world) and automatically act to secure the account before data is at risk. It will also detect sign-in attempts from infected devices and suspicious IP-addresses, and even patrol the dark web for credentials that are leaked from your organization. Read about Azure AD Identity Protection here. Azure AD Identity Protection is a part of Azure AD Premium and EMS (where Azure AD Premium is included).
  2. Rights Management Services (RMS): Together with data sensitivity classifications, properly introduced RMS can move the protection from access-centric (i.e. VPN, MFA) to content-centric (encrypted content that keeps data secure even if breach/data loss occurs). Read more here. The standard version of RMS is included in Office 365 E3/E5 and as an add-on license, whilst the Premium version of RMS (RMS Premium) is a part of EMS or can be purchased as a standalone license.
  3. Office 365 Message Encryption (OME): For e-mail, this RMS-based technology can keep e-mail body and attachment secure, even when sending to external recipients. Read more here, and see my post about implementing OME here. Office 365 Message Encryption is part of the standard version of RMS (Office 365 E3/E5 or as an add-on license).
  4. Data Loss Prevention (DLP): This service fills two main purposes – it can prevent data to fall in to the wrong hands and it can help the organization to comply with business regulations, such as HIPAA, SOX, PCI DSS and FISMA. Data Loss Prevention can identify sensitive data in e-mail, SharePoint Sites and in OneDrive for Business and allows you to configure measures to be taken when it is at risk for leakage, such as applying RMS encryption or preventing an e-mail from being sent. Read more about DLP here. DLP is part of Office 365 E3/E5.
  5. Advanced Thread Protection (ATP): An intelligent remedy for zero-day attacks and spear-phishing. ATP is first released for e-mail in Exchange Online, but is expanding to Windows Defender and probably to other Office 365 workloads as well, eventually. ATP opens/executes e-mail attachments in a virtual machine and analyze it before delivering them to the recipient. The analysis will find ransomware such as CryptoLocker, or other types of malicious code that has not yet landed as a signature in the regular signature-based spam filter (Exchange Online Protection). ATP will also do the same type of test for any link that is in the e-mail, to protect the organization from spear-phishing. Read more about ATP for Exchange Online here, and ATP for Windows Defender here. ATP is part of Office 365 E5 or as a standalone license.
  6. Conditional Access: The concept of Conditional Access allows you to set device-based conditions for allowing or blocking access to your organizations data. The most common example of this is to require mobile devices to be enrolled (MDM), or mobile device applications to be registered (MAM), together with a policy enforcement of certain sanity requirements (i.e. PIN-code is enabled, device is not jail-broken or rooted etc.). Together with these policies, you can require multi-factor authentication for registering the device, but not later. This allows you to secure content through multi-factor authentication, but just require the mobile token upon device enrollment/MAM-registration, and then trust your security policies to secure the device. Conditional Access is also what allows you to enable multi-factor authentication for Office 365 services individually (i.e. enabling it for SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and Outlook/OWA, but not for ActiveSync or Skype for Business) – without Conditional Access, you have to enable MFA in Office 365 for all services or none. Read more about Conditional Access here and here. Basic functionality for Conditional Access is included in Office 365, while more advanced functionality (such as per-workload MFA) requires Azure AD Premium or EMS (where Azure AD Premium is included).

It is first when you understand the full palette of service access and content protection technologies available that you can take the right decision whether if, how and for whom Office 365 multi-factor authentication is needed and should be implemented for in your organization. Remember the two sides of the scale – ultimate usability vs. ultimate security.

Azure AD Identity Protection provides modern features to protect your corporate identities.

Azure AD Identity Protection provides modern features to protect your corporate identities.


After looking into the alternatives, the next thing to consider about MFA is the inside/outside parameter. In most cases, MFA is something that should occur outside the corporate network, but not while at your desk inside the office firewall. To achieve this with Office 365, you must define your inside network by providing all public IP-addresses for your internet break-outs (firewalls and web proxies etc.). By providing all public break-out IP-addresses, Azure AD can at the time of authentication see whether you are attempting an authentication from the corporate network or in the mobile context, so that you can avoid bothering your end-users with MFA while at work. This configuration is called Trusted IPs (or contextual IP address whitelisting), and is also fundamental to the Conditional Access technology mentioned in this article.

The big consideration? If you are not using federated identities with ADFS, it requires one of the following licenses: Azure MFA, Azure AD Premium or EMS (that includes Azure AD Premium. If you are not using ADFS and don’t have any of these licenses, enabling MFA means enabling MFA everywhere – both in the office and outside the office. Read more here. If you are using federated identities / ADFS, you can achieve this even without any of the Azure MFA / Azure AD Premium / EMS if you are using claim rules – again see this post by MVP Johan Dahlbom for details. The post also explains the “Skip multi-factor authentication for requests from following range of IP address subnets” option.

These are the settings where you can define the inside and outside of your corporate network. Important as you probably don't want to bother end-users with MFA prompts when working from the office.

These are the settings where you can define the inside and outside of your corporate network. Important as you probably don’t want to bother end-users with MFA prompts when working from the office.


Under Consideration #1 above, you could read about Azure AD Conditional Access for SaaS. Without this service, multi-factor authentication for Office 365 becomes more complicated to implement in large enterprise environments. Without Conditional Access, you can only toggle multi-factor authentication on or off in Office 365 in one generic setting across the full suite, which includes Exchange Active Sync (mobile access to your e-mail and calendar using the built-in Mail apps in Android and iOS etc.). For Active Sync without Azure AD Conditional Access for SaaS (or ADFS claim rules, see below), the user is required to use something called App Passwords, which are secondary passwords that the user must generate per device in the web browser. The enrollment process for App Passwords is fairly complicated for an average user, and often require a lot of support from Service Desk and similar functions. App Passwords used to be required in the rich Office applications as well, but since the Office 2013 SP1 March 2015 update, you can use proper multi-factor authentication within Office (this version requirement for Office is a consideration in itself).

Using App Passwords for Active Sync in enterprise environments is not working very well in practice, which is why we want to avoid that. By using Azure AD Conditional Access for SaaS, we can choose to enable multi-factor authentication, but keep it “disabled” for Active Sync and instead trust device enrollment (MDM) or device registration in the Outlook app (MAM) to secure mobile e-mail access. If you are using federated identities (ADFS), you can also disable MFA for Active Sync by using claim rules in ADFS, which MVP Johan Dahlbom explains very well in this article. The claim rules solution will also work without Azure AD Premium / EMS.

As mentioned under Consideration #1, MFA can be required when doing MDM enrollment, or when accessing data using MAM – however the important thing here is that your end-users don’t have to enroll for App Passwords to be able to use e-mail and calendar on their phone. Note that the Microsoft Outlook app for iOS/Android/Windows 10 Mobile have support for MFA. Read more about Azure AD Conditional Access for SaaS Apps here.

With Azure AD Conditional Access for SaaS, you can configure individual access rules for the different Office 365 workloads. Here is an overview of the settings available for Exchange Online.

With Azure AD Conditional Access for SaaS, you can configure individual access rules for the different Office 365 workloads. Here is an overview of the settings available for Exchange Online.


The final consideration for implementing multi-factor authentication is to reflect your full user base, and how MFA will work for everyone. Here is a list of parameters to reflect:

  1. Data access and user profiles: Before enabling MFA, think about what data different users in different departments actually can access and is working with. Maybe a certain user profile can only access that is not so sensitive that it falls under the MFA requirement, and does not have to be enabled for MFA?
  2. Overall complexity and user profiles: After MFA is enabled for a user, he or she needs to go through an enrollment process. This process is often straight-forward for someone who spends their full day in front of the screen and reads corporate communications on changes to come. However, there are often user profiles who may have a very hard time to enroll for MFA because of lower it-maturity or interest etc. Do not underestimate the different skill levels across your full user base, and involve all user profiles when you pilot the enrollment process.
  3. Users and devices in developing countries: MFA in Azure AD / Office 365 is using mobile phones to deliver the access token to the user (via SMS text, phone call or through the Microsoft Authenticator app). In developing countries, not everyone is having a smart phone (for the Microsoft Authenticator app) or even a mobile or desktop phone (for SMS text or phone calls). If the user does not have a personal phone, Azure AD / Office 365 MFA is not a good fit. Also, in developing countries there are sometimes delays in delivering SMS text messages or even phone calls (I have seen cases with up to 8 hours of delayed delivery on SMS text messages caused by the local telephony service provider) – this factor is very important to take into consideration before enabling MFA for everyone.
  4. Office versions being used: As mentioned under Consideration #3 above, multi-factor authentication requires at least version “Office 2013 SP1 with the March 2015 update” to support proper multi-factor authentication prompts within the Office-applications, and not requiring the obsolete App Password technology. If you have user profiles that are on earlier versions of Office, you might need to do an extensive upgrade effort before you can implement MFA.


As you can see, there are many things to consider before enabling MFA in Office 365. Factors such as what licenses you have, where/who your users are and whether modern alternatives can meet the security requirements must all be taken in to account.

If you are going to enable multi-factor authentication, I strongly recommend you to do it only for the users who can access sensitive information, using Trusted IPs, and configure it to not use App Passwords for Active Sync (through Conditional Access or ADFS Claim Rules). For dealing with “credential theft”, consider Azure AD Identity Protection. As a last recommendation – pilot thoroughly for all your user profiles before introducing MFA globally.

I hope these considerations and recommendations are helpful. For any questions or article feedback, please reach out via Twitter, @JesperStahle.

Guidelines for Office 365 User Provisioning and De-provisioning Processes – The Lost Documentation


Introducing Office 365 and Azure AD in an Enterprise environment always raises the question around how object provisioning-, de-provisioning- and organizational change-processes will be affected. These are three common concerns and questions that I get from Enterprise customers in the planning phase of an Office 365 onboarding project:

  1. The customer is using an identity management (IDM/IAM) solution for provisioning accounts, and want’s to better understand how Office 365 / Azure AD will affect that landscape.
  2. The customer have special de-provisioning routines for retaining user data (i.e. keeping the mailbox and home folder data etc.), and needs to know how these processes should be updated when Office 365 is introduced.
  3. The customer understands the provisioning and de-provisioning processes, but want’s to automate them as much as possible.

The purpose of this article is to provide guidelines on how to approach this topic. Please note that these guidelines are intended for large Enterprises that seeks a high level of automation in these processes. Small-/medium-sized organizations with a lower number of employee attrition and/or organizational changes per week/month does not always have to implement automation processes for provisioning/de-provisioning/org changes.

As always with the “Lost Documentation” articles, most of this information is available from Microsoft, scattered over various TechNet- and MSDN-articles – this is my attempt to assemble the information in one place, to assist fellow Solution Architects, system administrators and project managers in the journey to Office 365.


Implementing user provisioning processes in Office 365 is generally very easy and straight-forward. Many often think that if you have complex provisioning processes in place today, you will have a hard time make it work for Azure AD / Office 365. This is almost never the truth, as the provisioning processes for Azure AD / Office 365 is “put on top” of what you already have. You kan keep provisioning users based on data from your HR system, and assign them roles based on data in a payroll system, or whatever it is that you are doing – as long as the user is created in Active Directory – it will be provisioned in Azure AD / Office 365 through a separate appliance-like synchronization engine (AAD Connect) without you having to change anything in the current provisioning routines. However, some processes will require updates – i.e mailbox provisioning in Exchange – and you will also be required to assign an Office 365 license to your users before they can use any of the services. The higher ambition you have for automation around these processes, the more challenging this topic will be for you – simply because automation is handled differently by every customer so there is no general answer to how it is achieved.

Below is guidelines for approaching provisioning automation, which can help you update your own routines and processes.


The nature of SaaS: Office 365 is a subscription-based service, sold and consumed in a SaaS-model. Each user has assigned services in Microsoft’s data-center, with associated SLAs. A fundamental aspect of this delivery model is that each user must have an assigned license to be able to consume the service. A challenge for large Enterprise customers is that they are used to the traditional ways of purchasing Microsoft licenses (not services), which required a yearly inventory (“true-up”) of how many users were having Office applications, Exchange mailboxes, Skype for Business/Lync profiles, access to SharePoint etc. – and all you had to do as a customer was to share this updated figure with Microsoft – pay accordingly – and continue to use the services.

There have never before been any “enforcement method” that makes Office, Exchange, Skype for Business or SharePoint stop working if you are using more licenses that you have accounted for in your “true-up” – everything has just worked and it has been very much up to your own customer loyalty to make sure that you actually have payed for every user that you have provided with Microsoft software – such as Exchange mailboxes, Office applications, Skype for Business/Lync profiles and access to SharePoint Sites. And of course, this would include all your employees, but also any external user, like consultants getting Exchange mailboxes so that they could send and receive e-mail with your domain.

Don’t under-estimate the task: With Office 365 in place, the reality is changed. Users that are not assigned a license does not get access to any services (can’t activate the Office applications, no mailbox access in Exchange Online, no OneDrive for Business, no access to SharePoint Sites etc.). There is no “grace period” – you will need to have the right number of licenses reserved from your Enterprise Agreement through the VLSC Portal, and these licenses need to be assigned to a user (activated on that user’s account – read more later in this article) in order for that user to be able to use the services. This fact will require you to both know exactly how many users you are providing with Office 365 services, and if you are providing more than one license plan (SKU), i.e you have purchased a mix of E1, E3, E5 and K plans – you will need to know exactly what individuals should be mapped to exactly what license plan.

The task of mapping each user to a user profile (license SKU) is often extremely under-estimated. It is important to understand the consequences of not having the user profile mapping completed before commencing the Office 365 onboarding project. The consequence includes:

  1. The onboarding project will be stalled, as licenses will either run out, or the technical team doing the onboarding will at a certain point in time need to know what licenses to assign for each user, as all users are onboarded.
  2. The business case for moving to Office 365 will be impacted. Let’s say you invested in 50 000 E3 licenses, because that was the amount of Office ProPlus licenses you bought in the traditional license model. As it then turns out, you were actually providing these services for 55 000 users, you just had not calculated for all the external people who you have provided with IT-tools. This would mean an additional cost of 10% over your initial Office 365 investment.
  3. Users would get insufficient or wrong services assigned. Imagine if you assign E1 licenses to a department of 5000 users where you deploy Office 365 ProPlus – no one would be able to activate their Office applications, and your support organization would have to take the hit. Another consequence of getting the wrong services assigned is that you pay an extreme over-price for a user getting more services than he or she ever would actually use.

So before you dig deeper into the technology around provisioning, it is recommended that you map each and every user account in your organization to a user profile, which also translates to a license SKU.

Clean-up: Also note that accounts (i.e. Active Directory users with or without Exchange mailboxes) that are not actively used cannot be provisioned without an active license, which means that if you have licenses for 50 000 users, but you have 60 000 mailboxes in Exchange, where 5000 are Shared Mailboxes and Equipment/Room Mailboxes (these are free in Office 365 / Exchange Online), you have an overhead of 5000 user mailboxes which will need to either be removed or to acquire a license. Cleaning up your Active Directory and Exchange Server from inactive user objects and mailboxes before Office 365 onboarding is as important as the user profiling work itself.


Identity Bridge: The recommended way for Enterprise customers to provision users, groups and contact objects in Azure AD / Office 365 is by extending your on-premises Active Directory to the cloud through an appliance-like synchronization tool called Azure AD Connect (AAD Connect). The tool was previously known as DirSync and AADSync, and there was also a standalone FIM / MIM Management Agent – all these three still works, but future development will only be done in AAD Connect, which makes that the best choice for every organization today, regardless of complexity and identity landscape in general. Hand-in-hand with identity synchronization for provisioning and administration, a security token service (like ADFS) is usually implemented to provide single sign-on to Office 365 – this however has actually nothing to do with provisioning, why it will not be mentioned more in the article.

Sync: With AAD Connect in place, the on-premises Active Directory will be replicated to the Azure AD / Office 365 every 30 minutes. All your users, groups and contact objects will be provisioned in Azure AD / Office 365, but no Office 365 services are assigned to any users until you assign a licenses yourself as an admin. AAD Connect makes sure that you keep administrating your identities the same way you are today, and that you won’t have to maintain multiple identities (on the ground and in the cloud). It also makes sure that what ever identity provisioning routines you have in place today will continue to work as before, as long as they provision identities in Active Directory, AAD Connect will do the rest on top of what you already have.

Beware of 3rd-party or self-made sync: It is not recommended to replace AAD Connect with a 3rd party or self-developed synchronization / provisioning script (i.e. PowerShell / REST API provisioning). The main reason is that it will not be supported for all complex scenarios (such as Exchange Hybrid Configuration, attribute write-back scenarios, etc.). There is a AAD Federation Compatibility List (previously known as the “Works With Office 365 Identity Program”) that lists 3rd party STS services compatibility towards federation with Azure AD / Office 365 – found here – however, not many are reading the top note on the page that says that the solutions listed are only tested for federation scenarios – synchronization and multi-factor authentication scenarios provided by 3rd party vendors are not supported by Microsoft.

Synced users needs licenses: When AAD Connect is in place and is replicating your Active Directory data to Azure AD / Office 365, you will need to license users in order to activate them for Office 365 service – such as being able to active Office 365 ProPlus or read content from SharePoint Online. Assigning licenses can be done manually via the Office 365 Admin Portal, but if you want to automate this for Office 365 licenses, you have to create your own solution as of now. The recommendation is to implement a PowerShell-script that assigns licenses based on Active Directory attributes or Security Group membership. This script can run as a Scheduled Task, for example on the same server that hosts AAD Connect. A good place to look if you want to automate user licensing with PowerShell is at this post by Office 365 MVP Johan Dahlbom (and in this post he explains how to do it with Azure Automation).

Two things before you sync: It is recommended that you inspect your Active Directory for directory quality errors before you automate your identity provisioning and administration with AAD Connect. Use the IdFix tool to run the inspection and then remediate all errors found. It is also recommended that you change your users UPN-names to match their primary SMTP-addresses before you sync. You don’t have to change the samAccountName, so users can keep logging in to Windows etc. the same way as before. The main reason to why you should change UPN-names to match SMTP-addresses is that users should know what username to use when accessing Office 365 in the mobile context (it has to be in the UPN-format). If you have contemplated Alternate Login ID as the solution for this, beware of the limitations (great article here by Joe Palarchio) – I generally do not recommend using it.


With our user profiling, AD/Exchange clean-up, identity bridge and automated licensing in place, we are ready to look at process updates required for provisioning Exchange mailboxes.

Different ways depending on if you do hybrid or not: If you have established an Exchange Hybrid Configuration, you will provision mailboxes as an administrative task much like you have done before, until the last Exchange Server and the hybrid configuration is fully decommissioned. If you are not in a hybrid configuration, you will provision mailboxes simply by assigning a license for Exchange Online to one of your users. Let’s break down the rationales and guidelines:

As long as you are in an Exchange Hybrid Configuration with at least one Exchange Server still running on-premises, you can provision new mailboxes directly in Exchange Online by creating new “Remote Mailboxes”. A Remote Mailbox is a mailbox in Exchange Online that you can see and manage from your Exchange Server administration tools. You can of course create Remote Mailboxes from your Exchange administration tools (GUI), but for automation purposes it is recommended to use PowerShell. For updating your mailbox provisioning routines to create remote mailboxes in Exchange Online while you still have Exchange Server on-premises, study and use the PowerShell cmdlets for provisioning new Remote Mailboxes. Here are some examples:

To create a new Remote Mailbox for an Active Directory user that you have provisioned on-premises, synced to Azure AD and assigned an Office 365 license (the most common scenario), run the following command in the Exchange Management Shell:

Enable-RemoteMailbox -Identity <UPN-name> -RemoteRoutingAddress <USERALIAS>@<TENANTNAME>

To create a new user in the on-premises AD and a new Remote Mailbox that will be enabled when the new user is synced by AAD Connect (a fairly common scenario), run the following command in the Exchange Management Shell, and then license the user:

New-RemoteMailbox -UserPrincipalName -Name “Display Name” -OnPremisesOrganizationalUnit OU=Users,DC=addsdomain,DC=com -Password (ConvertTo-SecureString -AsPlainText “Pa$$word” -Force)

To create a new Shared Mailbox directly in Azure AD / Exchange Online as a Cloud ID (without any corresponding AD-user on-premises), run the following command in PowerShell, after connecting to Exchange Online:

New-Mailbox -Shared -Name <UPN-name> -PrimarySmtpAddress <User>@<DOMAIN>.com

(If you want the Shared-/Room-/Equipment Mailboxes to be represented in the on-premises AD, you will need to provision them as User Mailboxes first and convert them to shared mailboxes afterwards and remove the licenses – Shared-/Room-/Equipment mailboxes does not require a license once they are provisioned as such).

If you are not in an Exchange Hybrid Configuration, you provision mailboxes simply by assigning users with the correct attributes and an Office 365 license (that includes Exchange Online). The attributes that must be populated before you sync and license the users are: proxyAddresses (should include all necessary SMTP- and SIP-addresses), mail (should be populated with the primary SMTP-address), UPN (should preferably match the primary SMTP-address), Display Name (as you want it to appear in the Global Address List). The same process goes for Distribution Groups – you provision them in the on-premises AD with these attributes (minus UPN) populated, and then let AAD Connect synchronize them to Azure AD / Exchange Online.

About administration of Exchange Online: When AD synchronization with AAD Connect is enabled, most attributes are owned by AD on-premises, and you will therefore not be able to fully administer Exchange Online from the web-based administration portal (Exchange Control Panel). Some Exchange-attributes (such as proxyAddresses) simply must be administered in the on-premises AD and be synchronized to Azure AD / Exchange Online for the change to have effect. Because of this, it is worth noting that if you are decommission all Exchange Servers on-premises, you might need to build in more Exchange administration to your IDM / IAM provisioning and self-service tools than what you had before. End-users that administer Distribution Groups in Outlook are also affected, as this will for the same reasons stop working after the users mailbox is moved to Exchange Online – self-service tools for Distribution Group/List management will be required.


Skype for Business Online (formerly known as Lync Online) provisioning works in the following way:

  1. If you have Lync Server or Skype for Business Server on-premises, and have users provisioned there with active SIP-profiles, and you are using AAD Connect so sync your AD on-premises to Azure AD / Office 365, no provisioning will occur in Office 365 for the SIP-enabled users, regardless if you license these users for Skype for Business Online in Office 365.
  2. If you license SIP-enabled users for Skype for Business Online, and then remove the SIP-profile from Lync-/Skype for Business Server on-premises, users will be provisioned for Skype for Business Online at the next AAD Connect sync cycle (often referred to as a “cut-over move”).
  3. If you are leveraging a Lync-/Skype for Business hybrid configuration, users must be licensed for Skype for Business Online, and you can then move users from the on-premises pool to the online pool. When all users are moved, you can for the purpose of provisioning decide to keep or remove the on-premises Lync-/Skype for Business Server environment, and select another provisioning method from this list of guidelines.
  4. If you are not having Lync-/Skype for Business Server on-premises, you provision users for Skype for Business Online simply by assigning them an Office 365 license (with Skype for Business Online included). It is recommended that you in this case populate the proxyAddresses attribute in the on-premises AD with a SIP:-address that matches the primary SMTP address.


There are many different aspects of user de-provisioning, including return of licenses, removing permissions, store/hold user data, etc. By understanding the fundamentals of how Azure AD / Office 365 de-provisioning works, you will be able to update your current processes to work with Office 365. Here are the fundamentals you should know about:

  1. If you are disabling a user in the on-premises AD, you are disabling the user in Azure AD / Office 365, but the license is still active.
  2. If you are deleting a user from the on-premises AD, you are deleting the user in Azure AD / Office 365. When this happens, all data is soft-deleted for 30 days and the license is returned to the license pool. If you restore the user within these 30 days (restore the user in the on-premises AD and sync the user again), all data will be kept. If you don’t restore the user within 30 days, and have not applied any rules for data Hold, the data is lost.
  3. If you remove the license from a user in Office 365 (for example if you move the user to a OU for de-provisioned users, disable the account and strip it from it’s group memberships as your de-commissioning routine in the on-premises AD), all data is soft-deleted for 30 days. If you re-assign the license to the user within the 30 days, and have not applied any rules for data Hold, all data will be kept. If you don’t re-assign the license within 30 days, the data is lost.
  4. If the user is licensed when it is deleted and the Manager field is populated for that user in AD, the Manager will be notified and given access to the users OneDrive for Business site for 30 days through the Access Delegation mechanism, explained here. If you remove the license before actually deleting the user, the Access Delegation process will not be triggered.
  5. There are different ways to keep the data for more than 30 days after you have removed the license from a user. The general recommendation is to use the Hold capabilities, administered from the Office 365 Protection Center.


When users go through a department change, country transfer or other forms of organizational change, there are often identity-related processes that goes with it. In Azure AD / Office 365, it is much like with the provisioning; you can keep doing what you did before and let AAD Connect handle all the provisioning aspects in Azure AD / Office 365 for you. There is however one concern regarding the UPN attribute that you should be aware of. Here are the fundamental guidelines for organizational changes:

  1. If the organizational change is resulting in attribute updates, or even changes of Organizational Units, in the on-premises AD – let AD Connect take care of updating this in Azure AD / Office 365 for you through the regular synchronization cycle.
  2. Beware of delays that can occur, such as generation of the Offline Address book used in Outlook that can make updates in the Global Address List need a day to show up to all users, or back-end replication to SharePoint Online to let all organizational attributes show the correct values.
  3. If the organizational change requires a change of the UPN-name and the user is licensed, you will need to manually give it a push in Azure AD in order for it to change, AAD Connect can not change UPN-names in Azure AD / Office 365 for licensed users. To manually fix the UPN-name for the licensed user, follow the steps outlined in Scenario 2 in this article. A summary of the steps: change the UPN-name in the on-premises AD, let AAD Connect run a sync cycle, then connect PowerShell to your Azure AD tenant and run this command in PowerShell:

Set-MsolUserPrincipalName -UserPrincipalName [CurrentUPN] -NewUserPrincipalName [NewUPN]


All guidelines presented here are based on my field experience and are made available for your own interpretation to assist in updating provisioning/de-provisioning routines in the move to Office 365. I hope you will benefit from these guidelines, and that you will give me suggestions for more topics that would make this article more complete. I am always listening to feedback on Twitter. Thank you for reading.

Managing Change in Enterprise Office 365 Implementations (or “Do We Need a Test Environment?”) – the Lost Documentation


One of the top challenges for Enterprise customers in their journey to Office 365 and Cloud based services is the transformation needed to handle the constant service Changes that make out a natural part of SaaS and the Cloud. The concept of “evergreen services” is still for many completely new, and customers often finds this parameter more challenging than the technical implementation and onboarding itself. Microsoft recognizes this, and are committed to help organizations prepare for change by implementing various change control mechanisms to the service. They are also more transparent to their customers than they have ever been in regards to Product roadmaps (see the Office 365 Public Roadmap here) and Community presence (see the Office 365 Network on Yammer here). Regardless of all these efforts from Microsoft, Enterprise customers that are new to Office 365 always asks me and my team for advice in this complex topic. The question is initially almost always formulated in the same way: “How do we create the test Environment for this?”. The answer: “It’s not that simple…”, and then the discussion follows, uncovering all aspects from handling operational maintenance to planning for unavoidable updates in the user interface.

The purpose of  this post is to give an overview to how Enterprise customers should comprehend and plan for ongoing change after Office 365 is implemented and all the users are onboarded to the service. Microsoft provides good information in their service descriptions, on the Office Blogs etc, but this post is to be considered as “the lost documentation” of the holistic overview that often is requested by customers when they are new to Office 365.


The concept of Evergreen means that the service will constantly improve and evolve, without you as a customer having to worry about it. The reality of it is that you do not need to take care of server version upgrades, security patches, feature implementation or maintenance – your service provider takes care of that for you. This will save you time and money, not least as you never have to run an upgrade project again for i.e Exchange Server or Skype for Business Server etc. On the other hand, if your organization is not used to rapid releases and always being on the latest version, you will need to shift your mindset from “big change projects every five years” to “smaller updates every month”. The concept is often referred to as moving from “waves to ripples”, a good metaphor to how things will change after the move to Office 365.

Evergreen is great, however it will put new requirements on your IT-organization if you are not used to deliver changes rapidly. This scares many Enterprise customers, and sadly some are disqualifying Office 365 just because they think that they can’t control change in Office 365, and that “a high release pace determined by somebody else” is therefore nothing for them. That is a false apprehension, as there are many ways to control change in Office 365, which will be covered in this post.

As the World is changing and millennials are entering the workplace, the pressure from the business on the IT-organization to deliver a modern digital workplace is often very high. Also, providing modern productivity- and collaboration tools is often key to prevent rogue IT, where users are adopting Commercial solutions for cloud storage, or send sensitive information to Commercial e-mail services so that they can access it anywhere on any device etc. These business requirements goes hand in hand with what Office 365 offers, so the IT-organization will need to deliver, and at the same time manage change in an Evergreen service. Let’s have a look how this can be accomplished in practice.


I will explain how to manage change in Office 365 by breaking the topic down to categories. I will explain the challenges and remediation options for each category. If you have ideas for other categories, please reach to me on Twitter (@JesperStahle), and I will consider adding them to this post. My intention is to keep the documentation alive and updated as Office 365 is changing.


CHALLENGE: The shift to become “Evergreen ready” starts with the role of the Service Owner (sometimes referred to as Service Responsible or Service Manager, depending on how ITIL-influensed operations model you might have). The person owning the Office 365 service, regardless if it is the whole suite, or independent services (such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, etc.), must be prepared to become proactive in a whole new way than before. Traditionally, the Service Owners might find themselves in a situation where there are several months or even years between service changes, and the role is often described as more reactive than proactive. When a change is needed due to new dependencies or business requirements, the Service Owner would be notified and take the necessary decisions and issue transformation projects.

When the Service Owner becomes responsible to deliver an Evergreen service within agreed SLAs, it will be required that he or she becomes more pro-active to be notified of upcoming changes, before they are implemented and affects end users and the IT-operation. If the notifications are missed or ignored, the Service Owner will one day have a change issued outside of their control, which might cause frustration from both IT-operations and end users, and in the worst case even impact the SLA for which the Service Owner is responsible for.

BECOMING PROACTIVE ENOUGH: It is vital that the Service Owner of Office 365 suite, and/or its components, becomes proactive by monitoring all the communications from Microsoft regarding upcoming changes. Microsoft will not implement changes in Office 365 without first notifying their customers, but if you do not have a proper ownership and process for reading and responding to these communications they are to no use for your organization. It is a bad practice to trust the administrators of Office 365 to monitor the communications about upcoming changes and react to them accordingly – the administrators should put their focus on administering the service and enabling new or changed features as that is ordered/issued by the Service Manager. A better practice is to have a named Service Owner that takes responsibility for service communications from Microsoft as well as monitoring the Office 365 Roadmap to plan for upcoming changes and feature introductions.

In practice, this means that the Service Owner should monitor four main communication channels and implement processes to be able to rapidly respond to the changes announced in them. Here is the list of the four main communication channels:

  1. The Office 365 Message Center: In the Office 365 administration portal there is a Message Center that is used to notify customers about upcoming change and incidents. The Service Manager can access the Message Center by acquiring an administrative role in the Office 365 tenant (i.e the Service Admin role) then visit the Office 365 Admin Portal and navigate to Message Center. Here is a direct link. Here is an example screenshot of how the Message Center looks like (click picture to enlarge):The Office 365 Message CenterAs you can see, there are different categories of information. Not every communication in the message center is necessarily targeted for the Service Owner or similar function. Here is an overview of the Message Center taxonomy (click picture to enlarge):The Message Center TaxonomyIt is up to every organization to shape their own RACI matrix for these communications, but it is generally recommended for the Service Owner to be responsible for communications classified as “Stay informed” and “Plan for change”, and to be informed about communications classified as “Prevent/Fix issue” and “Service Incidents”.
  2. The Office 365 Public Roadmap: The next communications channel the Service Owner should be responsible to monitor is the Office 365 Roadmap, found here. This is a great evidence that Microsoft is aware that change requires planning. The roadmap site let customers see which features are in development and which that are currently being rolled out. When features are due to be rolled out, you will also be notified in the Message Center, so the main reason why the Service Owner should have the ownership and responsibility to act on this communication channel is for the organization to be aware about features that are in the “In development” category. By monitoring this category, the Service Owner can avoid surprises in the Message Center, and will have much more time to plan for change. Here is an example screenshot of how the Office 365 Public Roadmap looks like, note the category “In development” (click picture to enlarge).Office 365 Public Roadmap
  3. The Office Blogs: The third communication channel every Office 365 Service Owner should monitor is the Office Blogs – found here. Here you will find various communications from the teams at Microsoft that build Office 365, not just feature announcements, but also interesting costumer stories, news round-up articles and video casts (Office Mechanics) covering different a wide variety of topics. A good advice is for Office 365 Service Owners to have the Office Blogs as their start page in their web browser.
  4. The Office 365 Network on Yammer: With over 89 000 members and growing, the Office 365 Network is a community for Office 365 customers and IT-professionals world wide. Service Owners can participate in various groups within the network to discuss Office 365 topics. Microsoft themselves has a strong presence here, and often customers find their questions answered directly by representatives from the Microsoft product groups. This is a great forum for Service Owners as they can learn how others are solving issues that they are facing. The recommendation for the Service Owner is to monitor the network (and/or it’s quarterly digests known as the Office 365 Network Bulletins), but it is not necessary to read all its content daily. The Office 365 Network is found here.


Release Options: In Office 365, updates and new features are released constantly. Staying informed through the communication channels helps you prepare for change, but in order to be fully prepared processes are required for testing and evaluating new functionality. Therefore, it is possible to nominate users in the organization to be part of the First release ring (wave) for updates. First release users will have new features and updates before other users, so that they can test the updates in production and prepare integrations and documentation, such as end-user communications.

It is also possible to nominate all users in the tenant to be part of the first release ring by enabling First release for scope of the Entire organization. That would give everyone access to new features sooner, but will give the Service Owner and the IT-organization less time to prepare for change, which is not optimal for Enterprise customers. In May 2015, around 10% of all Office 365 customers had enabled First Release for the Entire organization, not just for selected people.

Find more information about the First Release options here. Here is an example screenshot of the Office 365 release options and how they are configured in the Office 365 admin portal (click picture to enlarge).

Release Options in Office 365

End-user awareness: Upcoming change is announced through the communication channels, and will be available for test and evaluation for the users nominated to be part of the First release ring. Those individuals should in concert with the Service Owner evaluate all dependencies to each new feature and update, as well as assess if end-user communications will be necessary. Where end-user communication is necessary, Microsoft often provide templates and input for your organization, so you only need to review the material and make your finishing touches to it.

The Skype for Business example: A good example of a change process was when Microsoft changed the name and user interface to Skype for Business from what was formerly known as Lync. Microsoft first announced this in the Roadmap site and on the Office Blogs, then shortly after in the Message Center under the category “Prepare for Change”. All the information needed was provided for the Service Owner to plan for change, and a preview version of Skype for Business was made available to install for the First Release users (or anyone else who wanted to try it). Microsoft prepared end-user information in both written form and in video format (see picture below) for customers, ready to be distributed directly to end users. The article with that material can be found here for reference. If any customer had any questions about the update – before, during or after – they could ask them in the Office 365 Network on Yammer and have the discussion going, and a potential answer, moments later.

Example of end-user material provided by Microsoft when Lync became Skype for Business


Whatever you did before will work: A common misunderstanding is that if you deploy Office 365 ProPlus (Click-to-Run), you have no control of updates and your users will have features introduced without your control. The reality of it is that any change/update process you had for MSI-based distribution of Office can be used with Office 365 ProPlus Click-to-Run, you just have to adjust your distribution method a bit. You can distribute Office 365 ProPlus using SCCM (good information in this article) and you can then distribute updates in a staged fashion with test rings/waves, just as you probably did before. If you have SCCM Version 1606 or later, you can distribute the updates using SCCM (see details below).

Control distribution of updates without SCCM: When deploying Office 365 ProPlus, you can use a configuration file (config.xml), or Group Policy settings, to configure the location for updates for individual computers using the UpdatePath parameter. Read more about the config.xml parameters here, and the GPO settings here. The UpdatePath will point to a file share on the network where binaries for the latest available build of Office 365 ProPlus will be located. It is up to every organization to plan and design the file share – you can use shared folders on a DFS file share or individual file shares distributed on site-local file servers etc. You can have separate file shares for pilot groups that can evaluate the Office updates (you place new updates here first), and these updates can then be moved to the production file share that are used by the majority of the users. This creates an environment where you can stage the updates and evaluate them before distributing to the masses, which also facilitates end-user communications if needed for user interface changes etc. To generate the config.xml, I recommend using this XML Editor tool.

Control distribution of updates with SCCM: If you have SCCM, you can use it to distribute updates. It is recommended to use the methods explained here on SCCM 1606 or later, but if you are on version 1511, you can use functionality that will remain in preview explained here.

Updates can be postponed, but to stay fully supported you should deploy Office 365 ProPlus updates within 12 months from when they were released. Security updates and feature updates are today bundled together, but options for separating them will be available soon. Regardless of that, the recommendation is to evaluate updated versions in the pilot ring immediately when they are available, and distribute them to the production ring as soon as possible after the verification. Consuming cloud services requires the client to be up to date to have full support, optimal performance and all features available – try not to fall into old habits and postpone updates just because you have the option to do so for 12 months.

First Release users (see Category #2) will have the option to download Preview versions of Office 365 ProPlus to test functionality that is due to be released in a bit more distant future. The First Release users can sign in to the Office 365 Portal and download the Preview version from the Software section (direct link here) – just scroll down on the page, the Preview version is located under the download section for the current version. The Preview versions will never be displayed for users that are not in the First Release ring.

An example overview of the non-SCCM solution (Group Policy based): In the graphics you can see a file server hosting two file shares containing different versions of Office 365 ProPlus – one for the Pilot Ring and one for the Production Ring. The binaries (bits) are downloaded from Office 365 on the server (can be automated with scheduled task). Users in the Pilot Ring have their UpdatePath parameter set to the Pilot-share, and the users in the Production Ring have their UpdatePath parameter set to the Prod-share. In the First Release Ring, users are downloading Preview bits from the Office 365 Portal under the Software section. Click graphics to enlarge. Note: If you have SCCM, the native methods referred to above (“Control distribution of updates with SCCM”) is recommended.



Overview of how Office 365 ProPlus updates can be distributed in the Enterprise.


Enterprise Office 365 deployments are integrated with the on-premises infrastructure through an “identity bridge” (synchronization and federation, also known as AADSync and ADFS) and sometimes an Exchange Hybrid configuration. There can also be integrations with Lync/Skype for Business (Hybrid Configuration) as well as Search integrations between SharePoint Server on-premises and SharePoint Online.

Test environments for this can be provisioned, but it does not makes sense to do so if the on-premises system in question does not have a full test environment to begin with. As an example, if you don’t have a test environment for Active Directory before introducing the identity bridge to Office 365/Azure AD, it does not make sense to provision a test environment for the AADSync and ADFS components, as they would read and write to the exact same source and target as the production instance. If, however, you do have a full featured test environment for Active Directory, you could of course choose to provision a separate Azure AD tenant to which you integrate the test environment through an identity bridge in the test environment.

The same logic goes for Exchange, Lync/Skype for Business and SharePoint – if you don’t have proper test environments to begin with, it would not be possible to produce a fair test environment for the Office 365 integration.

If the intention is to create a test environment just for AAD Connect and the Office 365 tenant, Microsoft have published step-by-step instructions on how to achieve that in a Microsoft Azure environment here.

Different support statements are true for the on-premises components. Here are the main guidelines to follow:

  1. AADSync / DirSync / AADConnect: The installation of the sync tool is meant to be “appliance like”. You do not necessarily need to update to every version that is released to stay supported unless you’re noticed to do so (all though it is generally recommended to stay up to date from the feature- and performance perspective). You can choose not to upgrade the sync tool until you are implementing a certain feature that requires a certain version – or until you are receive a message in the Message Center (see Category #1) saying that you need to upgrade to stay supported. The general recommendation is for the Active Directory Sync Tool Service Owner to monitor the Version Release History article, found here, to be aware about when updates are released and plan for installing the update accordingly. If test environments are not used, there are is a “safety net” measure that customers can take to prevent configuration errors in the sync tool to soft delete users in Azure AD. It is called PreventAccidentalDeletes, more information can be found here. As mentioned above, a test environment for AAD Connect and Office 365 tenant can be built in Microsoft Azure following the steps outlined here and here.
  2. ADFS: Like with Active Directory and Windows Server in general, it is recommended to keep ADFS updated through Windows Update. This is recommended for security reasons and to ensure optimal performance and functionality. So far, all versions of ADFS that have been released since Windows Server 2008 (ADFS 2.0) have been supported in Office 365, so you may consider your installation fully supported as long as you are installing all Windows Server updates from Windows Update, and as long as the version of Windows Server that you are running is in Mainstream Support (find out more here). However, new ADFS-features are available with new versions of Windows Server, which may encourage you to upgrade your ADFS environment as well. An example of such feature that have made many ADFS 2.0 (Windows Server 2008/2008R2) customers upgrade to ADFS 3.0 (Windows Server 2012R2) is the Extranet Lockout feature (read more here).
  3. Exchange Hybrid Configuration: To stay supported in an Exchange Hybrid Configuration, your on-premises Exchange Server environment must be on a supported version (at the time writing Exchange 2007 SP3RU10, 2010 SP3 and 2013 CU7, where 2010 and 2013 can be the Hybrid servers facing Exchange Online) and the latest available build minus one cumulative update should be installed – also referred to as the “N to N-1 guideline”). This means that if you have an Exchange Server 2010 SP3 environment on-premises, and the latest available version is Exchange Server 2010 SP3 Update Rollup 10, you would have to have at least Exchange Server 2010 SP3 Update Rollup 9 to be fully supported. The written support statement can be found here, and it actually does not mention the N to N-1 guideline. However, if you run in to issues and attempt to open a support ticket, Microsoft will remind you of the N to N-1 guideline and encourage you to update to the N to N-1 build and reproduce the issue on that version before troubleshooting continues.
  4. Lync, Skype for Business and SharePoint Hybrid Configurations: For these workloads, the support statements are not as clear as with Exchange etc. The general recommendation is to keep the on-premises server products on the latest available build (install available updates) and monitor the Message Center for notifications about supportability.


There is one category where test tenants makes absolute sense – and that is for system development. In the perspective of Office 365 as a platform for developers, providing a test tenant is absolutely necessary. Everything from branding the suite bar to releasing code in SharePoint Online benefits from being tested first. However, these test tenants do not require a full identity bridge etc to do their job – instead developers can provision their own test tenants from their MSDN Subscription benefits (or even Trial plans), or you can provision one on a separate subscription. This test tenant can be completely out of scope for the Service Owners responsibilities. As mentioned for AAD Connect above, another option for creating a development environment is to leverage Microsoft Azure by following the steps outlined here.


There are many misunderstanding when it comes to Office 365 and managing change in the Enterprise. Hopefully this article can help som organizations realizing that the Cloud, SaaS-apps and “Evergreen services” are manageable even in an Enterprise environment, and that good instruments exist so that the Service Owner can master even a very rapid release pace. Please note that the information given in this article is to be considered as guidelines shaped from real-world experience – but that change management is a complex topic that always have organization specific requirements. Modernizing change management to be “Evergreen ready” is not always easy, and it will most probably not happen over one night – but it is absolutely possible. Hopefully content of this article has helped proven that for you.

And remember: change is good!

MSOLDomain / MSOLFederatedDomain (Convert, Update, FederationProperty) Operations Fail with “Service not available”


Consider the following scenario:

  1. You are running, or are in the process of setting up, Office 365
  2. You are attempting to use Azure Active Directory Module for Windows PowerShell to do any of the following operations:
    1. Convert-MSOLDomainToFederated
    2. Convert-MSOLDomainToStandard
    3. Update-MSOLFederatedDomain
    4. Get-MsolFederationProperty
  3. The operation is aborted with reason “Service not available”. Extracts from example error message :

   + FullyQualifiedErrorId : InternalError,Microsoft.Online.Identity.Federation.Powershell.FederationPropertiesCommand

 Update-MSOLFederatedDomain : Service not available


This behaviour is caused by a bug in the 8362.1 version of the Azure Active Directory Module for Windows PowerShell (released January 19th 2015). When using this version, MSOLDomain/MSOLFederatedDomain operations fail with the “Service not available” error (the time of writing this is March 2015).


The resolve this, you need to uninstall the 8362.1 version of the Module, and revert back to the previous version – 8262.2. Follow these steps:

  1. Uninstall the Azure Active Direcotry Module for Windows PowerShell from the Control Panel (You can keep the required Sign-in Assistant installed).
  2. Visit this link:
  3. Download version 8262.2 of the Module (direct link to 64-bit version here).
  4. Install the 8262.2 version, connect to AAD and attempt the operation again. This time it will work.


DirSync /fullsql Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool Configuration Fails (Error Code 1603, “FullyQualifiedErrorId : 5000” and Event ID 1013)


Consider the following scenario:

  1. You are attempting to do a /fullsql installation of DirSync according to the instructions given in the MSDN article here. (/fullsql is needed only when more than 50 000 user, group and/or contact objects will be in scope for synchronization from the local Windows Server AD to the Azure AD/Office 365).
  2. The SQL server you are attempting to use is running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 SP1 or higher.
  3. The dirsync.exe /fullsql installation completes without any errors.
  4. The next step of running Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool with all SQL parameters (UseSQLServer etc) fails with the following error:

Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool : The Synchronization Engine installation
returned error code 1603. Please try the installation again, and if this error
persists, contact Technical Support.

Verbose output also gives:

Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool : The Synchronization Engine install returned
FAIL. See the event logs for more detailed information.
At line:1 char:1
+ Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool -UseSQLServer -SqlServer
    + CategoryInfo          : NotSpecified: (Microsoft.Onlin…CoexistenceTool
InstallOnlineCoexistenceTool) [Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool], DirectorySyncInstallException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : 5000,Microsoft.Online.Coexistence.PS.Install.InstallOnlineCoexistenceTool

Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool : The install was unable to setup a required
component. Check the event logs for more information. Please try the
installation again, and if this error persists, contact Technical Support.

In Event Viewer on the server, you can find Error Event ID 1013:

Product: Forefront Identity Manager Synchronization Service — Forefront Identity Manager Synchronization Services requires a running instance of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 SP1 or better. Install the correct SQL Server version and make sure the service is running before installing Forefront Identity Manager Synchronization Service.Event 1013


Taken that the SQL Server actually is running the said version or above, this error indicates that the SQL Native Client is missing on the server. (This requirement is now documented in the MSDN article, but is often missed as part of the DirSync preparation steps).


To resolve this error, download and install the SQL native client on the DirSync server.

Follow these steps:

  1. Visit this Microsoft Download Center and find the SQL Server Feature Pack for the version of SQL that you are running (Search for SQL Server version Feature Pack). If you are not sure what exact version of SQL Server you are running, you can always use this link (it is compatible with all versions of SQL that are compatible with DirSync):
  2. Hit the Download link and select this file: ENU\x64\sqlncli.msi (SQL Native Client).
  3. Run the sqlncli.msi installer on the server to install the SQL Native Client.
  4. When installed, run the Install-OnlineCoexistenceTool commands again with your appropriate parameters and the installation/configuration will complete successfully.


The SQL Native Client requirement for DirSync /fullsql is documented on MSDN nowadays, but I still often hear about enterprise DirSync deployments that get’s stuck on this issue – perhaps because the link provided in the MSDN article leads to general information about the SQL Native Client and not an actual download link to the feature needed on the server itself. In AADSync (next generation DirSync), the SQL Native Client is always installed as part of the AADSync installation, but that is not the case with DirSync. As DirSync will be around until the GA of AAD Connect (which will include AADSync), I thought it would be a good idea to post this until then – DirSync is and will be the generally preferred directory synchronization tool as long as it is the tool you get when following the Download link in the Setup Directory Synchronization section of the Office 365/AAD Admin Portal.

Solving Problems Accessing the Microsoft Intune Admin Console on IE11 (Silverlight and ActiveX Filtering Errors)


Consider the following scenario:

  1. You have successfully activated EMS or Microsoft Intune license SKUs to your Azure AD Subscription and to your admin account.
  2. You can successfully access and use the Microsoft Intune Account Portal (
  3. When attempting to access the Microsoft Intune Admin Console ( using your admin account and IE11, the Dashboard is never presented – instead you get stuck on a blue spinning circle that never disappears (see picture 1), or you get a message saying “This application requires Microsoft Silverlight.” even if Silverlight is already installed on the machine (see picture 2).
  4. When getting the second symptom, a link is provided to “Get Microsoft Silverlight”. When attempting to install Silverlight from the provided link, you get a message saying that “The same version of Silverlight is already installed”.

Spinning circle

This application requires Microsoft Silverlightintunesl3


The first symptom (the spinning blue circle that never disappears) may be related to ActiveX Filtering. Disabling it ( Gear Icon or Tools / Safety / ActiveX Filtering) should make the Dashboard load – or present the second symptom.

The second symptom (Dashboard does not load but instead say that the machine is missing Microsoft Silverlight even if it is installed) is related to a faulty procedure to detect Silverlight within Microsoft Intune.

The third symptom (Silverlight installation fails if you follow the link to download and install Silverlight from the message presented as part of symptom #2) is expected, as there is not a problem with your Silverlight installation – the message appears due to an issue related to Microsoft Intune and how it detects Silverlight on the machine.


Follow these steps to be able to access the Microsoft Intune Admin Console using IE11:

  1. Open Internet Explorer 11 and navigate to
  2. If you get Symptom 1 (Spinning Circle), click the Gear Icon and click Safety \ ActiveX Filtering. Reload the page. This should either load the Dashboard or produce Symptom 2.
  3. If you get Symptom 2 (Message that Silverlight is not installed on the machine when it actually is), close all instances of Internet Explorer and navigate to Windows Control Panel \ Programs and Features and uninstall Microsoft Silverlight.
  4. After the uninstallation of  Microsoft Silverlight finishes, open Internet Explorer and navigate back to This time, follow the link “Get Microsoft Silverlight”, download and run the linked file and complete the installation wizard.
  5. Close all instances of Internet Explorer and start it again, navigate back to The Dashboard should now load, but if it still does not and Symptom 1 or Symptom 2 appears even this time, click the Gear Icon and click Safety \ ActiveX Filtering, then reload the page. The Dashboard will load.

Microsoft Intune Admin Console Dashboard

Hands on with AADSync (RTM) / AAD Connect – a Guide to Multi-Forest AD Synchronization and Attribute Filtering



Office 365 is in many aspects best compatible with an on-premise infrastructure where the customer have followed Microsoft’s guidelines and best practices for design and configuration. A perfect example of such guideline is to keep all Active Directory user data associated with employees (personal user objects) within a single Active Directory forest. For many organizations, this is not the reality, often due to a background of growth by acquisitions where the acquired organisation remain their Active Directory data in their own forest that they always have been using. Such landscape is referred to as a “Multi-forest scenario” (one organization with users are spread across many Active Directory forests).

The aspect that makes the multi-forest scenario problematic is the user provisioning and administration. For single-forest customers (the number of domains within the forest does not matter), it have always been easy to deploy Directory Synchronization from your Windows Server AD forest to Azure AD by using DirSync – but that method have not been supporting the multi-forest scenario (DirSync supports single-forest synchronization only). Different alternatives have since the launch of Office 365 become available to address directory synchronization in the Multi-forest scenario (like the FIM AAD Connector), and there are still different ways to go at it – but now, better native support for this scenario is becoming a reality with the new Azure Active Directory Connect (AAD Connect) that previously was available as AAD Sync (AAD Connect is the new name, version and bundling for AAD Sync). This article will provide an overview of the alternative methods, and a detailed step-by-step guide on how to configure multi-forest synchronization from two separate Active Directory forests to one single Azure AD/Office 365 tenant. We will also look in to the feature of Attribute Filtering within AAD Connect to demonstrate how selected AD attributes can be skipped in the synchronization (please note that filtering out attributes is now possible but not generally recommended, I will explain why later in the article).


If you are considering Office 365 (or other AAD integrated applications) and multiple Active Directory forests is your reality, consider the options below. Option D will later in the article be explained in detail. There is no preferred order or priority for the given options.

OPTION A – CONSOLIDATE THE FORESTS FIRST: If Active Directory consolidation (merging the forests in to one) is an option, that activity could be completed prior to adopting Azure AD/Office 365 to avoid the multi-forest scenario complexity. The objects that needs to be consolidated to one forest are the user objects for the employees and groups that relate to any of the Office 365 services (i.e distribution lists and mailbox security groups). Computer objects and service accounts etc can still remain in the trusted forest when activating AAD/Office 365 services.

OPTION B – MIX SYNCED IDs WITH CLOUD IDs: If the majority of users resides in one AD forest, and a limited number of users are in a separate forests, a good option can be to implement AD integration (AADSync, ADFS) to the primary forest, but create Cloud ID (separate identities in Azure AD) for the users that are in the separate forests. This creates a mix of integrated and separate identities in the same tenant. If you are using ADFS in the primary forest, keep in mind that users in the other forests (that get’s the Cloud IDs) can not have the same domain in their username, because federation is activated per domain (if is activated for federation, users can not use Cloud IDs with usernames, they would have to use another domain for their usernames).

OPTION C – USE SHADOW ACCOUNTS: This option is similar to Option B, but with the ability to centrally manage all identities. Instead of creating Cloud IDs for the users residing in the separate forest(s), create corresponding user objects (“shadow accounts”) in the primary AD forest for those users instead, and let AAD Connect provision these accounts in AAD/Office 365. These “shadow accounts” allows the users in the separate forest(s) to login with a centrally managed account, but they will not have Single Sign-on with ADFS as they are not logging in to Windows with the same account as they are using for AAD/Office 365. This option allows ADFS Claim rules, centrally managed password policies and other benefits that comes with proper Active Directory integration – but have considerations regarding end-user experience for the shadow users (there is a separate password associated with the shadow account, etc).

OPTION D – SYNCHRONIZE ALL FORESTS WITH AAD CONNECT: The final option is to actually enable multi-forest synchronization. This can be accomplished either by using the AAD Connector in FIM that still is available (but should not be used as it will not be developed further), or by using AAD Connect. It is recommended to use AAD Connect, as the FIM agent (as well as DirSync) is believed to be deprecated over time and replaced with AADSync completely. AAD Connect works like DirSync always have, but have native support for connecting with multiple Active Directory forests. How to implement and configure this option is explained in detail below.


I will now explain how to configure multi-forest synchronization step by step by step. The screen shots are collected from AADSync, but from June 25 2015, you should downlad and use AAD Connect to configure multi-forest – the wizard in the screenshots matches the one in AAD Connect for the AAD Sync steps. Before jumping in to configuration, let’s have a look at the given scenario.

SOURCE: Two separate AD Forests containing users – and
TARGET: One Azure AD/Office 365 tenant.
METHOD: We will configure AAD Connect (AAD Sync used in the screen shots) to synchronize objects from both forests to the tenant. We will also configure AADSync to filter out the ipPhone, homePhone and extensionAttribute9 AD attributes from the synchronization.

Overview. Users from FOREST-A and FOREST-B will be syncrhonized to Azure AD.

Overview of users in FOREST-A

Overview of users in FOREST-A

Overview of users in FOREST-B.

Overview of users in FOREST-B.



  1. You have an AAD/Office 365 tenant
  2. You have activated all your smtp-domains that are used in the organization (both forests) in your tenant.
  3. Your users have either or both their UPN-name and mail-attribute in Active Directory populated to match their primary smtp-address.
  4. You have one machine available to install AADSync (can be joined to any of the forests). The machine can access domain controllers in both forests and is able to resolve both forest DNS names.
  5. You have user account credentials to read both AD Forests, and you have a Global Administrator account to write to your Azure AD.
  6. The total number of objects that you will syncrhonize is not more than 100 000 (would require a full SQL setup which is not covered in this guide). The limit for full SQL setup was 50 000 in DirSync, but is now lifted to 100 000 for AAD Connect.

Make sure you meet all pre-requisites above. Then, let’s get started.

  1. The first step is to activate Active Directory Synchronization in your tenant. Do so by logging in to the admin portal, browse to users and follow the link at the top for setting up AD Synchronization.


    Navigate to Users in your admin portal and follow the highlighted link to set up AD Synchronization. Notice in the screenshot that there are only two users (Cloud IDs) present in the tenant as of now.

  2. Click Activate to enable AD Synchronization in your tenant.
  3. Download AAD Connect to the server where you want to install the tool. Get it here.
  4. Launch the installer executable (MicrosoftAzureADConnectionTool.exe).
  5. The installer let’s you choose the installation path and accept license terms. Click Install to continue.
  6. The necessary components are now installed to the server (Sign-in Assistant, SQL LocalDB, SQL Native Client, the actual Sync Service etc). After the component installation, the wizard interface may disappear completely for about 30 seconds, but it will come back when it have finished loading the configuration wizard.
  7. The first step in the configuration wizard is to connect to your Azure AD. Enter the credentials for a Global Administrator in the tenant and hit Next to continue.
  8. Next, enter credentials for the first forest you want to synchronize. Start by adding the forest to which you have joined the AADSync server (in this case this is FOREST-A). Hit Add Forest to verify the connectivity and credentials, and to add the next forest.
  9. Add the next forest. Notice that I use the forest FQDN to specify the domain in the Username field (\jesper). I recommend this when adding the external forests to avoid an error that states “The specified domain does not exist or cannot be contacted.”, which may occur if only using the NetBIOS name (FOREST-B\jesper).
  10. When both forests are added to the list, hit Next to continue.
  11. The next option screen in the wizard covers settings for user matching. These options require careful consideration if you are using GAL Sync (or for any other reason have users represented as User and/or Contact objects in both forests) and/or are planning for a future Active Directory consolidation/migration of the forests that you currently are configuring for AADSync. Read the following rationales for these options before proceeding:

    Matching across forests: If your user objects only occurs in their respective forest, and are not replicated as a contact object or duplicate account in the other forest, leave the “Matching across forests” option at its default – “Your users are only represented once across all forests”. If objects are represented in many forests, you must make a selection for an attributed that can be used as a matching attribute to merge/join the duplicates to one Azure AD identity, or you will have collisions during the synchronization. More information is available if you follow the “Learn more about user matching” link in the wizard.

    Matching with Azure AD
    : These two options are used for identity federation. The sourceAnchor attribute is the immutable ID for the user, and must not be changed during the lifetime of a user object. The default choise – objectGUID – is a good choise IF YOU ARE NOT PLANNING AN ACTIVE DIRECTORY CONSOLIDATION OR MIGRATION IN THE FUTURE. The objectGUID attribute will change if the user is moved to another forest, and would in that case create a duplicate user in Azure AD (and a big mess to clean up). Use the objectGUID if you are certain that the affected user objects will remain in their current forest for their remaining lifetime. The userPrincipalName attribute is the attribute that will populate the Username in Azure AD (the corresponding UPN-name in AAD). Having users signing in to AAD/Office 365 with their primary smtp-address as their username is a best practice, so use the default – userPrincipalName – if attribute is matching the users smtp (email) addresses (or if you are planning them to do so). If your UPN names do not match the primary smtp-address and you are not planning on changing the UPNs to do so, consider using the mail-attribute instead (in that case, just remember to configure ADFS to use the same attribute by following these instructions).

    In summary: If your users are represented once across the forests (no GAL Sync or equal in place) and if your UPN-names are matching primary smtp-addresses, you can go ahead with the default options here, like I do in this example. Make your selection and hit Next to continue.
  12. Next up are Optional features. At the time taking this screenshot, Password Synchronization was not available in AADSync (RTM version, build 1.0.0419.0911), but this is available now (from October 2014). Password write-back is also in its final stages of development and will soon be available to customers that have an Azure AD Premium subscription (not included in Office 365). The Exchange Hybrid option must be selected if you are planning to set up an Exchange Hybrid Configuration between one of your on-premise Exchange organizations and Exchange Online (Multi-org Exchange hybrids are also in development but not yet available at the time writing). I am selecting Exchange hybrid deployment and Azure AD app and attribute filtering to demonstrate the new capabilities to filter out attributes from AADSync. Please note that I do not recommend that you use app and attribute filtering (see explanation below under “Should I filter out apps…”), I am making the selection in this example to demonstrate the capability. Make your selection and hit Next to continue.
  13. If you selected the “Azure AD app and attribute filtering” in the previous step (not generally recommended), you will now have the option to filter out Azure AD apps (Office 365 services etc). Filtering out apps and attributes is possible, but before you decide doing so, please read the following rationale:
    Should I filter out apps and/or attributes from the synchronization? My general answer to this question is “No”. There are in my opinion three main reasons why you shouldn’t.REASON A – NO SECRETS IN ACTIVE DIRECTORY: By default, all users can read all attributes (not the passwords) for all objects in Active Directory. If you want to filter out attributes because you have secret data stored in AD attributes, you are doing things very wrong. Any user can open any AD or LDAP administration tool (like Active Directory Users and Computers) and read and/or export all your directory data from any machine in the network. If you are allowing shared AD accounts (like POS/kiosk accounts), you will not have any chance to log or trace such export either. You should not store any secret data in Active Directory attributes (another Microsoft Best Practice), and therefore synchronizing attributes to AAD that any user can read anyway should not be imposing a security threat to your organization.     
    REASON B – KEEP IT SIMPLE, IT IS YOUR PRIVATE DATA: If you filter out apps/attributes in your synchronization, you are immediately configuring a “special setup” with a complexity parameter added to it. Your tenant and your Azure AD is your private data. You are not sharing it with Microsoft or anyone else. Keep your AAD synchronization solution as simple as possible, trust Office 365, and synchronize all attributes as recommended to avoid incompatibility (surprises) in the future as AAD/Office 365 develops.     
    To allow the very best end-user experience, GlobalAddress Lists, Lync Contact Cards, SharePoint profile sites etc should all be populated with as much information possible. If you decide to filter out attributes, you will take away functionality and “rich content” from your end users. It is also worth mentioning that Microsoft services, such as Exchange and Lync, depend on Active Directory attributes for their functionality – so filtering out an attribute that is not technically needed today might cause an upcoming feature not to work in your environment in the future. In this example, we are filtering out three attributes, but we will leave attribute scopes for all apps intact in this option screen. Make your selection and hit Next to continue.
  14. As we selected to use “Azure AD app and attribute filtering” previously, we now get the chance to filter out specific attributes (the previous options screen for apps let us filter out sets of attributes based on specific apps/services). To demonstrate the attribute filtering capability, I am here filtering out the ipPhone, homePhone and extensionAttribute9 attributes from synchronization because we don’t want them to be visible in the Exchange Online Global Address List. I make the selection by first checking the “I want to further limit…” check box and then clearing the attributes from the list. Make your selection and hit Next to continue.
  15. Next is a summary of your AADSync configuration. Check to see that everything looks OK and hit Configure to continue.
  16. When the configuration is completed, you have the option to start the first Synchronization immediately, or to finish the wizard without starting the synchronization so that you can configure filtering before starting (if your would like to filter out specific OUs, child-domains or set an attribute based filtering). Filtering with AADSync works and is configured the same way as it always have with DirSync. Instructions on how to enable and configure filtering can be found here. In this example, we want to synchronize the complete scope of both forests, so we let the “Synchronize now” option stay selected and hit Finish to complete the wizard and start the synchronization.
  17. Now, all we need to do is wait for the synchronization to complete. You can monitor the synchronization progress by opening the Synchronization Service Manager (the miisclient interface) from the Start menu. You can track the different stages of the synchronization in the Operations tab.
  18. There is also another tool available with AAD Connect called the Synchronization Rules Editor (you will find it in the Start menu). This tool can be used to see and edit the attribute flows and scoping filters. You can use the tool to create transformation rules for certain attributes etc. In this example, we will not make any such changes, but we open it to have a look while we are waiting for the synchronization to complete.
  19. When the synchronization is completed, it is time to see the result. Sign in to the Office 365 admin portal and navigate to Users. Now, you will see users from both forests provisioned as synchronized identities “Status is Synchronized with Active Directory”. Success!
  20. When opening a user from each forest, you see that both users are synchronized (get’s the banner stating they can only be edited in the local Active Directory) and that the user name matches the UPN-name in the local AD.
  21. The users can now be licensed and start using Office 365, or other AAD-integrated, services. You may also set up federated identities using ADFS and provide Single Sign-on to the users from both forests using a shared ADFS STS service with proper configuration.


In this article we have seen how powerful and yet easy to use the new AAD Connect Service is. Multi-forest is a common and challenging reality for many enterprise customers, and with AAD Connect there is finally a robust, simple and supported way to get Active Directory synchronization working in that scenario. So thank you DirSync, FIM AAD Connector and stand-alone AADSync for the great time together, it have been great – but now it’s time for AAD Connect to take it from here.

ADFS 3.0 and Hardware Load Balancing – the Lost Documentation

Article updated October 2014 to include http based health check probe as a workaround, made available with August 2014 Update Rollup for Windows Server 2012 R2.


ADFS and Federated Identities are common components for Enterprise Office 365 customers necessary to allow Single Sign-on, use of Claim Rules and immediate account lock-outs etc. As the availability the ADFS service decides the availability of Office 365 (if you can’t authenticate you can’t use the service), load balancing is a must-have. In most cases, Hardware Load Balancing (HLB) is used, and for ADFS 2.0 (Windows Server 2008/2008R2) and ADFS 2.1 (Windows Server 2012) this have never been a problem. You deployed your ADFS STS and/or ADFS Proxy, and published them with your Hardware Load Balancer like “any other SSL site” and it just worked.

Today, ADFS have with Windows Server 2012R2 reached version ADFS 3.0 – and the full “out-of-the-box-support” for using “any Hardware Load Balancer” is not as obvious any more. Making it  work is a bit more tricky, depending on what HLB you are using. The purpose of this article is to present my lessons learned from deploying ADFS 3.0 with HLB – and to save you from hours of trouble shooting when getting your own ADFS 3.0 HLB up and running with Office 365.


ADFS 3.0 and Web Application Proxy (WAP) in Windows Server 2012R2 uses an extension to the TLS SSL protocol called Server Name Indication – SNI (RFC 4366). This extension allows web servers to present host names when handshaking SSL, so that multiple SSL sites can be hosted on a shared IP-address and port (443) – just like the concept of host headers in good old http have always allowed us to do. This is great because it allows preservation of IP-addresses which also can reduce a total cost of ownership for a service (public IP-addresses does not come for free these days).

What is not so great is that the SNI extension is not yet supported by “everything else in the world” – such as very old web browsers – and Hardware Load Balancers. Using a HLB that does not have a clue about SNI will not work, and that is the topic of this blog post.

If you are interested to read more about SNI in Windows Server 2012R2 – and how to solve issues that can occur, I can recommend Ian Parramore’s two excellent blog post on TechNet, which also have been a great inspiration and source of content to this post, found here, and here.


If your HLB does not support SNI, you will notice it eventually when attempting to configure a load balancing and you don’t get any response on port 443 from any of the server IP-addresses. (that’s usually when you spend a day or two troubleshooting firewall ACL’s and routing without any luck). My best advice is to look for SNI-related settings in the HLB administrative interface and read through the release notes for the software version you are running on the appliance(s).

Examples of observed behaviour when attempting to configure HLB with a non-SNI compliant device is a “Http/1.1 Service Unavailable” message from a Citrix NetScaler device and a “Network Error (tcp_error) A communication error occured: Connection refused” message from a BlueCoat device.

Big-IP/F5 customers may turn to a technical article written by Greg Coward for assistance in configuring the Big-IP to work with ADFS 3.0/WAP, found here.


CHECK FOR UPDATES: Before attempting to fix the issue on the Windows Server side – you should always see if there is an available software/firmware update for your HLB device that includes SNI support. There are two workarounds available (see below), but having native support is usually preferred as it reduces the overall complexity of your solution.


NOTE: This functionality was made available with the August 2014 Update Rollup for Windows Server 2012R2, found here. Running at least this update rollup level on your ADFS/WAP servers is required for the following workaround to work.

By adding a http-binding on the ADFS/WAP server, your HLB can do the health check probing using the http protocol and thus bypassing SSL and SNI completely. The http endpoint will respond with HTTP 200 OK if available if queried to http://servername-or-ip-address/adfs/probe, and will not automatically allow your ADFS traffic to use HTTP, they will function just as health check probes. Follow these steps to create such binding:

  1. Make sure you have installed all available Windows Updates on the ADFS/WAP machine – at least August 2014 Rollup.
  2. Launch the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security MMC on the first WAP server
  3. Go to Inbound Rules
  4. Create a new Inbound Rule (New Rule in Action Pane). Suggested name: “ADFS HTTP Health Check Probe”
  5. Configure the rule for TCP protocol, local port 80 (specific port) and Allow traffic (All ports as Remote port). See overview of expected result in this picture from Ian Parramore’s blog.
  6. Repeat steps on other ADFS/WAP machines.
  7. Configure HLB to do health check probe using the http protocol and this specific endpoint: http://servername-or-ip-address/adfs/probe


It is possible to create a binding to make ADFS 3.0 and/or WAP to respond to SSL requests made out to ip-adresses. This is the recommended workaround as you can’t fully disable the SNI functionality completely. The process of adding this fallback binding consist of finding out the certificate thumbprint of your desired SSL certificate (added with private key to the Local Computer\Personal store) and then binding that thumbprint to all ip-adresses and for the ADFS or WAP application.

Follow these steps on all your ADFS 3.0 servers to add the fallback binding (and make your non-SNI compliant HLB be able to see your ADFS servers):

  1. Make sure that you have installed all available updates for Windows Server 2012R2 after adding and configured the ADFS STS or WAP Proxy role.
  2. Open a Command Prompt as administrator
  3. Run the following command:
    netsh http show sslcert
  4. You will see a list of SSL Certificate bindings.
  5. Mark and copy the ‘Certificate Hash’ value. Paste it to a temporary place (i.e Notepad)
  6. Mark and copy the ‘Application ID’ value. Paste it to the temporary place. The Application ID is what will associate the binding with ADFS 3.0 (for the internal STS servers) and WAP (for the ADFS Proxy).
  7. Now run the following commmand, where you insert the noted ‘Certificate Hash’ and ‘Application ID’ values from above (keep the { } characters):
    netsh http add sslcert ipport= certhash=Insert_Certificate_Hash_Here appid={Insert_Application_ID_here}
  8. Restart machine and repeat steps for remaining ADFS 3.0 machines.

After adding the fallback binding, your HLB should be able to reach your ADFS servers normally, and you can continue to configure and fine tune your load balancing. Be aware that if you replace your certificate in the future (when it expires), you must perform these steps again (a new certificate means a new certificate hash) – worth mentioning in your system documentation.


Adding a http health check probe or a fallback binding can help us fix our load balancing, but my hope is that SNI support in HLB devices will become more of a standard than it is today. Like stated in the article, looking for native support with a software/firmware update and proper documentation from your HLB vendor is always recommended before applying the fallback binding workaround. If you are aware of SNI-related knowledge base articles and software updates from HLB vendors, please share them with me in the comments field below or on Twitter (@JesperStahle) and I will add them to this article.

Internet Explorer 8 Only Loads Outlook Web App Light in Exchange Online/Office 365


Consider the following scenario:

You are using Exchange Online/Office 365. When opening Outlook Web App (OWA), Internet Explorer only loads the Light version of OWA (OWA Light). The same user on the same client could earlier load the rich OWA experience even on Internet Explorer 8.

If the same user logs on to Internet Explorer 9 or later, or the latest version of Firefox, Chrome or Safari, rich OWA is loaded instead. OWA Light is only enforced on Internet Explorer 8.


This behavior is by design. Rich OWA have earlier been allowed for Internet Explorer 8 users, but with limited performance (see this article). Starting May 2014, OWA Light is being enforced for Internet Explorer 8 users. This is stated in the Office 365 Service Description, see this article.

Quote from the Service Description:

“The user experience sending and receiving email with Outlook Web App and Internet Explorer 8 might be substantially diminished, especially when used on Windows XP or with low memory devices. Office 365 does not offer code fixes to resolve problems you encounter when using the service with Internet Explorer 8, and new Office 365 experiences might not work at all. You should also expect the quality of the user experience with Internet Explorer 8 to diminish further in the near future. Beginning in May 2014, Internet Explorer 8 will only display Outlook Web App Light.”


Upgrade Internet Explorer to the latest version, or use the latest version of an alternative browser. If you have legacy application dependencies to Internet Explorer 8, consider upgrading to Internet Explorer 11 and use IE Enterprise Mode to emulate IE8 rendering for those legacy web sites/applications.

And remember – Office 365 is an “evergreen” service, meaning that back-end updates will be released constantly. As a customer, you should keep your client applications on the latest version/build to stay fully compatible and supported. This includes Windows, Office applications and Internet Explorer.

Lync / Skype for Business Client Asks for Credentials (“EWS not Deployed”) in an Exchange Hybrid Configuration


Consider the following scenario:

  1. You have successfully established an Exchange Hybrid Configuration between your on-premises Exchange Server installation and Exchange Online.
  2. You are using a fully functional Lync / Skype for Business Server on-premises installation for all users.
  3. DNS zones for any of your primary SMTP domains exist in the internal network DNS (split-DNS is used)
  4. Some users are moved to Exchange Online, and some are still residing in the Exchange Server installation on-premise.

The following symptoms occur:

  1. For users that are migrated to Exchange Online, sporadic credential prompts appear from the Lync / Skype for Business (SfB) client, asking users for username and password. Users that still have their mailbox residing in Exchange Server on-premise are not asked for credentials.
  2. The following message is displayed in Lync / SfB Configuration Information (right-click the Lync / SfB icon in the System Tray to find this option): EWS Information: EWS not Deployed


Two ways to update presence information: The Lync / SfB client is by default configured to update your presence based on your Exchange calendar (Personal information manager settings in the Lync / SfB client). Lync / SfB can read your presence information from Exchange by either receiving it through the Exchange Web Services (EWS) API, or by reading it from Outlook (if Outlook is installed and running). The EWS method is dependant on Exchange Autodiscover to be fully functional (details will follow under Resolution).

If, as in the scenario explained above, the Configuration Information indicates “EWS not deployed”, the Lync / SfB client will fail to use the EWS API to update presence information. Instead it will fall back to updating the presence information from Outlook.

But it worked before: The Outlook-method have so far worked fine, and will continue to work fine, for non-migrated users as the Lync / SfB client is running under the same user context as Outlook. When users are migrated to Exchange Online and configure Outlook to run in the Office 365 context (regardless if using ADFS/SSO or not), the Lync / SfB client will no longer be able to update the presence information from Outlook without first having you authenticate in the Lync / SfB client with the Office 365 credentials. Migrated users are no longer running Outlook and Lync / SfB in the same user context. This produces the credential prompt.

To resolve this, the EWS method should be used instead. The “EWS not deployed” error must be repaired.


Exchange Autodiscover is key: The Lync / SfB client will use Exchange Autodiscover to resolve the URL for EWS. Exchange Autodiscover is assumed to be working in this scenario as the Exchange Hybrid Configuration is established (which itself have a Heavy dependency to Autodiscover). If Exchange Autodiscover is a new topic for your, I suggest reading this article before continuing.

SCP vs. DNS: Outlook will use Active Directory Service Connection Points (SCP) to find the URL to Autodiscover on the internal network (Active Directory joined machines). Outside the internal network, Autodiscover URLs are distributed using public DNS (looking at the domain in your e-mail address and ask for Autodiscover records in that domain). As internal clients rely on SCP records in Active Directory, there have never been any need to add the DNS records for Autodiscover in the internal DNS zone (the split-zone) for the SMTP/SIP domains.

The Lync / SfB client will not use Active Directory SCP records to retrieve the Autodiscover URL. It will only use the DNS-record method. This differs from Outlook, which can use SCP records to find Autodiscover. Because of this difference, you might have a fully functional Outlook (finds Autodiscover via SCP-records) and a fully functional Exchange Hybrid Configuration (finds Autodiscover via A/SRV/CNAME records in the public DNS zone), but you will not have a functional Lync / SfB client (attempts to find Autodiscover from the internal split-zone for the SMTP/SIP domains).

How to fix it: In order for the Lync / SfB client to be able to find Autodiscover on the internal network, add A/SRV/CNAME records (whatever mirrors your public DNS records) in the internal DNS zone (the split-zone) to mirror the setup for Autodiscover records in the public DNS.

After adding internal DNS records for Autodiscover, the Lync / SfB client will be able to find Autodiscover and thus the URL for EWS. Through EWS, the Lync / SfB client can retrieve your presence information from the Exchange Online mailbox via the Exchange Hybrid Configuration, and users migrated to Exchange Online will no longer suffer from credential prompts appearing in the Lync / SfB client.