I’m experimenting now with Office 365. I rather like it.

But, let me back up a bit.

A while ago, as an exercise in educating myself on Exchange, I began playing around with configuring my own email server at the house so that I could both learn Exchange and have a better place to house my personal email. I created a domain and everything necessary for it and began. At the beginning I learned very quickly about “open relays” back in the Exchange 2000 days, since that was the default setting and somehow my experiment wound up on the open-relay black list.

Well several labs and upgrades later, I was fed up with, well, upgrading and losing power in my lab, frequently causing me to lose the whole server and having to rebuild several times. That was most inconvenient. So, I decided to ditch the local copy of Exchange and move to the Cloud.

Enter Outlook.com. This is great for people who want to use either a predetermined domain name (like the old @live.com or @msn.com even) as well as those who own their own domain, like I do, and want to have a place that won’t melt down with every local power outage. So, off of the old Exchange server I went and using Outlook, I connected to both mailboxes and moved mail by hand from the Exchange mailbox to the Outlook.com mailbox. Once complete, I was free to destroy the old Exchange server, which I did once I was satisfied all the email was in the Cloud.

And it worked.

But…

I had become accustomed to a certain level of email flexibility that the Outlook.com environment didn’t afford me. Even using the linked mailboxes on Outlook.com, I could not manage my multiple email aliases properly. You can set up as many users names as you want on Outlook.com using the custom domains.live.com site and even forward your email to, say, one central mailbox. However, if any of that email is determined to be junk, it stays in the original mailbox and does not forward. That’s just one example of why it was inconvenient. Setting up rules and “not junk” was also more difficult than in regular Exchange.

Enter Office 365. I have been given, through work, an instance of Office 365. I decided to give it a whirl. I have to say I am impressed. I started the activation process, and stepping through the DNS configuration is easy. You can configure it so many ways, but I chose to have Microsoft host my DNS and since I only have a couple of external DNS records, adding one for my personal web sites was easy. Once DNS was configured for my domain, I created my mailbox and connected Outlook. I moved my email up to Office 365 the same way I moved it to Outlook.com, and then I began to use it. I used the web site, I used Outlook, and I like it. I like it a lot. I then used a few of my licenses for my family moving their mail in to the Cloud. Now, we are ALL happy.

With the greater flexibility and the ability to use shared calendaring, shared mailboxes, and PowerShell commands (Yes, I’ve even done this to set up auto-forwarding on a shared mailbox, like what I wanted to do on Outlook.com but couldn’t) I am quite satisfied. It’s fast, it’s solid, and it behaves the way I’m used to email behaving since I’m spoiled on Exchange.

All in all, I am impressed.

Yay, Cloud!