This article outlines how you get started with Office 365 in 5 easy steps but should really be called Get Started with Office 365 in 5 somewhat easy but lengthy steps. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the topic is complex and some of this complexity can not be avoided. What can be avoided is confusion, gaps in documentation and questions left unanswered. There are already many articles and resources regarding Office 365 but this one aims to give you everything you need to follow in one place without any holes. Have a read and let me know what you think and if it was of value to you.
As one final caveat the article is built around an Office 365 Small Business Plan (P1) trial as it seemed like the better place to start.
So here are the steps (click on the images to enlarge them):
1. You need a domain name to point email at
If you don’t already have an internet domain name, you need one – visit this post if you need help. A domain name will allow you to have an email address something like firstname.lastname@example.org for each person in your organization. (See Why You Need a Domain Name for your email if you are serious about business, if you want to read my perspective on way this is extremely important). We recommend 1and1.com for Small Business users, again click here to see why.
2. Choose an Office 365 subscription
You need a plan – if you don’t know what plan you need, we cover it in a detailed post so check it out.
To cut to the chase, if you are a business (rather than government or education) and you want to run Office 365 without any commitment, you will need a free trial that can be converted into a paid subscription later. Pick one of the two options:
- the small biz plan includes SharePoint Online and web versions of Word, Excel, OneNote and Outlook Web Access so for a free no obligation trial click here
- the bigger biz plan includes Office 2010 Pro Plus install-able on up to 5 PCs for each subscriber as well as everything in the small biz plan and some other goodies, give it a go and click here.
There is one gotcha. Whichever “stream” you decide to follow, either the Small Business plan stream or the “Enterprise or E plans” stream, once you have chosen you are stuck with it. There is not a migration path between the two. If you want a little more information on this read our post 4 Things to consider when choosing an Office 365 Plan.
Now assuming you have made your decision and have clicked on the trial then lets move on to step 3.
3. Set up the Office 365 trial
I am assuming you have made it this far and now have a trial page open at the starting point of Office 365 sign up. Lets step through the remaining tasks and before I forget this is the Office 365 Small Business Plan P1 I am showing you here.
Where it asks for email address provide an active working non related email address.
In the New Domain Name box provide the name of your domain without the .com or .net or .whatever part. For instance for this site I would fill in office365forbiz and then click on Check availability.
After that you will see something like office365forbiz.onmicrosoft.com – if that name is already used within Microsoft’s platform they will suggest something else such as office365forbiz1.onmicrosoft.com.
Either way dont worry about it, no one will see the address or use it other than the Administrator (you) and it can be changed in most instances.
For a new user ID we always recommend putting in admin. Of course you can put your own name if you want to have your email account be the administrative account too. We recommend keeping them separate and it doesn’t cost anything extra to do so.
Finally enter a password and confirm it and give the page the generated code and keep scrolling down.
At the bottom of the screen enter a valid mobile phone number that you have access to. Press the Send Text Message button and a few seconds later you will get a verification code.
Enter the code you have been sent and then check or uncheck the box about Partners contacting you depending on whether you want more emails and finally click on the I accept and continue button.
Make sure you provide a valid working Mobile phone number so if Office 365 needs to text you because you managed to lock out your only Administrator account then you will have a chance of recovery. Additionally provide an alternate email. Makes sure it isn’t an Office 365 address.
Then click on Save and Continue.
Once the portal has completed its set up you can move on to step 4.
4. Add Your Domain
Adding a domain in the Small Business plan requires a few steps and some interaction with your domain name registrar. Fun.
In the Admin portal click on the Domains button. You will be taken to the Domains screen. In this example I already have one domain set up newportsrq.com (which is just a test domain).
The most important thing to understand with the Office 365 Small Business Plan as opposed to the Enterprise plans is that Microsoft prefer to take over your entire DNS functionality. What you are essentially doing is moving all your public DNS settings to Microsoft.
There are ways around doing this but I recommend you go with their preferred mode of operation.
Anyway, click on Add Domain.
Type in the name of your custom domain you want to use. Don’t worry about http:// or putting www in front of the domain name.
Then click Next.
At this point you will see a drop box with a choice of DNS providers. Select the Internet Provider you have – hopefully you got a 1and1.com Domain as recommended as at this point you can follow Microsoft’s instructions. I am not going to list them out here because you may have one of the many providers they mention.
After you have followed the steps you will have to wait for at least 15 minutes and up to 72 hours for the public DNS changes to take place. Normally the time frame is closer to 15 mins. When your domain is verified in the Office 365 admin console you can move on to the last step. Don’t be afraid to click off this screen. You can come back to the page later and try verifying again as many times as you would like.
Once the Domain has been verified, the final step is to change Name Servers.
Office 365 Name Servers
Every Domain Name on the internet has a list of servers that it uses to store addresses related to it and this list of one or more servers are called Name Servers. The Name Servers actually contain the entries for a domain such as all the host names and their IP addresses. For example, mycompany.com will have one or more Name Servers that contain the host www which will point to an IP address on the internet of that domains web site. It may also have a host called mail which also points to an IP address for your web mail application. These names therefore are the addresses of where to find computers that do things attached to your domain.
Anyway, for us to use different Name Servers for your domain name other than the ones you got from your domain registrar (in this case 1and1.com) to Microsoft’s Office 365 Name Servers you will need to refer to the registrars specific directions which can be reviewed here. Once this is complete, and again it may take up to 72 hours, you will have a screen like this:
5. Create your first real email user and press Send
So at this point you are actually finished. Congratulations. Office 365 is set up from an email perspective and the Sharepoint site is ready to go from a default point of view but you still need to create your first real user other than your admin account. So step 5 walks you through how to do this.
In the Admin portal of Office 365 go to the Users page and click on New and then User.
Fill in the users details and ensure you have the correct display name that you will want everyone to see in the Global Address List.
The final box allows you to specify the username that the user will log on with and this will also form the user portion of the email address. The user name and email do not have to be the same and can be changed later though it is recommended to keep them the same for simplicity. Also make sure that the domain name drop down has the correct domain address selected.
If you do not have any spare licenses (and if you are doing the Office 365 Small Business Plan trial you will have 9 licenses) then you must purchase some before you can enable the user for use. You can still create the user but they will not be mail enabled until assigned a license.
The creation wizard then returns to the Users page of the Office 365 Admin portal.
Your first user can now go to Office 365 Login and login for the first time. On this occasion they will sign in with the temporary password and then be asked to immediately change it for security reasons. Once signed in they can connect up Outlook or use Outlook Web App to immediately send email to the outside world.
There is a lot to Office 365 and setting it up and migrating to it but a green field install like this is fairly easy to do. If you require assistance with your set up or migration please contact us directly.