Bob here.  I don’t know if you’re the kind of person who enjoys motivational posters (like I sure am, by golly!), But last Friday sure reminded me of the classic poster “Mistakes” from those great motivators at Despair, Inc.

"It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others."

“It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”

Now, it might seem rather strange that I’d start out an entry with that kind of reference. But you have to understand that we chose Friday as a swell day (by the way, did you know that last Friday was the 13th?) to migrate our e-mail from Microsoft BPOS over to Microsoft’s new Office 365.

After all, our beta test went swimmingly. The research we did made it look like it would be fairly simple for us to migrate our current environment albeit manually over to the new one. And yes, it was raining, but by golly, we were going to do it!

After all, how tough could it be?

If you haven’t figured by now, gentle reader, the story isn’t going to go well for our fearless heroes in the saga. The assumption (yes, we know) was that if there were any problems, it would be relatively simple to switch our e-mail back to the original. Oh, how wrong we were.

First, a little technical background. When you send an e-mail to someone, the stuff after the @ is referred to as the e-mail domain. Ours is Simplex-IT.com. Each domain has its own set of records, referred to as DNS records. These tell the rest of the world where specifically to send any e-mail sent to that organization. Our started out the day pointing to Microsoft’s BPOS. The idea was to transfer it to point to Microsoft’s Office 365. If there any difficulties, well we would just point ‘em right back. We even practiced our innocent angelic looks, with hands behind our backs eyes looking upwards to the heavens, and whistling innocently.

The strategy was simple. We would set up a new account, using Office 365. Once everything looks appropriate, we would set it to work with our domain. Once everything looks good, we would change the MX records in DNS to point to Office 365, and have a swell time.

What we didn’t realize, and what got us in trouble, was that Microsoft BPOS uses the same anti-spam solution as Office 365. More importantly, if you add a domain that was previously handled by BPOS without first contacting Microsoft to do a special undocumented step, it ain’t going to work. And it will not tell you why not.

Oh, and by the way, we should tell you… you  couldn’t fall back to the original B+ configuration.

So we ended up spending about three hours on Friday, unable to receive e-mails, relying on Microsoft Support to help us figure out this problem. Before too long we were actually able to determine the issue ourselves (which means we searched the Internet and found someone else who had already solved it), but the solution involve Microsoft doing a couple of steps. Unfortunately, Microsoft support people weren’t aware of the steps that needed to be done. At least not at first. So we had the entertaining tasks of moving back and forth from one department to another, throughout the whole time listening to various hold messages telling us “your call is very important to us,” “this call may be monitored for quality assurance,” and “did we know that we could also place a service call online?”

Finally, we got our problem solved. It was actually fairly simple, and the whole problem was very easy to avoid (had we known). It was fairly straightforward. In a nutshell, you need to erase your domain from BPOS and then contact Microsoft and inform them to erase it from there’s side of BPOS. Then, and only then should you add the domain to Office 365. Had we done that, the migration would’ve been a piece of cake.

Actually, our total downtime?  About 3 hours.  In the grand scheme of things, honestly, not the worst thing that could have happened.  But not a result I’m overly happy with.

Now, before you think this is a rant on Microsoft, it isn’t. Office 365 is still a beta product, although it set to release next month. And to be honest, some of the features (like Lync 2010 especially) are actually fantastic. And for the most part, deployment with this one rather large exception has been fairly painless. No, this is a rant on me. We should’ve done some additional testing, we should have done some additional research, and we should’ve done this in the evening or during the weekend. Plain and simple, I got cocky.

I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be this arrogant with a customer’s organization. And for the most part, I think my track record reflects that. The funny part of all this is that the day before this fun event, as I related in an earlier blog entry, I had 50 people online who are very interested in what I have to say regarding marketing. So, I admit, maybe, just maybe, my ego got a little larger than it should’ve.

Boy, did Friday the 13th take care of that!