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General Questions

What information do I need to have Liquid Mercury help with with Office 365 set-up?

For a complete list of questions we ask during Office 365 migration projects, check out the Reverse-FAQ / Discovery Questions. At a minimum, here are a few things you'll need to get together for us to help you, assuming your company is fairly small.

  • If you've already started using Office 365, you'll need access to your account via a login with Global Administrator. If you set the service up yourself, this will be your login that you used to create it.
  • If you haven't set up Office 365 yet, you'll need to pick one or more possible names for your subscription. Usually we suggest something relatively short. The name has to be unique, so if your company name or initials are common, you may need to pick a few alternatives to find one that's not already taken.
  • Make sure you know how to access your DNS host/registrar. Making changes to DNS is a normal part of setting up Office 365, and not all services will work without this.
  • If you're migrating e-mail make sure you know how to access those accounts you want to move.
  • If we're installing Office 365 on your PCs, make sure you know the account for Administrator level access to each machine, since you'll likely be prompted for this during installation.
  • Make an inventory of your PCs and note the Windows or other OS version of each.
  • While it isn't absolutely necessary, it might be helpful to make an inventory of all the mobile devices that will be used.
  • It will be helpful to have the names and contact info handy for those people we'll be helping to set up.
  • If you have document scanners or copiers that send e-mail, let us know. This will affect our plans and estimates.
  • If you have a Windows domain controller, let us know. This will affect our plans and estimates.
  • You'll need to sign our credit card authorization form, which we'll send to you as part of the on-boarding process.

What does a typical migration process entail? What tasks will be performed?

Our migration process will vary somewhat based on the size or your organization and your company's specific needs. At the start of the migration, or possibly when you give you a quote or proposal, we'll put together a project plan, schedule, and task list. You can learn more by reading our Migration Guide or get a thorough description of what each task entails from our Understanding the Office 365 Migration Process.

What are your billing policies? How do they differ from how Microsoft bills us?

There are very few ways that our billing will be any different than billing through Microsoft, including the price you pay. Here are some key differences.

  • We offer monthly, quarterly, and yearly billing options.
  • We offer a wide variety of products and services that aren't provided by Microsoft.
  • The day of the month you are charged may be different.
  • We allow you to add and remove users as needed at any time. Microsoft will let you add, but not remove users.

For complete information, please see our Cloud Services Billing Policies.

Is there anything I need to know that might prevent me from using Office 365?

There may be reasons you would choose not to use Office 365, but there are two big show stoppers we see fairly often that you need to be aware of.

#1 - Office 365 version 2016 will not install on Windows XP or Vista

#2 - You'll need access to your company DNS domain to get the best use of Office 365

In the first case, we might be able to help you install an older version like Office 2013. However, if you're on Windows XP, we're recommending you upgrade right away. XP is no longer considered secure for connecting to the internet, and we've seen too many horror-story examples of this.

For the DNS domain requirement, please see DNS Questions. This pertains largely to setting up your login usernames, e-mail account addresses, and some aspects of Skype for Business. Most other services will work OK regardless.

For more nuance and comprehensive detail, please see our list of Office 365 Caveats.

How do I tell what version of Windows I'm running?

Probably the easiest thing to do is look at your start button / start menu. They look very different in Windows XP than they do in Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 10. Of course you can also open Control Panel > System and it'll say right there on the screen what version and edition you're running.

Windows XP Start Menu Windows Vista Start Menu Windows 7 Start Menu

Windows 8 Start Screen  

Windows 8.1 Start Menu  

Windows 10 Start Menu

2001: Windows XP

Not good for Office 365...
...or much of anything else these days. For the love of all, please don't connect XP to the Internet.

2006: Windows Vista

"What kind of operating system does it use?
(Police:) Err... it's... Vista.
We're going to die!"
- The IT Crowd

2009: Windows 7

Now that we think about it, it looks a *lot* like Vista. Makes us wonder why people liked it so much better.

2012: Windows 8/8.1

What Start Button?

Oh wait, there it is. :-)

2015: Windows 10

We guess it's true. It really does take Microsoft 3 tries to get something right.

I already have Skype, is that the same thing as Skype for Business?

Not quite. They have a lot of the same features now. Both can be used to make and receive phone calls without a land-line or cellular phone, both can be used for chat and video conferences among a handful of users. Skype for Business is the new version of Microsoft Lync/Communicator. It offers better security for users within your organization, can retain messages for compliance and business continuity purposes, and offers a lot of features for conference calling and virtual PBX services.

I already have OneDrive, is that the same thing as OneDrive for Business?

Again, not exactly, although they're getting closer to being the same every day. Each version has a separate client application, though Microsoft is working to unify these. OneDrive [personal] has been around longer, and it used to be called SkyDrive before Microsoft lost a court case that forced them to change the name. OneDrive for Business has gone by many names including Groove, My Site, and SharePoint Workspace. Both have the ability to synchronize files on your local computer with a generous amount of cloud storage. OneDrive for Business uses SharePoint as its back-end data store, leveraging its powerful search, document management, and compliance tools. It also has the ability to sync files from a SharePoint document library.

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DNS Questions

I don't know anything about who registered my domain name. Some technical person did that for me. How can I find out?

There are services on the Internet called WHOIS. For example ICANN has a WHOIS service. Unless your registration has been anonymized, you'll be able to see the detailed information for the business and technical contact that registered the domain. If it's anonymized, at least there will be a contact number for the business it was set up with, though you may have some work ahead of you to get them to respond.

What happens if I can't get my domain released by the person who registered it?

If you still have login information for the DNS registration and hosting service, then you're probably fine. With this, you should be able to change the registration information at any time. If you don't have this either, you're in a real pickle. You might be able to convince the registrar that you are the real owner of the domain name. This is a lengthy and potentially expensive process - and not a lot of fun.

Of course you can still use Office 365 in the meantime; it's just that your sign in name and email address will end in "". At that point, you may want to set up a new domain name for moving forward, while we help you figure out what to do to regain control of the old one.

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E-mail Questions

I need my email during the business day and basically all the time. Will there be any downtime where I won't be able to get or check my email?

No, there won't be any downtime if we migrate your mail to Office 365. Here's how it works. We set up your Office 365 accounts and copy the bulk of your mail into Exchange Online while you're still using your current e-mail system. On cutover-day, we switch your MX record in DNS to point to Office 365, which is a lot like giving a change of address card to the post office. Within a few hours, mail will start to arrive in Office 365. At that point, You start using the new e-mail account in Outlook, and we do a delta migration to pick up any email that were delivered to the old e-mail server. Once we're sure everything is moved, you can disconnect your old service.

There are also other options for large organizations, like hybrid Exchange configurations. If you have more than 50 users or you think that some people will need to move to the cloud while others will keep your existing email service for a while, talk to us about the available options.

I have a lot of legacy email accounts from past employees? Do I need Office 365 accounts for those?

Not necessarily, no. Microsoft offers Email Archiving services that apply mostly to larger organizations. For companies of a few hundred employees or less, we can usually migrate the e-mail from the existing mailbox into a folder of either another user or a Shared Mailbox. If those aren't options, the archived e-mail can be saved to PST files and backed up like any other file.

We have a server in our office that sends emails through Exchange? Will that work with Office 365?

Exchange Online allows you to create connections with existing SMTP servers that you have on-premises. In some cases, those servers are too old to support the modern TLS encryption that's required by Office 365 (and just a good idea). In those cases we can set up something called a Secure Tunnel to encrypt that traffic. Tell us if this is something that you require.

We have a copier/scanner/printer that sends email? Will that work with Office 365?

Unfortunately, most such devices that support scan-to-email don't have the necessary encryption to connect to Office 365 directly. Our answer about connecting on-site SMTP servers above applies in this case; we can make this work for you provided that we're able to configure a Secure Tunnel from your office to Office 365.

We use DMARC/DKIM for mail verification. Does that work with Office 365?

Microsoft has implemented some parts of DMARC and DKIM. However, they've been a bit slow to support "outbound DKIM". Last we heard was early 2016 and this was still not an option at that time, but we were able to work with two different third-party services to provide this for our clients. If your organization has a recognizable name brand and authority that might be exploited by phishing attacks pretending to send e-mail from your company, and you need to protect your reputation, talk to us about this option.

Can I send encrypted / secure e-mails from Office 365?

If you're using a program such as PGP to encrypt email, then the answer is definitely yes. Such programs secure the contents of the e-mail and rely on software at either end of the connection to encrypt/decrypt their contents. Office 365 doesn't interfere in any way with how they work.

If you're referring to mail systems like ZixMail that are used by banks and other organizations to communicate private, sensitive data like passwords or financial information, then the answer is also yes. In fact, this capability is included without additional charge in Office 365 E3 plans. It requires some set up, and this is a service we provide for a fee. If you compare our cost to the price of third-party solutions available, we think you'll agree that the choice is a no-brainer.

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Office Desktop Client Questions

How will you help me get my PC set up?


Unless you're fairly close to our office in Baltimore, this is generally done remotely. Sometimes we'll travel for groups with larger numbers of users. Installation can be done remotely using conferencing software like Skype for Business, WebEx, or GotoMeeting. Where appropriate, we may also use special tools that make the configuration process much more automated.


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Mobile Client Questions

I have an Android phone. Will I be able to get my email and documents in Office365?

Simply put, yes. Microsoft has a desktop versions of Office 365 for Mac and PC and mobile versions for Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile.

I use an Mac/iPad/iPhone. Will I be able to get my email and documents in Office365?

Yes. Same answer as above. Microsoft has a desktop versions of Office 365 for Mac and PC and mobile versions for Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile.

I have a Commodore 64. Will I be able to get my email and documents in Office365?

Please stop being silly. Everyone knows the C-64 isn't a mobile computer. ;-)

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SharePoint Questions

What's SharePoint?

Put as simply as possible, SharePoint is a web based platform for sharing documents and working in teams. It's like the backbone that ties your organization together. SharePoint is powerful, enterprise-class software with a variety of applications. For several years now, it's been used in the majority of large businesses, and thanks to Office 365 it's now available at affordable prices for even the smallest companies.

Why would I need SharePoint when I have a perfectly good file share?

There are several reasons, but one good one is that SharePoint Online is accessible to you even when you're not at your place of business. Another difference is that SharePoint has tools to be a sophisticated filing system that'll help keep your documents organized, plus lots more to make your team more productive. If you're interested in SharePoint and how it can help you, let's talk.

I have an older version of SharePoint running on-premises or in a hosted environment, or I am trying to decide whether to begin with SharePoint in the cloud or on-premises. What are the advantages and disadvantages of moving to SharePoint Online versus upgrading my current SharePoint farm?

That's a pretty complicated question, with an even more complicated answer. If this described you, we should probably schedule some time to sit down and talk, understand your needs, and help lay out your options.

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Licensing Questions

I got Office when I bought my computer. Why do I need Office 365?

We understand that you may have gotten a copy of Office when you bought a PC from an OEM like Dell or HP. It may even have included a limited time subscription to Office 365. In general, these copies of Office are the Home Edition of the product, and don't offer everything included in Office 365 Business plans. There's also an Office 365 Personal plan, and the same differences apply there. If you're a one-person work-from-home kind of business, these products may be just fine for you. When you start to grow, or when you're ready to upgrade your software, think about looking at Office 365 Business or Business Premium. These are great plans with a lot of value that goes beyond just the software running on your PC, such as e-mail and cloud storage services.

What happens to the copy/copies of Office that we already purchased after we install Office 365?

Subscription and traditional licenses are very different. For one thing, Office 365 subscriptions are per user and allow up to five machines per user at one time; traditional Offices licenses are only for a single machine. While there are some exceptions, most of the time you shouldn't install traditionally licensed Office products and a subscription based Office products on the same machine. You should expect that whatever version of Office you're using now will be removed when you switch to Office 365. However, we can retrieve the license keys from your machine so you can possibly use them elsewhere later on. Tell us if you'd like this service.

Some of my employees need Office, but some of them just need email. Do I have to pay for Office access for all of them?

No. Office 365 has a variety of plans available, including plans for just email and something called a "kiosk" plan that's specifically designed for employees who don't have their own desktop computer as part of their job. We can help you figure out what combination of Office 365 licenses will work best for your employees.

We have shared mailboxes like that are accessed by multiple people in our organization. Do I need to include those in my user count when I'm looking at the license costs for Office 365?

Nope! Shared Mailboxes are not people - though apparently some corporations think that they are - and therefore Shared Mailboxes don't count against the per-user cost in Office 365. The same applies to distributions lists or groups, which aren't really mailboxes at all.

Can I use a Shared Mailbox for a part-time employee so I don't have to pay for a full license?

We have seen some folks who wanted to use Shared Mailboxes to try and save money on the number of actual people in the organization, but we don't recommend it. For one thing, it'll make the mailbox a lot harder for them to access and use, especially on mobile devices. There are plenty of cheap options available if all you need is to give a contractor, outside business party, or temp worker access to a mailbox with your domain name. Ask us if this applies to part of your workforce.

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Data Storage and Backup Questions

Will Microsoft maintain backups of my Office 365 data for me?

Microsoft keeps back-ups of Office 365 data for use in meeting their own service level agreement with you. There is a 14 day window on most of these back-up copies, and we've seen plenty of circumstances over the years where a problem wasn't discovered in time, or it took too long to work through the process, and the data was gone. Also, Microsoft can't restore a mailbox in the event that an administrator deletes it on purpose.

For all these reasons and more, in order to be completely covered, we recommend that you have an alternative backup process in place. Fortunately, there are many such services available and we can provide them for you at reasonable rates.

I've got a lot of data. What are the data storage limits for Office 365?

It depends on how many accounts you have and what your highest level plan is. This is one of the reasons we recommend that even small organizations should get at least one E3 plan, because it will increase the base level of storage that you get with SharePoint. There are different limits for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business. These limits change often - usually increasing over time - although Microsoft did take back "unlimited" file storage in OneDrive for Business, because someone apparently tried to upload the entire internet to it. If you do hit the limits, extra storage space can be purchased at very competitive prices. If you'd like to know how storage limits will affect you, this something we provide as part of our Cloud Services Evaluation for our new Office 365 customers.

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Privacy and Data Security Questions

Will my data be safe if I move to the cloud?

Like many businesses, this was a concern for us when Office 365 was new. As a Microsoft Partner, we did our research and found that Microsoft goes to great lengths to protect the privacy, security, and sovereignty of your data. If you have a specific concern about the cloud, share it with us. Liquid Mercury offers solutions that make the cloud a realistic option even for the US Department of Defense. We're sure we can find a way to make it work for your organization.

Can I trust Microsoft not to read my email?

Ever send an email and start seeing ads related to the topic of your discussion? That's because Google's entire business model is based on advertising revenue. Microsoft is a business software provider, and while they do own Bing and have some interests in media companies, they've made a firm commitment that Office 365 will respect your privacy and your e-mail will remain private.

How do I know if Microsoft is sharing my data with the government?

Fact is, that under current law, companies who receive requests from the government under the PATRIOT Act aren't currently permitted to notify you when this happens. Microsoft and its IT industry allies have been fighting hard to have this changed so that there's more accountability and fairness to the process, and Microsoft has been widely known to actively defend such cases in court.

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Compliance Questions

We need to maintain compliance with HIPAA, SOX, etc. or have to follow other legal compliance practices. Can Office 365 do that?

We're glad you asked. We have solutions that can help you maintain compliance requirements within Office 365 for as little as $12 per user per year, and we can even check your data for compliance as we migrate you into Office 365. We also have specific solutions designed to help FSOs (Federal/Facility Security Officers) maintain security compliance within their organization, using e-Discovery and Legal Hold features included in Office 365. If you're interested in these packages, please ask us about it.

My company is subject to ITAR regulations. Can I use Office 365?

This one is a pretty tricky question. First, I will say we are not lawyers and this shouldn't be taken as legal advice. While we're not saying that ITAR doesn't apply to you, we have observed that ITAR was written before cloud solutions were common, and people seem to broadly over-interpret the ITAR requirements to apply in ways that don't seem to make much sense.

For example, you could make the argument that a SharePoint server stored under your desk in a locked office is ITAR compliant because it has only your company/agencies data stored on it, but Office 365 would not be ITAR compliant because the system stores data from lots of different organizations in the same data center. Go figure!

Fortunately, Office 365 was recently certified as ITAR compliant and has a secure US government zone called FedRamp. If you work with us and the federal agency that you service that requires ITAR compliance, we can help you get accepted into FedRamp. But, depending on your requirements, you may not need to be in FedRamp, because when Microsoft submitted their configuration, it is the one for all of Office 365.

If you want to play it safe, the best bet is to start a conversation with us, our partners, and the security folks for the agency that you work with. We can help you figure it out from there, and if it turns out that you need an ITAR compliant cloud service but can't get into FedRamp, there are other options available through our partners.

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Authentication / User Management Questions

We have a Windows Small Business Server running in our office and our users have accounts to login to it. Will we need to create a separate set of Office365 accounts for our employees who already have Active Directory accounts, or is there a way for Office 365 to be able to use the existing accounts to access cloud services?

Our company is small. Can we do Single Sign On for Office 365, or is it too complex and expensive for us?

We have quite a few users. Isn't it harder to manage users and licenses for larger teams in Office 365?

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Competition / Alternative Product Questions

We currently use Google Docs/Mail/Apps. What can Office 365 do for us that Google can't?

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