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Keith Caines
Occasional Contributor

Hello,

 

I currently have a scenario where there is a Hybrid Exchange environment with 1 server. All my mailboxes have been migrated online.

 

I would like to completely remove dependency on local AD and I do not care about AD synchronization.

 

How do I "tell" the O365 tenant not function on it's own so that I can manage 100% from 365 Administration?

 

I do understand that my MX and other DNS records will need to be changed.

 

Are there any solid guides out there on decommissioning the on premise exchange server. I want to do this with the least impact on users.

 

Thanks,

 

Keith

80 Replies
I've just done some research and it looks like I need to run

Set-MsolDirSyncEnabled –EnableDirSync $false

Apparently this will change all my Mailboxes to "In Cloud" instead of "Synced with Active Directory"

At this stage I assume I will be able to manage mailboxes from the Office 365 Tenant.

Am I correct in saying that my next step would be to change my DNS to point mailflow to 365, or is the something else that needs to be done to take the on-premises "hybrid" server out of the equation?

Thanks!

Everything you need to know right here ..

 

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn931280(v=exchg.150).aspx

 

If you have removed Azure AD Connect then you can remove on-premise Exchange. It's the presence of this component that would necessitate keeping an on-premise Exchange Server for mailbox management

Sorry Ian, but that is incorrect.  We ourselves, as well as the majority of our clients, run Azure AD Connect WITHOUT an on premise exchange server.

 

I use AD to create users inside my Active Directory for old LAN drives (shares) and local printers.  I set their password there -

 

I then use Office 365 to provision and maintain their mailboxes without issue. 

 

Under what scenario/functionality are you thinking a local Exchange Server is required?

Well, the main scenario that springs to mind is that removing the last Exchange server puts you in an unsupported environment ..

 

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn931280(v=exchg.150).aspx

 

Of course you can use tools such as adsiedit etc to modify Exchange attributes of your local accounts prior to sync - but again, unsupported.

 

If you are still using Azure AD Connect to sync your accounts to the cloud then the only supported way to manage recipients is with a local Exchange Server. That may change but to my knowledge that hasn't happened - yet.

 

 

 

 

I'm sorry - still not seeing it.  It says "not recommended" - can you explain the part where it is actually "required"? 

 

Or more importantly - are you saying that I cannot change the email address for a user from Active Directory console or add an alias (which I can)?  Or update their manager, or address, or title? (Which I can)

 

I'm trying to find someone from @microsoft.com that says it's not supported.  But everything I read, its a MVP or someone not from the company saying it's a requirement.  Should be easy to find in official documents no?   Alas - there is nothing about it in AD Connect pre-requisites, and Microsoft only says its required "during hybrid" but I have yet to see an actual document state its required even after your hybrid deployment is complete.

 

Happy to be wrong - I just haven't seen it yet - 

"The question of whether a third-party management tool or ADSIEDIT can be used is often asked. The answer is you can use them, but they are not supported. The Exchange Management Console, the Exchange Administration Center (EAC), and the Exchange Management Shell are the only supported tools that are available to manage Exchange recipients and objects. If you decide to use third-party management tools, it would be at your own risk. Third-party management tools often work fine, but Microsoft does not validate these tools.."

 

Seems pretty clear to me. YMMV

Hey Joe,

 

Question of whether it is supported or not aside, I was wondering how you are managing things like adding an alias, etc?  I have always done this through the EAC in our environment.  The last time I think I saw the ability to modify Exchange attributes through AD Users and Computers was back with Exchange 2003.  Am I missing something, or are you using ADSIEdit?  Thanks!

Hello Steve,

 

you can modify Exchange attributes / settings over Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC) console. Open ADUC, hit View, Advanced Features, select a user and change to Attributes tab. Here you could change the mail alias by changing the mailNickname attribute.

 

For the changes to be reflected in your O365 Tenant please wait or force the next Azure AD Connect sync.

 

Kind regards

Spiros

As Spiros says - we simply use AD Users and Computers to edit our Exchange properties for O365

Hi Keith,

 

Been through the comments in your thread and reminded me of my previous project where the customer stated to go fully online after moving the last mailbox to the cloud since they were using a hosted mailbox solution and had to continue paying if they wanted the hybrid to remain.

 

We did the following

1. Remove the hybrid relationship between the hosted exchange and the Office 365

2. Change DNS records to fully go O365 based ( autodiscover, SPF, DKIM, MX )

3. Update the  AAD connect to only use the the current primary AD Forest for sync.

 

The customer's team had no issues in updating required attributes using AD. But Microsoft FastTrack came back stating that if we do the O365 with only an AAD Connect in place and no exchange server then it puts us in an Un-Supported platform when you call Microsoft for any help.


What they suggested is that you need to have Exchange installed atleast to make sure that your Schema supports the right attributes and that the exchange server should be used to provision the mail enabled accounts so that the right attributes are synced to the cloud.

 

I do have an email from FTC, but unfortunately cannot share it in public as the information contains customer sensitive information in it.

 

To end the story with that customer, we ended up installing a minimal exchange server and back to hybrid configuration to make sure that the configuration is still supported.

 

Not sure what you would gain by removing that exchange server unless its a high dependency on some resources, costs etc, i would suggest to leave the hybrid ON. It can also be used as an email relay within the organization. You can trim down the hardware and give just the bare necessary requirements in it.

 

Hope my previous situation and its outcome helps you.


Regards,

Prashant

Gentlemen,

Thank you for this valuable info first of all. Secondly, I am with the school of thought that you can keep managing attributes in AD especially the mail ones like proxyAddress and targetAddress attributes. Having your last Exchange server around is unnecessary to me personally as the simple process of create accounts and syncing attributes is simple enough to provision mailboxes in Exch Online.

However, I can assume why Microsoft has given us a blanket answer for keeping ONE last Exch server around. The answer being that while MS goes around updating exchange server versions behind the scenes for all the client tenants. They may introduce new attributes (perhaps?) that only Active Directory may not house. I am talking about msExch attributes which is a big deal. Having a gap say between customers decommissioning from an Exchange 2013 hybrid while Exch Online will be running 2019 for a customer tenant. This is a dangerous gap to have... wouldn't you all agree? With having one exch server around, the onus will be on the customer to eventually upgrade the AD schema and employ such newer attributes to take advantage of features in Exch online. I hope I make sense in my assumption. What are your thoughts?

Everything you say makes sense, but it all comes down to running an environment supported by Microsoft. This may or may not matter in some scenarios but for me anyway I'd rather be managing a supported setup.

 

I'd highly recommend having a look for Hybrid related sessions coming out of Ignite 2018 as the story may have changed somewhat.

 

Ian

I am just now looking into doing a O365 migration and when you look at the MS documentation they really push the Hybrid path for any site over 150 users, but it doesn't talk in the migration planing guides about the issues with decommissioning.  Only because I am doing a lab setup and I am getting to the decommissioning faze with that, that I running across this.  

 

It seems like if this is the migration scenario they are going to push they need to do some more work on getting it so you can really do a clean cut at the end.

Hi Prashant.

 

In the scenario you described and concluded by asking "Not sure what you would gain by removing that exchange server" I would like to in turn ask what do you gain or lose by removing that server?

 

We want to remove as much of our On-Prem as possible and my task is to decommission our On-Prem Exchange altogether and rely solely on the cloud. 

 

Thanks,

Carlos

Hi Carlos,

 

Like you have mentioned, the only gain is to have 1 / 2 less server (s) to manage.

 

Downsides : - have seen them happen with customers

1. When we remove the server, then the SD or L1 guys who were used to provisioning mailbox/remote-mailbox or mail user with the exchange console will have to resort to manually populating the attributes (ADSIEDIT), which can be bothersome and some SD agents who are really beginners may not be comfortable doing that.

 

2. have had a detailed email from the FTC (fast track center) {we had planned and executed this for one customer like that} that removing the last server may be technically feasible, but MS PSS does not support when a customer has removed the last exchange server in hybrid and they "informed" in the email that to be supported by MS PSS we would have to re-install the hybrid server again.

 

Personally, if you ask me i would retain 1 single machine (which these days can be a high end laptop/desktop) to be in supported model rather than have nasty surprises when calling MS when you are in deep trouble with EMAIL system for something else.

 

Regards,

Prashant D

I have found this thread very interesting. We are in a situation where our on prem server is so old it's no longer supported. Therefore, we've been looking at decommissioning it. So we're partly not supported anyway!

 

Regards 

Pete

Highlighted

Hello Carlos,

 

it is pretty clear at the moment that maintaining one last Exchange server just for management purposes is the supported way to go when you like to synchronize your active directory users and their attributes to Azure AD. 

 

Sure many guys are going to say that you can use ADSI, third-party tools or even nothing to manage your Exchange users in Office 365 BUT the question is, is it really bothering you to keep a last virtual machine with 2 CPUs and 4 GB RAM to be in a supported scenario for your business critical application like mailing ? It will be also more comfortable for your exchange administrators or even just system administrators to manage your exchange objects, even those are in the cloud, Office 365, or on-premises like function mailboxes. Keep in mind that for that purpose the Microsoft provides an Exchange hybrid key to license your on-premises Exchange server. That on-premises server could also be used as SMTP server for on-premises devices like FAX or printers or even on-premises applications that need an SMTP server to send e-mails, think about your NAS System, your firewall etc. 

 

If on the other hand, you would like to go FULL Cloud there is also an option for "small" companies called Microsoft 365 Business. With that license you can join your devices to Azure AD, your mailboxes are hosted in the cloud, you don't have to synchronize anything and you can manage your computers and devices through Microsoft Intune. Almost no server at all on-premises, but again, it depends on your environment, the use case and what are you trying to achieve. 

 

If you don't mind to provide me few more information around your environment, even in a personal message, and I would be glad to share with you my experience and talk about what were the best options for your environment. 

 

Kind regards

Spiros

I'm in the last steps of our migration from on-premise Exchange Server 2016 to Office 365.

 

I am honestly very surprised that demoting your on-prem Exchange server after moving all content to the cloud is an unsupported scenario.

For me at least, reducing our on-premise Windows and Exchange server footprint was one of the major reasons for migrating to the cloud in the first place.

 

Keeping a resource hog and patch management nightmare like Exchange server around in order to manage my cloud email accounts seems to defeat the entire purpose of moving to the cloud in the first place.

 

I'll go the unsupported path, decommission the on-prem Exchange and simply manage my user accounts using the attribute editor from Active Directory Users and Computers.

 

The handful of instances where I had to rely on Microsoft's paid support were really not worth the bother, so nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess? 

Hello @Dominik Wagner,

 

it is not exactly that way. Unsupported is only the scenario where you have Azure AD Connect tool synchronizing your on-premises Active Directory objects to Azure AD and also those objects are mail-enabled objects. If you don't synchronize your on-premises AD objects, for password sync etc, then you can just remove the last Exchange Server. 

 

If on the other hand, you are on the need of synchronizing your on-premises AD objects and those are also mail-enabled objects then you should keep at least one hybrid Exchange Server on-premises. That Exchange Server, could be also a brand new Exchange 2016 with a hybrid key that you obtain from Microsoft at no cost, is not going to be any nightmare as you describe because you are not going to have any productive e-mail objects, like mailboxes, on that server. Either the cumulative updates should not be installed so often like in a production server because that server is there only for management purposes and does not host any critical e-mails objects. Either if that server gets destroyed or doesn't boot after a failed configuration-update it does not matter. Just install a new one and we are back in the game. 

 

Please allow me to answer all your considerations if more exist. 

 

Have a nice day mate

 

Kind regards,

Spikar

This question rises every now and then. For short: you don't NEED an exchange server, attributes can be edited in ADUC as described in this message thread. After all, there are organizations which have never had an Exchange server and are running Office 365 (as I do).

 

AFAIK only thing you'll loose is email policies

You should be able to use policy’s as usual!
As said, the caveat is when you use adconnect to sync objects - making it more troublesome to change attributes and settings related to mail, without an on premises exchange server

Email policies (automatically assign addresses) is a feature only available in on-prem Exchange. I would like to see this feature also in EOL - at least for pure-cloud environment. Anyways, if you remove on-prem Exchange server, you will loose the email policies feature.

Alright, was thinking about overal policy’s you can use

@Nestori Syynimaa if you never had Exchange on-premises is something different because your AD objects don't have the exchange attributes and your AD doesn't have the exchange Schema. 

 

If you had Exchange Server in your on-premises AD then your AD objects have exchange attributes. That means that you are going to have conflicts if you don't follow the best practices regarding a hybrid exchange environment. 

 

 

Sure @Spiros Karampinis, it is a bit different but in practice that is irrelevant. Basically all you need is proxyAddresses attribute, which is included "normal" AD schema.

 

Again, you do not NEED an on-prem Exchange server - although this is not "supported" by Microsoft.

@Nestori Syynimaa thank you for your reply.

 

How can you guarantee that the additional proxyAddress doesn't already exist,

or if the mailNickname that you set isn't occupied by another user?

 

Worth for you the whole pre-check workload the time and your energy to avoid having one more virtual machine with 2 vCPU and 4GB vRAM and an Exchange instance installed?

Good point @Spiros Karampinis.

 

In Office 365/Azure AD all email addresses are unique. If you add an email address in on-prem AD already used by someone in Azure AD, you'll have a synchronization error and you can fix it. So, if you have a clear policy how you form your email addresses (firstname.lastname, etc.) this really isn't an issue.

 

@Keith Caines do you still have any considerations/questions regarding Exchange hybrid ?

Hi Spikar,

 

thanks for your clarification.

 

Regardless, I've since removed the on-prem Exchange last Friday and haven't yet experienced any issues.

 

I'll keep using the AD attribute editor to modify email addresses. Since we're talking about 28 mailboxes in total, I should be able to handle it without creating any conflicts.

 

Should I encounter any insurmountable problems, I guess I can always simply add an Exchange server back to our domain.

 

Regards,

Dominik

@Dominik Wagner exactly! 

 

I don't think you are going to face any problems/issues/difficulties if you know what are you doing, which I think so :) 

 

But you are definitely right, if you encounter any insurmountable problems you can easily install an Exchange Server an check the problems from Exchange sight. 

 

Just keep in mind after the installation of an Exchange server the Active Directory SCP is going to be updated/created and the outlook clients on domain-joined computers will try to connect to the on-premises Exchange server in the autodiscovery process to locate the mailbox of the user. After the installation set the Service Connection Point to $null 

 

Get-ClientAccessServer -Identity $NAME$ | Set-ClientAccessServer -AutoDiscoverServiceInternalUri $null

 

Have a nice day

Hi Guys,

 

Did you ever consider finishing the hybrid installation off. 

 

Uninstalling exchange.

 

Uninstalling the adsync tool , stopping the sync at cloud level. Then just reset the password sync tool up using smtp matching?

 

This method would then be supported? As your not continueing with a hybrid.

I have a scenario somewhat similar. All mailboxes, DL's, and contacts are in the cloud. I'm using AADSync to sync passwords to Azure AD. All email management is done in the cloud, nothing in on-prem Exchange. What's the need to keep the on-prem Exchange other than Microsoft's "Because I said so"?

 

Some replies say that it's minimal, but it's more than that. It's an OS license, it's patch management, it's still uses resources, still needs to be backed up. There is still a lot of maintaining there. I want the on-prem gone since it's not being used.

 

Also, we don't use AD FS and all DNS records, MX, autodiscover, cname, etc, have been pointed to O365.

Basically, it’s for easier attribute creation and management and keep it a supported configuration according to Microsoft

We don't edit any of the attributes. And all management is done in the cloud. All I need AADSync for password sync so I don't have to manage another password system.

 

I'm trying to grasp why in my environment I still need Exchange outside of Microsoft saying I do. If AADSync handles the password sync to Azure AD, no attributes are modified, and all management is done in the cloud, I see no further use for the on-prem Exchange.

You still add mail addresses through either AD or exchange if users are synchronized! You can manage this without exchange via attribute editor or adsi edit if the attributes are there since a prior exchange installation though!
AFAIK MS still requires an exchange server in this scenario for it to be supported! I belive MS gives a free license for this as well, as long there’s no mailboxes on premises

After creating an AD user, we wait until the account has synced to the cloud, then add the email address in the cloud. We don't add the email address using ADU&C or on-prem Exchange ECP. In fact, we don't even use the on-prem Exchange ECP anymore. This is where the difficulty in grasping the concept if keeping the on-prem Exchange is coming in. AS previously mentioned, ALL email management is now done in the cloud, nothing is done on-prem.

@BrianSmith as ae mentioned before the Exchange on-premises is required to be on supported from Microsoft track. However you can still uninstall the last Exchange Server and manage your users on the cloud and keep the AAD sync active, please update to AAD Connect if you still use AAD Sync. The reason of keeping one Exchange on-premises is to keep the same AD attribute update/changes that are happening after Microsoft update/upgrade the Exchange Servers in O365. If you miss th Exchange on-premises you will miss any changes that will come in the future and that may lead to problems. Is your environment, so your call. :)

@BrianSmith wrote:

I have a scenario somewhat similar. All mailboxes, DL's, and contacts are in the cloud. I'm using AADSync to sync passwords to Azure AD. All email management is done in the cloud, nothing in on-prem Exchange. What's the need to keep the on-prem Exchange other than Microsoft's "Because I said so"?

 

Some replies say that it's minimal, but it's more than that. It's an OS license, it's patch management, it's still uses resources, still needs to be backed up. There is still a lot of maintaining there. I want the on-prem gone since it's not being used.

 

Also, we don't use AD FS and all DNS records, MX, autodiscover, cname, etc, have been pointed to O365.


I can only say that, so far, about 2 months into the transition I don't miss the on-premise Exchange server at all.

 

I've gotten used to simply managing our AD accounts using the attribute editor and syncing everything using AAD.

 

Of course, I don't know how things might eventually evolve over those next few years..maybe there'll be indeed a server-side change on Microsoft's part which would eventually require an on-premise Exchange server for necessary AD schema additions..but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

 

Like you said, keeping an on-premise Exchange around, even if just for management purposes, is just too much of a hassle and completely negates the primary motivation of moving everything to the cloud in the first place.

 

I really hope Microsoft corrects their stance on this particular issue, it really is quite bewildering. 

Being that I still have an on-prem Exchange server, I have not had the need to edit any attributes. Without the on-prem, what attributes are needing to be edited?

Thanks Dominik. That article is very enlightening. But it brings me back to my original question. If I create email addresses for new accounts, add aliases, hide email addresses, do all email management in the cloud, what is the purpose of the on-prem Exchange server, other that to be in a "supported" configuration? In my opinion, at this point, the on-prem is totally useless since NO email management is done on-prem through AD or Exchange.

 

I create a new account in on-prem AD, AAD Connect syncs it to Azure AD, I go to the O365 cloud console, add a license to the new user account, and it's done. Nothing done on-prem. This is why I don't understand why Microsoft is trying to force me to keep an on-prem Exchange server, "free" or not.

Just to give you some examples about what you may not be able to configure with Azure AD Connect in place without Exchange on-premises, try the following over Exchange Admin Center in O365 :

 

  1. Hide a mailbox from the address book 
  2. Update mailbox alias
  3. Add or edit an SMTP address
  4. Change mailbox delegation settings

 

Please share with us the results of those actions, I would also be glad to have your thoughts regarding the results. 

 

Thank you

 

Kind regards

Spikar

I will have to lab this to find out considering my on-prem is still in active hybrid mode.

 

I can currently do all of those in the O365 Exchange Admin Console, so I will have to see what I'd lose, if anything, by decommissioning a hybrid on-prem Exchange.

Brian you dont have to remove anything to check those four points, just try to update a mailbox that is in Office 365 but the user is synced from on-premises AD over Office 365 Exchange Admin center and let us know the result.

Thank you
Spikar

In that case, I've been doing that since we completed the migration and moved all of the DNS entries to the cloud. As previously mentioned, we do ALL email maintenance in the cloud, on-prem is never touched anymore. The only thing our on-prem is currently doing is an SMTP relay for a service that is about to be decommissioned in the next 4-6 weeks.

 

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, just wanting total clarity and justification for decommissioning my hybrid mode without negative effect, other than Microsoft not supporting us. We use a 3rd party for Office 365 support, not Microsoft.

I think what Spiros is trying to find out is how exactly are you doing things now, because if you try to set some attributes directly in Office 365 it often will show an error that your attributes should come from local AD/Exchange as you sync your users and attributes from local AD via AD Connect. So, you could just give an example. Say last name of a user changes and you need to add an alias with a new name. Describe step by step how you do it.

 

On my last job we had on-prem Exchange (which was actually outsourced to local cloud provider, but it was in our network), then we had setup hybrid and migrated mailboxes and settings to Office 365. All mail related DNS, MX records now point to Exchange Online. Then we have uninstalled on-prem Exchange (but Exchange schema is already in our AD). And then we did everything like described in the article Dominik shared. We create new user with email UPN and correct SMTP value in local AD, it then gets synced with AD Connect to Office 365, then assign a license and then mailbox gets created in a few minutes. If new alias is needed, we go to AD, edit ProxyAddresses attribute, add new smtp:.. value, it gets synced to Office 365 and new alias works. If i tried to edit/add alias via Office 365 EAC it would fail with error that i need to do this on my local AD/Exchange. Although some things still work via Office 365 panel, like creating shared/room mailboxes (it still shows an error, but mailbox is created and functions), adding delegates, full access. Maybe it is possible to do everything in Office 365 by having AD writeback enabled in AD Connect, but as it required Azure AD Premium license we didn't try it (and i would be wary to let AD Connect to alter local AD).

To test your request:

  1. Created O365 Test UPN:o365.test@emaildomain.com, in on-prem AD, not on-prem Exchange
  2. Synced changes to Azure AD
  3. Found new user account in O365 admin portal, assigned license
  4. Waited for mailbox creation
  5. Sent email to test account, responded back
  6. Changed on-prem AD user from O365 User UPN:o365.user@emaildomain.com
  7. Synced changes to Azure AD
  8. Confirmed username change in O365 admin portal
  9. User email address still shows as o365.test@emaildomain.com
  10. O365 ECP shows primary email address as o365.user@emaildomain.com, no o365.test@emaildomian.com as an alias
  11. Attempted to add o365.test@emaildomian.com as an alias and received the message that it was unable to to so

Ok, so this is a scenario we have not run into before and exactly why I was digging deeper. I looked in my on-prem ECP and didn't see the new test user so I could modify the alias. Should I be creating the accounts in on-prem ECP so that Exchange attributes will be added to the account?

You also have to change email address in General tab in AD profile and then go to Attributes tab (don't remember the exact name now, and it only shows if Advanced setting is enabled in AD console) and change ProxyAddresses>SMTP value (delete old, create new). Usually we change SMTP to a new value and then create smtp with an old address, so customers can still send emails to the old address. It can take some time for everything to sync and start working. New alias usually works right away for receiving emails, but sometimes can take hours or a day until it is being used as a sending address.

It's your call to whether create users from ECP or from AD (if you uninstall Exchange). When you create users in AD, they still have Exchange attributes as AD schema is already altered and has them.

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