Thursday 8 November 2018

Things to remember when configuring Exchange Hybrid to Office 365 and Exchange Online

Tip 1 – Office 365 should be used as a smart host for external mail routing

The Hybrid Configuration Wizard creates connectors on the Exchange Server to route mail to and from Office 365. By default, the on premise Send Connector is configured to only route mail destined for the “ SMTP namespace.

This Send Connector is configured to use MX records lookups to find its next hop to route mail to this SMTP domain. I have had far better results if the Send Connector is manually configured to send all mail for “tenantname.mail.onmicrosoft.comto the tenant’s public MX record target. In theory it should make no difference!

For clarity you modify the Send Connector on the Exchange Server it is usually labelled “Outbound to Office 365” if the HCW was used to configure your server. You can also find the MX record target by using MX Toolbox.

You will notice the smart host authentication option is set to None. Office 365 will use the federation certificate in place to authenticate the server, therefore no authentication is required on the Send Connector. 

Tip 2 – The Exchange Hybrid Configuration Wizard does not complete the job

If you have on premise Exchange Server before adopting Office 365, it is likely that you will have Send Connectors already in place to route mail to the Internet. During the design phases you must decide how you are going to architecture your mail flow. Personally I think it’s best to route all email from the Internet through Exchange Online, then down to the Exchange Server if the mail enabled recipient resides on premise. I also think routing outbound mail (for all domains) should be done through Exchange Online. This is something that the HCW does not do during the wizard led set up.

A new Send Connector is created labelled “Outbound to Office 365” which routes mail to the tenant SMTP domain for hybrid mail flow. My recommendation would be to edit this Send Connector and add the all domains asterisks. With this configuration all mail for all domains will be pushed to Exchange Online for routing. 

All of your design decisions should be led by requirements, however in a simple environment this will cover most basis. It does however, become complicated if you bring third party mail hygiene solutions into the mix.

Tip 3 – Active Directory attributes matter in hybrid for proper mail flow

Active Directory attributes are used to route mail in a hybrid environment. The attribute “targetAddress” is the most important for internal mail flow to work correctly. If you have mailboxes on premise and in Office 365 this is needed for your AD users who have a mailbox in Office 365.

On premise mailbox users do not have the “targetAddress” populated, however if you complete a mailbox migration to Office 365 and commit the changes, Exchange will populate this attribute in AD to ensure internal mail flow will work correctly.

One project I worked on had Office 365 before it had Active Directory. In this case you might have to do some work to manually populate the AD attributes for mail flow to work. In most scenarios AD and Exchange will be in place long before Office 365. Another important point to remember is that when you have on premise Exchange, this should be used to administer mailboxes (including creating new Office 365 mailboxes), this way all the attributes required will be populated for you.
I’ve written a dedicated blog post to cover AD attributes in Exchange Hybrid

Another useful post, how to add targetAddress and proxyAddress with Powershell to multiple objects, this could be useful if you have incorrectly created Office 365 mailboxes without using on premise Exchange in hybrid.

In addition to the above, if you incorrectly create an Office 365 mailbox you might need to run the command, before your cloud mailboxes work correctly. This command should be run from the Exchange Server.

Enable-RemoteMailbox “user” –RemoteRoutingAddress “

This command will also ensure any cloud mailboxes which were created before the Exchange Server show up inside the on premise ECP under Recipients.

Tip 4 -  Autodiscover must point to the on premises Exchange in hybrid

Although there is conflicting documentation on this, the Exchange Deployment Assistant states that in hybrid environments the external autodiscover records must point towards the on premise Exchange Server. This will cause the Office 365 portal to show an error as it’s expecting all records to be pointing to it. After testing autodiscover will not work for on premise mailboxes if the external records point to Office 365. I generally create an internal CNAME record as well pointing to the internal Exchange Server.

Tip 5 – Network rules are important in hybrid

For hybrid to work SMTP is important. The Exchange Server must be able to communicate with Office 365 inbound and outbound on TCP 25. You can update your firewall rules to only allow the known Office 365 IP’s to be accepted for SMTP.

You can use the following command to test this from either side.
Test-NetConnection –ComputerName “fqdn” –Port 25