It’s taken a while to get back to this series than I had hoped, but in today’s post I’ll be discussing some of the considerations you should be making when moving away from Windows 7 and Office 2010 with both of them reaching end of support in 2020. Remember that the goal of this series is to introduce different Microsoft 365 Business elements without necessarily requiring a complete overhaul of your existing environment.

This post will focus on a traditional on-premises only environment, looking at installing Office 365 Business (as part of Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium or Microsoft 365 Business) as the replacement for Office 2010, but much of what will be covered today also applies to Office 365 ProPlus if there are reasons why that version might be more appropriate for you. I’ve done a comparison post on these two earlier, as it’s worth noting that the changes aren’t as major as they used to be, here is the summary that I was able to come up with back in October 2019, the only change I’m aware of since I made the original list is that now Shared Computer Activation and RDS support is also included.

Office 365 Business Premium (as part of Microsoft 365 Business)Office 365 Enterprise E3
Database CompareNoYes
Excel Spreadsheet CompareNoYes
Excel Spreadsheet InquireNoYes
Group Policy supportNoYes
Office TelemetryNoYes
Power Map for ExcelNoYes
Power Query for ExcelNoYes
Power View for ExcelNoYes
Support for blocking cloud-based file storageNoYes

Let’s move back to Office 365 Business, and more specifically deploying it into an environment where they haven’t yet integrated with any Microsoft commercial cloud services (read that as no Azure Active Directory or Microsoft 365 yet). In order for the users to activate the licences that are included with their subscriptions, you should be looking at installing Azure Active Directory Connect in order to start synchronising objects from Active Directory to Azure Active Directory. You have a variety of options for filtering if you want to start slowly and only cloud enable small number of groups and users at once.

At this stage we aren’t looking at enabling any of the additional Microsoft 365 services, just some basic identity synchronisation. You can install AAD Connect on a domain joined server, and in smaller environments it’s not uncommon to find it installed on a Domain Controller. Just be aware that your AD hardening policies might cause some problems here. If you have unused Windows Server licences it might be a better option to use one of those instead. AAD Connect Prerequisites has a lengthy list of possible requirements, but here are some suggestions for a smaller environment if you are just getting started

  • AAD Connect cannot be installed on SBS or WSE 2016 or earlier
  • Use Password Hash Sync (PHS) as your authentication method, which requires WS2008 R2 SP1 or later.
  • Password Writeback (support was added to M365B this year for this capability) also requires WS2008 R2 or later

Moving over the Office deployment, you will probable end up using a combination of the Office Deployment Tool, and a text editor to perform the initial download, and then to create the deployment file to allow office to be installed from a network share. This allows you to easily create a targeted deployment that only deploys the applications you want, and then you can easily redeploy with an updated apps list, with Teams, as an example, as you enable additional services like Microsoft Teams.

You will need to assign the appropriate licences to the users through the Microsoft 365 Admin Center, or alternatively via PowerShell, whichever is easier for you and works best at the scale your organisation requires.

In summary, the primary focus here was enabling directory synchronisation via AAD Connect, and then some of the options for configuring and deploying the Office desktop apps. This puts you in a good starting position for the additional M365B capabilities you will enable over tie. As I’m only providing high level overviews, please comment if you aren’t sure what I am suggesting, or if you need additional resources to assist.