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Setup Your Company Email with Office 365 Hosted Exchange

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Microsoft Exchange has long been the email server software of choice for enterprises. It requires not just the expense of hardware and software, but also expertise and the time to manage it. But with cloud-based Office 365, Exchange and related applications are available to anyone, even small companies, without having to dedicate a lot of resources. Rather than Exchange residing on a server at your premises, Microsoft hosts the Exchange server for you, starting at $4/month, and all you'll have to do is setup your accounts and let Microsoft do the rest.

In this tutorial, I'll take you through everything you need to do to create user accounts in Office 365 using your administrator account in the Admin Center, and then get your team started using hosted Exchange for their own communications.

Accessing the Admin Center

Using your administrator credentials, log into Office 365 at https://portal.microsoftonline.com. You’ll then be presented with the Admin dashboard. You can use any browser, but unsurprisingly, Internet Explorer works best here.

admin dashboard
Office 365 administration dashboard

Checking Your Domain Name

Before creating users, you want to check the domain name that’s listed for you. So click Users and Groups on the left.

When you first sign up for service, you get assigned a domain name like yourcompany.onmicrosoft.com. You can use this if you want, but you might prefer a custom, individual name, like yourcompany.com. There are two ways you can do that:

  • If you already registered a domain name, click Add a domain. You’ll need the login credentials to manage the account at the registrar, because you will have to update the name servers to point to the Office 365 portal.
  • You can register a new domain name on the spot by clicking Buy a domain.
domain manager screen
You can have one or multiple domains in your account, and can use custom domain names, too

You can have multiple domains in your account, and create users for any of them. If there is a domain you aren’t currently using but might in the future, click its status and mark it as inactive. Or if you decide that you no longer want to use it, select it and click Remove. You must have at least one domain in the list, and active.

Viewing and Filtering Current Users

To add and administer users, click Users and Groups, on the left. The first time you log in, there will be one user: the administrator. Notice the four buttons above the user list. The first one lets you add one user at a time, and the second lets you add multiple users by uploading a list of them.

buttons for creating filtering and searching for users
You can create one user at a time, or upload a list of multiple users to create at once

There are two ways of filtering users: at the top of the screen, you can see active and deleted users, or click the Filter icon for more categories.

menu for filtering users
The Users and Groups screen has several categories to filter by

Creating One User at a Time

First, let’s create just one user. Click the Plus icon (see above), then enter the user’s basic info on the Details screen. If you want, click Additional Details at the bottom to enter info like department, phone numbers and more.

Note the drop-down list for the user name. If you have multiple domain names configured for your account, you can click the drop-down and choose one. This is how you create users for multiple domain names. (Note: you can assign the same user name to multiple domain names.)

new user details screen
The first screen of the user creation process is where you assign email addresses

When finished, click Next.

On the next screen that appears, decide whether the user will have any admin privileges, and select their country.

user settings screen
Users can have administration privileges, if you want

When finished, click Next.

On the third screen, select which services the user will have access to. Maybe some users need access to Lync or SharePoint, but others don’t. You can also buy more user licenses from this screen.

screen to choose applications for the user
In addition to email, users can have access to other services, such as SharePoint and Lync

When finished, click Next.

On the following screen, choose whether to send login and temporary password information by email. This could be emailed to the users at alternate addresses, and also to you, as the administrator. Note the warning that passwords are sent via clear text.

option to send user names and passwords by email
The system can send you an email with the user name and password of the account you just created

Make your choices, then click Next. The final screen will display the temporary password.

user names and passwords displayed on screen
Whether or not you choose to get an email with user information, the last screen will display it

At this point, you can click the link to Create another user, or click Finish to return to the list of users. The list will show the user(s) you just created.

list of two users
After you create a user, the new user will show up in the list

Creating Users in Bulk

If you need to create more than a couple of users, it’s faster to create user information in Excel and save the file as CSV (Comma-Separated Values), which is a text file.

In the Users and Groups screen, click the Bulk Add icon to add multiple users (see screen capture, above). From the screen that appears (see below), you can download a blank CSV file to use, or a sample file, if you want a more clear idea of what it should consist of. After filling in the form, it should look something like this: 

excel screen of multiple user records
A CSV file to create users in bulk has 15 columns, the first 6 of which you see here

Note: make sure to save the file in CSV format. If you’re using one of the two files that you downloaded from this page, Excel will open it in CSV format and save it that way, too. If you have the file in XLXS format, do a Save As, and choose CSV as the file type.

option to save file in excel as CSV
Make sure to save the list of users in CSV (text) format, not XLSX (native Excel) format

In either case, you can save it with any file name you want.

Click Browse, find your CSV file, then double-click it. Click Next to upload the file.

selecting the CSV file to upload
The screen where you upload bulk users has templates to make it easier to enter the data

The next screen will tell you if the data passed verification. If there were errors (e.g. using a domain name you don’t have, spaces in email addresses), it will tell you.

verification results after uploading list of users
After you upload the CSV file, Office 365 will report whether there were any errors

When you click Next, you’ll have a choice of whether to allow the new users to access the service immediately, or if they’re blocked. You should also set the location.

screen to allow users to sign in or embargo the accounts
After creating users in bulk, you can allow them to sign in immediately, or embargo the accounts until you're ready

The rest of the steps are the same as above. The system will email you the users’ temporary passwords if you choose that option, and the final screen will display all the user names and temporary passwords.

list of multiple users and temporary passwords
The system will display the user names and temporary passwords of all the accounts you just created

Click Close. That puts you back on the Users and Groups screen, which displays all the users.

list of all users after creating them
Users and Groups screen after adding users in bulk

When a New User Logs In

The passwords that Office 365 creates above are temporary, and the system will require users to create new passwords when they log in for the first time.

The users should go to the same portal as you did when creating the accounts:

https://portal.microsoftonline.com

 They enter the temporary password, create a new one and confirm it, then click Save.

screen for new user to create a password
The first time a user logs in with a new account, the system will prompt for a new password

That will bring them to the Office 365 home screen.

main office 365 screen for users
After creating a new password, the user will be taken to the main Office 365 screen

Conclusion

Office 365 is communication and collaboration software that’s based in Microsoft’s cloud. The types of services it provides used to be for enterprise-sized companies with IT departments, but now that it’s available as a hosted service, anyone can use it, from individuals through large organizations.

The key to all the services is email user accounts, and the process of creating them is pretty straightforward.

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