Managing Office365 and Google Apps: Surely There’s an Easier Way?

Scott Calonico

google appsIf you’re an IT admin, the chances are you got a bit of a shock when you began to manage your first Microsoft Office 365 environment.

The management back-end of Microsoft’s cloud service initially looks very simple. It IS simple, but the problem is that it’s far too simple.

The shock arrives when you try to do something that’s been a routine 30-second task on an on-premise network using something like Small Business Server.

Let’s consider an example:

“User A” needs full mailbox access to the account of “User B.” Granting this access is simplicity itself on an in-house Exchange server. Then you try to do the same under Office 365. After spending time flicking through the Web-based admin pages, you find yourself wondering if you’re missing something really obvious.

The thing is, you’re not missing something obvious. You actually can’t do it from the admin interface. You need to install PowerShell, connect to the Office 365 environment, and type a complicated shell command.

It hardly seems very intuitive, and while over time you learn the new ways to do things that were previously easy, it’s hard not to wonder why Microsoft made it so difficult.

Some technicians will have found themselves caught out by this. Who’d have thought that Microsoft’s entry-level cloud solution would require more technical skill than managing an SBS box?

To a point, the same applies to Google Apps. Some things simply aren’t as easy to achieve as they were in a traditional on premise environment.

So what’s the solution?

Thankfully, solutions are now beginning to appear that restore fast and easy control to network administrators. Regardless of your level of technical competence, it’s hard to argue that logging on to PowerShell is preferable to ticking a box in a graphical user interface.

If you run an MSP business, this also has implications in terms of your team. While allowing a first-line technician to make these changes “the old way” carried minimal risk, is it really wise to give them PowerShell access when it’s so easy to get something badly wrong?

This is why using one of these new cloud service management tools is a really good move for your MSP business. Finally you can begin to manage Office 365 and Google Apps in a more user-friendly way.

Sure, some skilled technicians will scoff at the idea. After all, true experts have nothing to fear from the command line and are perhaps proud of their PowerShell prowess, but IT professionals have to start somewhere.

Even if you know how to bend Office 365 and Google Apps to your will, where’s the harm in making it easier for yourself. If simple changes start to take one minute instead of ten, you have more time to do other chargeable jobs and make more revenue for your business. It’s a simple case of common sense. One only wonders why Microsoft and Google didn’t think of it first.

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