Microsoft Online Services, soon to be Office365, is a viable option for many companies for delievering access to Exchange, Sharepoint and Communicator to it’s users.
The caveat is that for configuring access to Online Services, Microsoft recommends using their Sign On tool for automatic configuration of Outlook, and for seamless access to all services. This is fine and well for users working from their own personal computer, but many companies have invested heavily in centrally managed terminalservers for giving users access to common application and tools. The Microsoft Sign On tool does not play well in this sort of environment. In fact, on Citrix servers, the application hangs and causes screen flickering because it lacks write access to c:\windows\system32 on a terminal servers for most common users. All though there is a hotfix available for this specific problem, the Sign-On tool may still not be a good option for many companies. By default this tools will start at login for all users on a terminalserver, regardless of whether they have any use for it. Not all users necessarily use Online Servics.
Luckily there is a way to omit using this tool, and still get a somewhat automated configuration for Outlook users connected to Online Services. By utilizing the autodiscover functionality available in Outlook 2007 (and Outlook 2010), it is possible to let Outlook semiautomatically configure itself to connect to Online Services.
One good source of information, is this KB article from Microsoft, http://support.microsoft.com/kb/956990. It explaines how to troubleshoot and configure autodiscovery for Outlook for Online Services.
The following must be done in order to get this working:
- In DNS for the domain used for e-mail, a CNAME or SRV record for the autodiscover host must be set to point to the autodiscover server provided by Microsoft
- An XML-file used for pointing Outlook in the right direction for autodiscovery must be created and made available in a common folder in the network.
- A .reg-file (or any other way of distributing registry entries for users) must be set up, configuring some default settings for autodiscovery in HKCU for each user. This will among other things refer to the above mentioned XML-file.
- A script for import the .reg-file (is used) in to the user registry setting.
<Autodiscover xmlns=”http://schemas.microsoft.com/exchange/autodiscover/responseschema/2006″ xmlns:fo=”http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Format”>
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
The “First-Run” key shows if Outlook has been started earlier, or if this is the first time the user starts it. By setting this key to 00 hex, Outlook will automatically show the first run startup wizard, so that the user can input his/her e-mail address from Online Services (i.e email@example.com), and get Outlook to do the rest of the work.
? “Configuring MS Online Services”
if not exist “%appdata%\outlook_ms_online_services.txt” goto migrate
reg delete “HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles” /F
regedit /s \\kis.no\NETLOGON\Outl2k7CABCTX\outl2k7_autodiscover_ms_online_services.reg
copy \\kis.no\NETLOGON\Outl2k7CABCTX\outlook_ms_online_services.txt “%appdata%”
This script deletes any existing Outlook profile information from the user’s profile, and imports the regfile for configuring the new connection.