Installing Office 365 – Make sure you know what you are doing or you will make your website unreachable

A colleague called me for help with Office 365. Someone had installed it for her, but it wasn’t doing quite what she wanted. Fortunately for her, while I was looking at the issue, I happened to pull up her website. I should say I tried to pull up her website, because all I got was a 404 error.

I spoke with my colleague’s tech support person and he blamed the website host. He said he had the host make the changes. I believe him. But the problem is that the host can only make the changes required on the host side. It cannot make the changes required on Office 365 side. Those the person doing the installation has to do.

How Office 365 Works

So you can understand what happened, I need to explain a bit about how Office 365 works. When you set up Office 365 you normally add a domain name to it. In my case, jlellis.net.

You have to prove you own the domain, using a verification process, this way, no one else can steal your domain name from you.

Next, you have to make changes with the domain name registrar to tell it to send your email through Office 365. The problem is, at the same time, you are also telling your host that you have moved your website to a location hosted by Office 365. When you do this, you are now sending people who type in your domain name to an empty location, instead of to your website. This is what happened to my colleague.

The Solution

There is actually a simple solution to this problem. You just need to tell Office 365 to send people who type your domain name back to where your website is sitting (i.e. your website host.)

Here is the process:

  1. Sign in to your Admin portal.
  2. On the Admin page, in the left pane, under Management you will see Domains. Click on that and select the domain you need to change.
  3. Click on Manage DNS, click on New, and choose A
  4. On the next page, you will need to enter an @ in the first field (Host name or Alias)
  5. Under IP address you need to type the IP address where your website is located. You can normally find this in your control panel or by asking your webhost.
  6. Click Save

Now your domain is pointing back to your webhost. It normally takes about 15-20 minutes for everything to fix itself, so don’t freak out if it doesn’t work right away.

While it is not necessary, it is also wise to create an Alias so if people leave the www out of your address, they still find your website. By this I mean if someone types http://jlellis.net it works just as well as http://www.jlellis.net Here is the process.

  1. Follow steps 1 through 3 above. But instead of choosing A choose CName.
  2. On the next page, in the first blank type www
  3. In the second blank, which is Points to address, type in your domain without the www. So, in my case, I would type jlellis.net
  4. Click save

At this point, your domain name is essentially split in two parts. One part is handling your email through Office 365. The other is handling your website, which would be your webhost.

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