Changing Plan Families in Office 365

Posted: July 27, 2013 in Exchange 2013, Office 35, Vanity Domains

Hopefully this won’t come as a surprise to you: once you sign up for Office 365 and chose a trial plan, you are not able to switch plan families.  A plan family is the a group of similar plans like Small Business Plans and Enterprise Plans. The Enterprise plans, for example, are E1 – E4 and differ by features and price.  If you have a license for one of these plans, you can mix licenses among your users, but this is not necessarily true for all plan families.

Microsoft – IMHO – does a horrible job of explaining and defining all of this on the Office 365 web site.  Worse, they don’t say or even suggest several other astonishing facts:

  • Once you sign up for a plan that is part of a family, you are quite unable to change to another plan family.
  • The plans should be named for features and not some imaginary business size.  I have many 1-2 man shops using the Enterprise plans.  And some larger ones using Small Business.
  • Office 365 is also the name of a rent rather than purchase option for Office 2013 Pro Plus.  But surely THAT is just obvious, isn’t it?

I get calls from frustrated users all the time asking what they should do once their trial is about over or even past, and they are grossly unhappy about their discoveries of limitations or features.  For example, if you are using a Small Business Plan, you cannot expand storage size in the site, at least so say the billing people to me.  And we know they are never wrong, eh?

In my casual queries I ask, “Why did you pick that plan?”  The most common answer because it was the cheapest.  Turns out they would have been far better off calling me to start with, because now they have to pay for the giant eraser.

What to DO?

Well, all is not lost.  At least not entirely lost.  And while people still need nerd heads like me to save them from themselves!!!

For starters, whatever domain name used in the initial trial is dead and gone from re-use for a long time.  Maybe six months to a year or so.  Yet for most O365 users, there is no real value or use in that domain name since they add their own domain name to their account.  So sets up but adds and changes all the sign-ons to that domain.

If you need to go to a different plan, unfortunately is not going to be available to you.  So what?  Pick any domain name for, as you will just use it to get going and then nevermore.

That part is a very easy one.  Now you have to get everything moved over to your new O365 domain that you had on the plan you are about to abandon.  Here are the steps.

  1. Start with getting everything ready in the new O365 account such as setting u[ users, groups, etc.  This is especially true if our old account is already receiving email as you want the shortest possible time in getting your domain onto the new account.
  2. You want to get your own domain transferred over to the new plan.  This is a bit tricky for a couple of reasons all related to mail flow.  See separate discussion on that below, so let’s assume for these steps is not a cause for concern.
  3. To remove your own domain from the old O36 account lug onto the portal as an administrator.  Click on domains, then click next to the domain for your company, then try and delete it.
  4. Chances are good that you will have liberally used your domain throughout O365 objects, in particular for the log on domain for the portal and for email addresses in Exchange.  Before you can remove the domain from the old subscription, you mist first remove all occurrences of the domain from O365 objects.
  5. Start with logons.  Change any log on names that use your domain to the .onmicrosoft domain that was set up for the account.  Do this on the user page of O365 administration.  Edit each user and then chose details.  Use the drop down box to change the log on domain.
  6. Go to Exchange administration and start with mailboxes.  Make sure that your domain is removed as an email address for all users.  Do the same for groups and shared mailboxes.  On each account, edit and go to email addresses to view and remove.
  7. Now you can go to the O365 administration page, chose domains. highlight your domain you wish to remove and then delete it.  If you get an error, there are still objects that refer to it.

One the domain is removed, it may take a short bit for O365 to permit you to use it in your new account.  So keep trying.  Once it is added to the new account, look at the DNS settings required and make those changes at your registrar. Then verify the domain.  Then change your user log ons to use your domain.

Realize that if your old account was receiving email for your domain, during the transfer and the change in MX record to point to the new account, mail ma y not be delivered.  Get the changes done as rapidly as possible to reduce any chances of non-delivery.

If you have Team Site and/or Public Site set up on the old account, you will have to move those as well.  Perhaps the subject of a subsequent post.

I ran into a very peculiar situation when I was doing this for a client.  They got sucked into changing their licensing for Office 365 – the subscription for Office 2013 – believing they would save lots of money.  They dropped all of their plan licensing when they did that.  With no Exchange and nothing working, they called and said they wanted E3 instead of Small Business plan, so I proceeded to follow my steps above.

Well there was no way to get rid of any Exchange features using their own domain since no one had a license.  Power shell commands would do it, as all of the users could not be deleted and still have an administrator, but all of the users had Exchange accounts. The easy fix was to just get one new license and assign it to an administrator, delete all domain references, and then the domain could be removed.  When the account was cancelled, the license went away.

Hope this helps you get out from under the wrong plan and under the right one!!


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