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Organizations often adopt Office 365 as a way of simplifying IT operations. Microsoft takes care of mundane IT tasks such as patch management, backups and making sure that Office 365 servers are configured in a way that conforms to Microsoft's latest best practices. In spite of all of these benefits, however, Office 365 can lure administrators into a false sense of security when it comes to backups.
Microsoft does back up the Office 365 servers. However, they create these backups primarily as a way of protecting the Office 365 infrastructure -- not the customer data. As a general rule, Microsoft does not restore data at the request of Office 365 customers. This means that, although your data is largely protected against an Office 365 server crash, it is not protected against accidental deletion or modification by your users.
That being the case, organizations that subscribe to Office 365 are encouraged to protect their own data whenever possible. Your options for protecting Lync data are somewhat limited, but you can and should periodically back up your contact data.
There are a couple of different ways to back up your Lync contacts. One method involves using third-party tools. A vendor named Xstran, for example, offers a product called Lync Contact Migrator. This utility allows organizations to export their Lync contact lists for safekeeping. Should the need arise, the utility can be used to import the contacts back into Lync.
Although the Lync Contact Migrator provides the easiest method of exporting Lync contacts, you can use native and freely downloadable utilities to export Lync contact data into an Excel spreadsheet. However, this process requires the use of PowerShell.
The first thing that must be done is to establish a PowerShell session with your Office 365 deployment. In order to do so, you will need to download and install the Microsoft Online Services Module. The Microsoft Online Services module not only allows you to establish PowerShell connectivity to Office 365, it also extends PowerShell with a few Office 365 specific cmdlets. You can download the 64-bit edition or the 32-bit edition.
Once you have downloaded and installed the Microsoft Online Services Module, the next step is to open a PowerShell window and configure PowerShell to allow scripts to be run. Typically, you will want to set the execution policy to RemoteSigned. To do so enter this command:
There is quite a bit of typing involved in establishing PowerShell connectivity to Office 365, so I recommend building a PowerShell script. A script is nothing more than a text file with a .PS1 extension. For example, you might call your script O365.PS1. The contents of the text file should look something like this:
$Cred = Get-Credential
$MySession = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://ps.outlook.com/powershell -Credential $Cred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
You can run the script by opening PowerShell and entering ./ plus the filename. For example, you might enter ./o365.ps1. When you run this script, Windows will prompt you for your Office 365 credentials. Enter your administrative credentials and you should see a message telling you that your connection has been redirected.
Now you will have to use another script to perform the actual export process.
Before you can run this secondary script, there are a few requirements that must be met. The first requirement is that the script must be run on a client computer rather than on the Lync server. The next requirement is that the client must have PowerShell 2.0 installed. However, the script should run equally well with PowerShell 3.0 (which comes with Windows 8).
Finally, you will need to download and install the Lync SDK onto your client computer. Keep in mind that the SDK has its own set of requirements (such as the .NET Framework), so be sure to review the prerequisites before downloading the SDK.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to back up Office 365 Lync Server. Giving up control of your backups is part of outsourcing Lync to Office 365. However, you can at least export and maintain a local copy of your Lync contacts.
About the Author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has received Microsoft's MVP award for Exchange Server, Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and has been responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.