Many companies today are moving everything to the cloud. This includes email, Active Directory, SQL, Dynamics (which is called Dynamics 365), and pretty much any Microsoft operating system and different flavors of Linux. With your on-premises Exchange Server, let’s say you were using Exchange 2016, you would go to mail.domain.com/ecp, and if you had a coexistence with Exchange 2010, you would have to include /ecp?ExchClientVer=15 so you do not get a redirect to Exchange 2010. For Active Directory — and we can quickly discuss this — you could open the admin center to do stuff, or you would need to login to a domain controller and access ADUC (Active Directory Users and Computers) or use the RSAT tools on a machine that is part of the domain to access ADUC. As you can already see, you need to login to different places with privileged accounts to access the tools needed for your daily tasks. But if you head over to admin.microsoft.com and login with the Microsoft 365 tenant details, you are able to view all admin centers, as shown below. Take note that I am using the new admin center in preview:
Microsoft 365 admin centers: See them all at once
As you can see on the left, there is an option called “All admin centers,” which I clicked, and you can view in the image above. Here you have all the portals at your disposal. If you switch back to the older portal view, you will be presented with the following:
As you can see above, you need to expand admin centers on the left, or you can click a tile above to open an admin center.
The new preview seems to be friendlier than the older look, but each person has there preference.
Active Directory admin center
We briefly touched on Active Directory. If you have a hybrid configuration or you are only using Azure Active Directory then you can also access this a few ways:
You can either go straight to aad.portal.azure.com/< tenant>, and it will populate once you have signed in, and you can manage your Active Directory. Click on Azure Active Directory on the left-hand side:
Or you can use to access Azure Active Directory at portal.azure.com. This will take you to the main Azure page where your resource groups, virtual machines, etc. are managed. If you click the three-lined icon on the top left-hand corner, you can then select Azure Active Directory as can be seen below:
Lastly, you can also access it from admin.microsoft.com and select Azure Active Directory on the bottom of the list:
So as you can see, there are a few ways to get to the Microsoft 365 admin center for Azure Active Directory.
Managing your Active Directory is done in the cloud. Once you have opened the Azure Active Directory portal, you can click users or groups or grant people access. Less functionality than on-premises, but still powerful.
Exchange administration is similar. Some admins might be familiar with logging into portal.office.com and then selecting admin:
That will, in turn, take you to admin.microsoft.com, where you can access your admin centers. Exchange will be the first one on the list if you are using the older portal, or it will be fourth on the list if you are using the new admin center.
Once you click Exchange from either portal view, you will see a screen like in the image below:
Quick note: As you can see, you have a few similar views to that of the Exchange 2016 or Exchange 2019 admin center on-premises. You do not have a server option as you cannot manage the backend.
You will be spending some time in this portal and setting up your connectors to allow hybrid if you are transitioning from on-premises Exchange to Microsoft 365.
Now to access the Exchange admin center shown above, you can also navigate directly to outlook.office365.com.
Take note: In one of my previous articles, we spoke about blocking the URL above in your local hosts file you have an Office 365 tenant and Exchange 2016 or Exchange 2019 on-premises to avoid Autodiscover issues. If the URL is blocked, you will get a “page cannot be displayed” error, so take note of that if you are working in the admin center for Exchange from a machine you are using for your mail. This is what you will receive:
Besides the little warning, you can see there are many ways to access the different Microsoft 365 admin centers. If you cannot access any of the URLs, have a chat with your firewall team to allow access. Here is a link to the URLs you can safelist.
Please check your email when you get something that says “your mailbox will expire” or something along that line — this is spam/malware. You are managing your tenant, and you should know which mailboxes you have with licenses.
If you are unsure about something you have received or someone wants you to access something, log a support call with Microsoft to confirm.
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