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Anxious to get on Office 365 but restricted by your BlackBerry population? Here are your options.

As many of you are aware, Office 365 will not have BlackBerry services out of the gate.BlackBerry services are expected to be available, for free, later in the year. So what are your options? Well, the quick answer is to just move all your BlackBerry devices to a device that supports ActiveSync. Realizing this is not feasible for most organizations, for one reason or another, there has to be other options to jump on to Office 365 before BlackBerry service is available…Well there are some options. They are not ideal, but companies anxious to make the move may be able to tolerate them.

The first option is to leverage BlackBerry’s Internet Email services. Basically, you connect your BlackBerry device to Outlook Web Access. This allows your user to get email on their phone, but this option is not an ideal solution as it does not synchronize contacts or calendar items. If you are like me, I live by my calendar and contacts and I would not be terribly excited keeping that information separate. One way to mitigate this would be to use the BlackBerry Desktop sync software; however, I see this being a difficult approach to manage with end users.

The second option is like the first one. Office 365 offers IMAP support, so you could take advantage of synchronizing your mailbox like the first option, but you still face the same issues with calendar and contacts.

The third option is to leverage a third party provider to convert ActiveSync connections to a BlackBerry device. A great example of this is from Notify Technology, called NotifySync. Essentially, a third party client is installed on the BlackBerry device. This client manages connections to your Exchange environment (which includes BPOS and Office 365) by ActiveSync. This is a great work-around for those organizations that want to move on to Office 365 and can’t wait for the BlackBerry service to come available.

The fourth option is to setup coexistence with Office 365. If you are already planning Exchange coexistence with Office 365, then this is a great option for you. Ideally, you would configure ADFS, Directory Sync, and Exchange Federation with Office 365 and your on-premise Exchange environment. You would then keep your BlackBerry users in your on-premise Exchange environment and enable BlackBerry services for those users. This will allow those users to coexist with Office 365 users, without any noticeable difference.

All in all, I prefer the fourth option the most. The reason why I prefer this option is that it allows organization the flexibility to leverage some of the coexistence features within Office 365. If you have Lotus Notes or GroupWise, this option may not be ideal for you. Also, if you are planning to totally eliminate any coexistence (aside from ADFS and Directory Sync) or on-premise email systems, option three may be a better temporary fit for you.

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