Three fast fixes for BlackBerry and Office 365 issues

In October 2011, Research in Motion (RIM) announced its open Beta of BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365. The service is free to medium or enterprise business subscribers to Office 365 or Exchange Online and it works with BlackBerry smartphones on both business and consumer data plans. This is great news for that 32.2 per cent of the business market (Source 1) with a BlackBerry device in their hands.

However, as with any new implementation, there are some problems that have cropped up for BlackBerry users as they've worked with Microsoft Office 365. As there are few things as frustrating as spending hours online or on the phone troubleshooting, here are some of the most common problems tackled and explained for a quick fix.

Problem: The user cannot activate BlackBerry Cloud Service on their BlackBerry phone.

Solution: The service can be activated through the Office 365 admin portal by following the prompts and once the BlackBerry Cloud Service (BBCS) has been activated, a new admin section appears on the Office 365 portal. The problem that appears to be most common occurs when BlackBerry phones have to be activated on the server. Unlike ActiveSync phones, these devices are activated independently of the phone.

Microsoft recommends that you ensure the following steps are checked so that you know that this side of the procedure is correct (Source 2):

  • The user must be created in the Office 365 portal and be assigned at least an Exchange Online licence
  • Sync times between Office 365 and BBCS can take some time so creating and activating a user in advance can reduce some issues
  • Ensure the Activation PIN is entered correctly

BlackBerry has several dedicated pages that pertain to this particular issue that has had many people quite frustrated. In one section of Blackberry's help (click here to view), you are offered a complete breakdown of the different methods you can use to activate a BlackBerry phone on the BBCS. If you are experiencing further difficulties, then your next step is contact the BlackBerry Expert Support Center for additional tools that you can use yourself.

BlackBerry also has a comprehensive list of instructions that must be adhered to while activating the phones: turn off encryption on the built-in media storage and media card, use the onboarding wizard to activate the BlackBerry if it's running 5.0 or later, back up the data, ensure the BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager is open before connecting the BlackBerry to the computer.

Question: Emails are taking a very long time to reach their recipients in the Office 365 environment.

Answer: Any email from a BlackBerry device has to move through several locations before it reaches its intended recipient. A typical route would be BlackBerry Device>>BBCS server>>Office 365 servers>>firewall>>Internet>>receiver's firewall>>receiver's mail server>>receiving client. If you are experiencing noticeable delays it is worth checking your email headers to find out which of these junctures is causing the delay. Every email message has a log of the path it has taken and your email client will hold this information safely for you.

A breakdown of how to get your email header is available from MXToolbox as well as an Email Header Analyzer that will hopefully reveal the issue, thus making it far easier to diagnose and repair. If you want to know more about email headers go to the RFC 822 section of the Standard For The Format Of ARPA Internet Text Messages.

Question: Calendar entries are not syncing properly after BlackBerry migrated to Office 365 and BBCS.

Answer: This particular issue has two repair options. The first is to determine that the Calendar items have a GOID (Global Object ID) value, as those without it will not sync. BlackBerry support believes that when exporting the mailbox from an on-premises Exchange server to .pst in Outlook, the GOID property is being stripped and this is, as mentioned earlier, essential for synchronisation. At the time of writing, BlackBerry has stated that the issue is being investigated by its development team but that no time frame for a resolution is currently available. You can follow the workarounds for this problem, but they are not ideal for any large organisation as they are time consuming.

The first workaround is to manually enter the missing entries in Outlook and the second is to wipe the calendar database from the device and then, using Desktop Manager, do a one-way wired sync of calendar entries from Outlook to the device. Once the account has been moved to Office 365, activate the device so that the calendar entries from the device sync back to the Office 365 mailbox. If you are using the second option, be sure to not import the calendar database while you are importing the PST to the Office 365 mailbox.

With both of these options, however, you are not assured of a perfect fix as while they both create new GOID properties for the Calendar items they will also create duplicate meetings in the attendees calendar, if you cancel the meeting it will stay unchanged in the attendees calendar, and their acceptance or decline of that meeting will not show in your copy of the meeting. You can find additional workarounds and ideas to resolve this particular issue at the BlackBerry Support Centre and on the BlackBerry Support Forums.

These three questions are the most commonly asked by users of BlackBerry devices as they migrate to, and begin working with, Microsoft Office 365. Many solutions are still being researched by both RIM and Microsoft as the BBCS is still in the early stages, but by visiting both the support forums mentioned above you can start to work around certain issues or fine-tune the issues until it is resolved.

Sources:

Enterprise Plan:

BlackBerry announcement:

Source 1:

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