Connecting to Office 365 with automation

In order to automate management activities for Office 365, it’s imperative to connect to the remote environments without human interaction. Typically this type of automated job will be run with Task Scheduler. However, due to differences between Windows authentication and Office 365 authentication, this is not quite as straightforward as running a Task Scheduler job with a service account in a pure Windows Server environment.

Fortunately there is a method of creating a file-based credential that securely associates an Office 365 user account with a local or Active Directory user account. We can then provide that credential file to the Office 365 connection string in our scripts. This allows us to schedule our scripts in Task Scheduler, run them as the local or Active Directory user account, and gain access to Office 365 resources.

  1. First, it’s important to logon to the server where the Task Scheduler will run, and to logon there as the user account that will be running the Task Scheduler job (i.e., domain\userA). This can be either a local user account or an Active Directory user account.
  2. Now we create the credential file using the Export-Clixml cmdlet. We must specify the Office 365 user account we plan to use in our scripts (i.e.,, and we’ll be prompted for the password on that cloud account when we execute the following command. An XML credential file will be produced in the path we specify in the Export-Clixml cmdlet.
    Get-Credential "" | Export-Clixml C:\credentials\office365_credential.xml

    1. Note that the credential file we create here is tied to this account on this machine, and can only be used on this machine.
  3. Now that the credential file has been created, we can log out of the server and log back in with our standard administrative account if desired.

Now that we have the credential file, we can use it in our scripts to gain access to any Office 365 resource where this Office 365 user account (i.e., has permissions as long as we run those scripts as the associated user account (i.e., domain\userA). Keep in mind that the credential file will be unusable if it is copied to another computer, or even if it is used by any other user account on the computer where it was created!

Here is a sample connection string to connect to Exchange Online using our credential file as long as it’s run by the domain\userA account.

$credential = Import-Clixml C:\credentials\office365_credential.xml
$Session = New-PSSession `
-ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange `
-ConnectionUri `
-Credential $credential `
-Authentication Basic `
Import-PSSession $Session

Here is a sample connection string to connect to Microsoft Online using our credential file.

Import-Module MSOnline
$credential = Import-Clixml C:\credentials\office365_credential.xml
Connect-MsolService –Credential $credential

About Tommy Doan

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