Accessing and Using Shared Email Addresses (Part 2)

by [Published on 25 Sept. 2008 / Last Updated on 25 Sept. 2008]

Taking a look at two ways to set up and access shared email addresses, this time focusing on shared mailboxes.

If you missed the previous article in this series please read Accessing and Using Shared Email Addresses (Part 1).

Introduction

This is the second and last part of a two-part article that looks at two ways of setting up and accessing shared email addresses in Exchange 2007. By shared email addresses, we mean those common email addresses that most organizations use such as info@neilhobson.com or sales@neilhobson.com and so on. Typically, an organization requires that multiple people have access to these email addresses and, perhaps more importantly, can also send messages such that there is the choice of whether the replies are seen coming from the shared email address or the individual user’s email address.

In the first part of this article we looked at one particular method whereby distribution lists were given the shared email address of info@neilhobson.com. Although this approach generally works fine, there is always the decision to be made as to whether each individual user accessing the distribution list has rights to send replies as if they are coming from the shared email address or whether functions such as Reply All are used within Outlook. Perhaps a better approach to the use of shared email addresses is the creation of a shared mailbox and in this second part of the article, we’ll look at that configuration as it relates to Exchange 2007.

Shared Mailbox

In the shared mailbox configuration you simply create an ordinary user mailbox called Info. Such an approach means that the Exchange 2007 email address policies that you have defined for your domain will assign this mailbox the correct SMTP address. For example, if I have my email address policy configured for the neilhobson.com domain, the creation of an Info mailbox means that the SMTP address can be automatically created as info@neilhobson.com. Once this has been done, you give the individual users permissions to access this shared mailbox and then add the mailbox to each user’s Outlook profile such that they see two mailboxes when logged into Outlook. In part one of this article I used the example users of Ann, Bob and Carol who require access to the shared mailbox and therefore I’ll continue to use these example users here. Inside the shared Info mailbox, separate folders can be created for Ann, Bob and Carol so that they can track which messages they are working on. Let’s have a look at the process of setting this up.

The first thing to do is to create the shared mailbox. We created the distribution group in part one of this article using the Exchange Management Console, so this time let’s concentrate on using the Exchange Management Shell so that we can continue to become familiar with its use. Some of you reading this will be perfectly familiar with creating new users and mailboxes and so may want to skip this section. Naturally, this article has to cater for administrators new to Exchange 2007 as well as those of you who have been working with the product for a long time.

To create a new user and associated mailbox from the Exchange Management Shell you can use the New-Mailbox cmdlet. Not only does this create the mailbox as its name implies, it creates the Active Directory user account at the same time since this user account must exist in order for the mailbox to exist. One thing to allow for before running the New-Mailbox cmdlet is the setting of a secure password via the management shell. To do this, you need to enter a password into a variable and store it as a secure string. This can be achieved by the following management shell cmdlet:

$Password = Read-Host “Password” –AsSecureString

This stores your chosen password as the variable Password which can then be passed to the New-Mailbox cmdlet to create the password for the new user account. The cmdlet to use to create the new user account and mailbox-enable it is:

New-Mailbox –UserPrincipalName info@neilhobson.com –Alias Info –Name Info –FirstName Info –DisplayName Info –Password $Password –Database “First Storage Group\Mailbox Database” –OrganizationalUnit “Exchange Users”

It should be fairly self-explanatory what the various parameters do. For example, -OrganizationalUnit specifies which OU to create the new account in. You’ll also notice that I’ve set the Alias, Name, FirstName and DisplayName attributes all to a value of Info to keep things simple. If all goes well, you should end up with a screen that looks similar to the one shown below in Figure 6.


Figure 6:
Creating the User Account and Mailbox via the Exchange Management Shell

Once the account and mailbox have been set up, we need to give Ann, Bob and Carol access to the mailbox so that they can open it as an additional mailbox in their Outlook profiles and furthermore send email so that it appears to come from info@neilhobson.com. To do this we can again use the Exchange Management Shell and this time we can make use of the Add-MailboxPermission cmdlet. The full cmdlet to use is:

Add-MailboxPermission –Identity Info –User Ann –AccessRights FullAccess

This cmdlet is shown in use in Figure 7.


Figure 7:
Adding Mailbox Permissions

This will give Ann full access to the Info mailbox. Obviously you’d then need to run the same cmdlet twice more, once specifying Bob as the user and once specifying Carol. If you have a lot of users to add, then another possible approach is the use of an array as shown below:

$FullAccessUsers = “Ann”, “Bob”, “Carol”

ForEach ($SingleUser in $FullAccessUsers) {Add-MailboxPermission –Identity Info –User $SingleUser –AccessRights FullAccess}

With the array approach, you can see that the $FullAccessUsers array is defined with the aliases of each user that we wish to give access to. Then, the $SingleUser variable is assigned, in turn, each username in the array. The value of each username is then presented to the Add-MailboxPermission cmdlet via the $SingleUser variable. You can use the array approach in lots of different ways within the Exchange Management Shell, so it’s a good method to remember.

Now that Ann, Bob and Carol have full mailbox access permissions to the new Info mailbox, they can add the Info mailbox as an additional mailbox into their Outlook profiles and access the contents of this mailbox. Here are the full instructions on how to do this using Outlook 2007. This will need to be performed for Ann, Bob and Carol.

  1. In Outlook 2007, go to the Tools menu and select Account Settings.
  2. In the resulting Account Settings window, highlight the Exchange account as shown in Figure 8 and then click the Change… button.


Figure 8:
Account Settings Window

  1. The Change E-mail Account window will now be displayed as shown in Figure 9. Select the More Settings… button.


Figure 9:
Change E-mail Account Window

  1. The Microsoft Exchange window will now be displayed. Click the Advanced tab and you will be presented with the window shown in Figure 10.


Figure 10:
Preparing to Add an Additional Mailbox

  1. Click the Add… button and in the resulting Add Mailbox window enter the name of the mailbox to add to the profile. In this case, Info is entered since this is the name of the mailbox to add. Clicking OK returns you to the Microsoft Exchange window which should now appear as in Figure 11.


Figure 11:
Completed Adding an Additional Mailbox

  1. At this point all that needs to be done is to click OK at this screen and you will be returned to the Change E-mail Account window from where you click Next followed by Finish to return you to the Account Settings window. Here you simply click Close to return to Outlook.
  2. Back within Outlook you’ll now see the additional mailbox listed in the left-hand pane. This mailbox can then be expanded in the same manner as any other mailbox as you can see from Figure 12. 


Figure 12:
Additional Mailbox in Outlook

In Figure 12 above, notice the three user folders, one for each user, created under the Tracking folder, which allows the users to store messages for easy process tracking purposes. For example, the current email request to clear the jammed printer has been read by Ann. Once she has read the email and cleared the issue, she can copy the message from the inbox folder to her own personal folder “Ann” located under the Tracking folder. Also, when replying to messages in a shared mailbox, notice that the reply is automatically filled in to appear to come from the Info mailbox rather than Ann’s personal account, as shown in Figure 13.


Figure 13:
Replying From a Shared Mailbox

Summary

Over the two parts of this article we have looked at two methods to allow access to a shared email address, including the ability to reply using this address. The first method used distribution lists whilst the second method used a shared mailbox. Either method can work within your organization but take time to evaluate both and choose the most appropriate option.

If you missed the previous article in this series please read Accessing and Using Shared Email Addresses (Part 1).

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