Home

Site Mailboxes being removed

Highlighted
Paul Cunningham
MVP

Site Mailboxes being removed

Microsoft is notifying Office 365 customers that access to Site Mailboxes is being removed from SharePoint Online, and no more Site Mailboxes can be created from March 2017 onward.

 

shared-mailboxes-removal.png

Office 365 Groups are the collaboration focus moving forward. The message says there'll be more details about a migration tool for Site Mailboxes -> Groups coming in June with an ETA on the tool of September this year.

 

https://practical365.com/collaboration/groups/site-mailboxes-sunset/

50 Replies

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

This is great to hear.  Site mailboxes have been broken for us for years and we've had no means to remove it from the UI.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Not very good for us, I'm afraid. We use team sites to store all documentation associated with our contracts (1 site per contract), each site has a mailbox to which all people involved with the contract deposit related email from their own account on a regular basis using drag & drop in the Outlook client. Groups currently do not allow this and that's a massive problem.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

They could instead forward the emails to the Group address, couldn't they?

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed


@Salvatore Biscari wrote:

They could instead forward the emails to the Group address, couldn't they?


They could, but this would be a real bind and, more importantly, this would lose the identity of sender, date and time of the original message in the forwarded email header, making the conversation extremely difficult to follow.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

For this reason I advice my clients to leverage the sendas functionality, trying to convey the conversation with an external sender directly to/from the Group (which BTW is generally perceived to be much better from a "commercial image" standpoint...).

That is:

  1. If the conversation starts from (a member of) the group, the email to an external recipient is sent as the Group and so on.
  2. If the conversation starts from an external sender and is addressed directly to the Group, the reply is obviously sent as the Group and so on.
  3. If the conversation starts as an email from an external sender and is addressed to a member of the Group (or someone else in the organization), then the email is forwarded to the Group and a subsequent reply is sent as the Group and so on.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Thanks for the suggestion Salvatore.  Just had a quick play with 'on behalf of' and I don't think it quite works as it should. If I delegate permission to me on the group and send an email to a recipient setting the group address in 'from', the recipient gets the email but the email goes to my sent items and not the group conversation.  However, if the recipient replies it goes to the group (with my message quoted at the front) without a copy to my inbox. I, therefore, can't reply to the reply? It's not consistent. 

 

I do understand the general principle you're putting forward though and will practice some more.  Thanks.

 

Incidentally, I've discovered that if you use Outlook online, it allows you to select the group as a shared mailbox and it will then allow you to drag and drop email from personal folders into the group inbox.  Just need to be able to do this in the Outlook client.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

The rule is that you get an email "published" as a conversation in the Group if and only if it is explicitly addressed to the Group itself, whoever the sender.

Hence, when you send as a Group and you want the email "published" in the Group conversations you should address it not only to the recipient but also to the group itself. All subsequent replies with the same subject will be part of the same conversation, whoever the sender.

Hope it helps...

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed


@David Allen wrote:

 

Incidentally, I've discovered that if you use Outlook online, it allows you to select the group as a shared mailbox and it will then allow you to drag and drop email from personal folders into the group inbox.  Just need to be able to do this in the Outlook client.


Interesting... Unfortunately I have not been able to reproduce your experience: can you share some more details, please?

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

I've been down this route before and it relies on the individual remembering to add the group address and the recipient remembering to do a 'reply all' rather than just 'reply'.  Many users are just not that diligent and those that are will slip up, meaning that there will be emails in personal folders that you can't add into the group.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed


@Salvatore Biscari wrote:

Interesting... Unfortunately I have not been able to reproduce your experience: can you share some more details, please?


I'll start by clarifying that we use Office365 as that might make a difference.

 

  1. Open up the online version of Outlook and it will show folders (favourites) and groups (if you have any).
  2. In the folders section there is a 'more' option. Select this and all your folders will be displayed, headed by your account name.
  3. Right click on your account name and one of the options will be 'add shared folder'.
  4. Select this and a window will pop-up asking you to enter the address of the shared folder, it will allow you to enter a group name.
  5. Once added the group will appear in your folder list and if you expand it, the usual folders will be shown (inbox, sent items, etc.).
  6. You can then drag and drop to the inbox as you can any other folder.

 

So, behind the scenes a group conversation is a standard inbox. I suspect I've found a hole in the system here, but I hope Microsoft don't plug it rather than extending it! 

 

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

To be precise:

  1. If you "send as" the Group, the recipient can do a 'reply all' or just a 'reply' and it will work anyway. Hence, nothing special to remember for the recipient.
  2. If you "send as" the Group (starting from the conversation area, as opposed to starting as an ordinary new email), both in OWA and in Outlook desktop, the address of the Group as a recipient will already be there and does not need to be added. Hence, nothing special to remember for the sender (except than to "send as" the Group, of course).

In practice most of my customers use this feature without any problem.

Just my two cents...

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Very interesting! I will try it.

Thank you very much, David.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

@David Allen

Hi David, I was able to successfully reproduce your steps in order to open in OWA the shared mailbox associated behind the scenes with an Office 365 Group.

Maybe @Tony Redmond could also be interested to this...

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Yep. That works. It's the same mechanism as is used for shared mailboxes. Basically OWA checks that you have permission to access the mailbox (which you do, because you are a member of the group) and can therefore open it as a new resource. And because it's treated as a mailbox resource, you can move items to and from its folders. This might not be what Microsoft expects you to do, but that's why it works.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Thanks Tony.

Any ideas on how to leverage such mechanism also in Outlook desktop?

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be possible because of the way that Outlook desktop validates mailboxes against the GAL.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Thanks, Tony.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

We are not to enamoured with the short notice of the removal of Site Mailboxes. Groups are not a viable replacement for our use of Site Mailboxes as they do not fit our typical use case:

“I receive an important email from the client. I need to store it in the project filing system”

Site Mailboxes are perfect. You can drag and drop into them, emails appear like emails. You can search based on the originator etc.


Groups are not. It’s a communication tool. You cannot drag and drop (unless you use the OWA 'loop' hole). You can only forward. Search is limited to filters and keywords. Emails become threads, busy projects become conversational firehoses. The use case becomes:

“I receive an important email from the client and now I'm going to forward it to the whole project and start a conversation on it!”

They do not fit our use case and as such are not a replacement Site Mailboxes. As a result we are asking for an extension of the March deadline so we can prepare and find an alternative. (Even if we do move this workload to Groups we will still need to update site provisioning code and when you create 10,000+ sites per year it needs to work right!)

 

Speaking of alternatives. I started thinking about Outlook Public Folders but when I read this in @Tony Redmond 's excellent book 'Office 365 for IT Pros' I started to think twice about that route. Perhaps they might turn their sights towards the 'cockroaches' again:

 

"If you're a new Office 365 tenant who has never used an Exchange server before, you might never use public folders and can ignore this chapter. After all, better collaboration functionality exists in Office 365 Groups or even site mailboxes and it's obvious that Microsoft is investing here rather than in public folders. On the other hand, if you want to create a platform for company-wide discussions, Yammer is probably a better option. For all that, public folders are known as the "cockroaches" of Exchange for a reason: this is a feature that has existed since the earliest day of the product; one that Microsoft has attempted to kill off over the years only to run into enormous customer resistance at each attempt because they are an easy-to-use shared repository that is fit for many purposes."

 

@Tony Redmond I'd be interested in your perspective here. Now Site Mailboxes are on the way out does that change your view on Public Folders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed


@Simon Denton wrote:

 

 

@Tony Redmond I'd be interested in your perspective here. Now Site Mailboxes are on the way out does that change your view on Public Folders.


Just had a long conversation with Microsoft Support on this issue and they recommended that we should replace our site mailboxes with shared mailboxes (for which they're about to remove data storage caps).  They said a 'big feature' announcement was to be announced and site mailboxes had to go to provision it.  What that feature is, I wasn't told, but it was hinted that it would address my issues.  So, shared mailboxes is where we shall go and wait for developments. Perhaps, not the cockroaches they used to be! 

 

 

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

@David Allen

Sorry, I am a bit confused by your post...

Did MS support (which BTW is not very famous to be reliable for the info they give...) recommend to use shared mailboxes or public folders?

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

The question for those using site mailboxes is how to proceed. They can wait until Microsoft delivers the migration tool to move existing site mailboxes to Outlook Groups, but what should they do to satisfy new user needs after March 2017? The options are to use:

  • Shared mailboxes.
  • Outlook Groups.

The answer will be different depending on the business needs. Shared mailboxes are best if the functionality required is email-centric, like the need to provide a single repository for a team to handle collective tasks. Dedicated folders, such as one for each customer or project, can hold any documents related to the tasks.

Outlook Groups are best when the need is more document-centric. For example, a team managing contracts on behalf of a company is likely to need some of the document management capabilities found in document libraries, like check-in/check-out. In these circumstance, an Outlook group is the best option.

 

I would not use public folders. There are too many flaws in this ancient repositry to continue recommending their use.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed


@Salvatore Biscari wrote:

@David Allen

Sorry, I am a bit confused by your post...

Did MS support (which BTW is not very famous to be reliable for the info they give...) recommend to use shared mailboxes or public folders?


Forgive me, I was under the impression that shared mailboxes were a replacement for public folders (and, perhaps that is the intent?).  However, looking in the Exchange Admin area, I see that public folders do still exist in their own right. But in answer to your question definately 'shared mailboxes'.

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Thanks Tony. Have you tried or is it possible to use an Office 365 Group identity with a Shared Mailbox? That way you could get the best of both worlds?

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

I suspect that I'm not alone here, but Microsoft are totally confusing me with the selection of similar but slightly different offerings; we've got 'Team Sites', 'Office365 Groups', perhaps 'Yammer' and now 'Microsoft Teams'. Where's it all going?

 

I was happy with Team Sites (other than the 10 site mailbox limit in Outlook), but now I have to start the move somewhere else, I accept that technology moves on, but I would like some clear focus on where! I would also like a decent amount of time to do it; a 1 month warning is just ridiculous. 

 

From all this discussion, I think the solution for us is keep on creating team sites but, instead of a site mailbox, create a link on the site to a shared mailbox. We will, of course, have to move email from site mailboxes to shared mailboxes along the way, but for us this is manageable manual task.  I feel for the likes of @Simon Denton who have so much data, this is nigh impossible without a utility of some sort and Microsoft should have this available now.

 

Who knows what September 2017 will bring, maybe Groups will have the facility to have an email repository, or maybe, shared mailbox functionality may be extended?  I'm already resigned to the fact that I'll have to move everything once more!
 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Nope. Groups and Shared Mailboxes are two very different objects. They don't share an identity. A shared mailbox is essentially an account that no one can log into whereas a group is a group that provides a shared identity to all members. The two don't mix.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

For the record, and to create some extra visibility for this issue, I wrote up an article and published it on petri.com.

 

Beginning in March 2017, SharePoint site owners will no longer be able to create new site mailboxes. Existing site mailboxes will function until they are replaced by something else. The news was expected, but it poses some challenges for tenants who have deployed site mailboxes to serve purposes like contract management that involve a mixture of email communication and document management. Shared mailboxes or Office 365 Groups seem like the potential replacements.

https://www.petri.com/office-365-drops-site-mailboxes

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Site mailboxes had one important feature, that Groups don't: They allowed you to drag-n-drop emails to the SharePoint Document Library from within Outlook 2016.

 

This was great for records managemement, because it allowed you to keep the mail and document records in one repository and was VERY easy for people to learn. With Groups we're back to using 3rd-party plugins like Repstor or teaching people to use OneDrive/file-explorer or opening the libary in a browser.

 

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

It's all gone very quiet since this announcement; March 17 has come and gone and we're still able to create and use site mailboxes!  Has there been a change in direction or a stay of execution? 

 

Is this delay because the ability to drag and drop email into groups is coming?  I voted for this facility in the update requests to Microsoft and a month or two ago I got a status update from Microsoft to say that it was being considered!

 

We're just continuing as we are until something more concrete is announced.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

You can still create site mailboxes? That was supposed to be blocked by now... It was always anticipated that you would be able to continue using site mailboxes created prior to March 2017. The note said that Microsoft would communciate further details in June 2017... but everyone in Redmond is on vacation today, so let's give them a couple of days...

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

We still have our site mailboxes, but we can't add new ones.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Thanks. So the announced block is in place. The question still remains what to do with the site mailboxes that exist?

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

I assume they will be retired or converted to shared mailboxes at some point, but I have no evidence corroborating that. It's just speculation based on what happened to 365 Video, user blogs, etc.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi David

There has been no change in the plan. It just took us a while to make the block available worldwide. As of today though, you will not be able to create a new site mailbox on SharePoint Online. We have definitely put the ability to drag and drop emails into groups on our roadmap. Unfortunately I don't have a timeline for it yet.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi Anders

We have no plans of converting them into shared mailboxes. We haven't communicated to the users yet about what will happen when site mailboxes reach their end of life.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi Mohammad,


Just to update, we we're blocked from creating new site mailboxes a couple of weeks ago and are now using shared mailboxes as the alternative.


In fact, we've created a nice little feature where the shared mailbox is automatically created for a site and, access privileges assigned, when the users add their name to a Sharepoint list (it uses flow and PowerShell). Thus, the mailbox appears in the Outlook client as the site mailbox would have done before and the user experience is unaffected. A big plus here, of course, is that the limit of 10 mailboxes in Outlook has gone away; this was always a pain!


I know the advice is to switch to 'Groups', but these are useless to us until the facility to drag and drop emails is added.  I view the use of shared mailboxes as a temporary solution until this happens.

 

When you do eventually fully retire site mailboxes, it would be good to have utilities to transfer/convert them to both group mailboxes and shared mailboxes, as well as the facility to move shared mailboxes to group mailboxes. Without these utilities, I envisage a lot of, time consuming, faffing about with intermediate PSTs!  Hope you can do something along these lines?

 

David

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi David

 

Glad to know that you've figured a work around using shared mailboxes. If this is working great for you, we could probably also recommend this to other customers who are unable to move to Office 365 groups yet. Drag and drop will be made available soon and we hope you will be fine with using groups then. While we're on this topic, do you see any other potential blockers stopping you from using Office 365 groups?

 

Later this year we are coming out with the ability to augment your SharePoint sites with Office 365 groups. With this ability, the group that will attach to your site will house all the SharePoint documents under its Files tab. You could potentially also move all the emails you have in the site mailbox to the Office 365 group by dragging and dropping them. We won't be able to provide a utility to morph/convert the site mailbox/shared mailbox to a group since that wouldn't be a clean approach and could potentially run into issues.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi Mohammad,

 

Thanks for the very quick response.

 

We're positively looking forward to using Groups and welcome the integration with Team Sites.  The only other blocker I can see is how multiple document libraries are handled in the integration. I might be wrong, but Groups appear to only have one document library associated with them, however, our Team Sites have many document libraries (making it easier to lock down and sync relevant content by security group).

 

Unlike mailboxes, having just one document library is certainly not a deal breaker, but it will take a bit of adjustment and some clarification on this would be useful.  If they were converted to something line 'channels' in Teams, then that would be a good answer.

 

David

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi David

 

I don't work for SharePoint so I don't know how they'll handle the scenario of multiple document libraries but I'm sure this is something they've taken note of. I'll update this thread if I find some information.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Mohammed, we use site mailboxes with the project site template. Our tenant has subsites by business group (sales, projects, service) then many subsites under each which are based on the project site template. Currently team sites linked to an Office 365 Group are created under the Sites collection. Will an O365 group be able to be linked to a project site instead of a team site? My concern from what I've seen of the O365 Groups implementation is that it won't scale. While the number of groups is relatively small it will be ok, but when you start getting tens or hundreds of groups the Outlook interface will be unusable in its current form.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

I's say the main issues for our 25.000 users are:
1) Lifecycle management on Groups so we can remove the unused ones
2) Meta-data on Groups (so we can find them again)
3) Drag'n'drop from Outlook to document library

I know most of that is being worked on, and we have workarounds for it too, but it seems to be what most complain about.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi Mathew

 

There is no plan for O365 groups to support project sites. However, Project Online is working on a long term solution to support team sites. That could take a while though. In the mean time if you use Project and Online and need site mailboxes, then I suppose you will have to create a separate O365 group to act as a replacement. We have addressed this question here Use Office 365 Groups instead of Site Mailboxes.

We understand that with a large number of groups the left navigation pane in Outlook can get cluttered. To solve this in the short term we introduced a sorting mechanism that ensures that your important groups always stay on top. In the long term we will come up with a different navigation experience altogether.

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi Anders

 

Thanks for pointing these out. We are actively working on lifecycle management. We introduced groups expiry and renew which will help in cleaning up old groups. We are also planning on showing what groups are active and what are not. The searchability experience will also be improved. And dragging and dropping content across folders will also be made available for groups soon.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Thanks Mohammad,

 

I'm starting to get a bit off topic, so I'll try to bring it back to the subject of the thread.

 

When say "project site" I am referring to the project site subsite template rather than the SharePoint sites created by project online. 

 

The "classic" SharePoint method of creating a subsite would provide four collaboration site templates; Team Site, Blog, Project Site and Communication Site. 

 

The modern SharePoint now provides the option to create top-level sites using "create a site" pane which only gives you two options; Team Site and Communication Site. Subsites are still created using the classic templates. (edit: more info on site creation here)

 

So bringing my query back on topic, we create project subsites for each new project, and each would have a site mailbox to capture related correspondence. What do you see as the most suitable alternative with the removal of site mailboxes?

 

We could use a team site, but by default they are created under /sites whereas I would need the team site to be created as a subsite under /projects or /sales or /service. The default location can be changed in the Admin Centre, but changing this every time a new site needs to be created would be tedious.

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi Matthew

 

Apologies. I mistook "project site" to be a SharePoint site with a Project Online template on it. I see what you are referring to now.

 

Unfortunately we cannot provide O365 groups with subsites since it involves issues with permissions that we can't solve right now. For this reason only team sites will come with an O365 groups which means you will be forced to work with the solution that you have identified.

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

We have been using Site Mailboxes for sometime.  We can see them in the GAL which is a huge issue.  We have no intention of going to Groups at this time due to limited customizations.   What we are trying to find out is how we can migrate the content out of the mailbox into either a shared folder or something else.  We need to get our GAL cleaned up as the process was each site that gets created will get a Mailbox.  

 

SO can you point me into the direction of either cleanup of our gal but the users will still be able to use the mailbox or some sort of migration tool which is not a group.  We have groups disabled at this time as it does not fit our logic.     

 

Objective is hide from GAL but allow for the users to still use the mailbox.  

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

We now use a combination of Flow and Powershell to create Shared Folders for our Team Sites; this works pretty well other than you can no longer access the mailbox from the site, you have to use Outlook (online or desktop).

 

When the deprovision of Site Mailboxes was announced it was stated that tools would be provided to migrate data to some other form of storage (don't believe it said what, but one would naturally assume Groups).  As far as I'm aware, these tools have not materialised as yet.  If we need to transfer then we load the Site Mailbox and Shared Folder in Outlook and manually drag & drop.  Not a huge problem for us, but I can see it would be for some. 

 

It has been announced and might be in First Release, that Groups will now allow drag & drop, so this could be an alternative to Shared Folders for us, but I'm not going to rush. I just find all these broadly similar offerings a confusion and until there's some clear direction, I'll stay put.

 

All our existing Site Mailboxes are still working and can be opened on the site or selected in Outlook; we just can't create new ones. If they suddenly stop working without migration tools then we're goosed.  Don't think that will happen though.

 

It's immaterial now, but it is possible to remove site mailboxes from the GAL, by using Powershell. We did this, as like you, we just didn't want the entries there. A side effect of this though is that they are no longer discoverable in Outlook Online, again not a problem for us, but might be for some.  Here's the command we use:

 

Set-Mailbox $box.DisplayName -HiddenFromAddressListsEnabled $true 

Hope this helps.

 

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

I believe that drag and drop from Outlook to Office 365 Groups is the preferred way to migrate from site mailboxes. That is, when drag and drop arrives. It's announced, but I have not seen it yet.

 

If you don't want to use Office 365 Groups, would Teams be an option? Or is it that you want to center collaboration around Outlook?

 

TR

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Yes it is my understanding that 'drag and drop' into a Group will be the migration method. I also understand that code will not be provided to allow the process to be undertaken in bulk. I've been told that the feature is not yet widely available (less than 20% of the global roll out is complete). It may come to Outlook Desktop in the future.

 

I'm not sure that copying the email to a group fulfils our use case. Copying an email helps bring an email to the attention of the project team. I do not see it as viable solution when all project related emails need to be held in one location and accessible to the project team. We are currently thinking about our options - we might need to reinvestigate third party solutions.

 

Feature ID: 20787

Outlook on the web: Drag and drop emails into group mailbox

Groups in Outlook users can drag and drop their emails from their inbox to the group mailbox in Outlook on the web

 

https://products.office.com/en-US/business/office-365-roadmap?filters=&freeformsearch=drag%20and%20#...

Re: Site Mailboxes being removed

Hi James

 

As David mentions, the -HiddenFromAddressListsEnabled property in the Set-Mailbox command can be used to hide a mailbox from the GAL. We do not have a robust solution yet to migrate the content from site mailboxes to other destinations but if you have less content in the mailboxes, then you could possibly drag and drop it to a shared mailbox or any other mailbox. You could do this today in Outlook Desktop.

Related Conversations
Change Sharepoint modern site name, and URL
주현 김 in SharePoint on
3 Replies
Create HUB site
Eric LE CORRE in SharePoint on
16 Replies
Site Designs with Hub Sites
Michael Shea in SharePoint AMA on
6 Replies
Twitter on a Sharepoint Communication site
Rob Rijlaarsdam in SharePoint on
23 Replies
Enable modern site pages
Odd Arne Nohr in SharePoint on
13 Replies