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Regular Contributor

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
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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.

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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.

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

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@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.

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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.
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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.

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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...

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@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?

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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.

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@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! 

 

 

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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...

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Very interesting! I will try it.

Thank you very much, David.

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@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...

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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.

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Thanks Tony.

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

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

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Thanks, Tony.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@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!