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Plan incoming email for a SharePoint farm in SharePoint 2013

 

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2013, SharePoint Foundation 2013

Topic Last Modified: 2014-08-26

Summary: Learn how to configure incoming e-mail to enable SharePoint sites to receive and store e-mail messages and attachments.

The incoming e-mail feature of SharePoint 2013 enables SharePoint sites to receive and store e-mail messages and attachments in lists and libraries. This article helps server and farm administrators understand the choices they need to make before they deploy the incoming e-mail feature for their organization.

In this article:

The incoming e-mail feature enables teams to store the e-mail that they send to other team members without opening the SharePoint site and uploading the content that was sent in e-mail. This is possible because most types of lists and libraries can be assigned a unique e-mail address.

Before configuring incoming e-mail, you must perform the following tasks:

  • If you are using the basic scenario, each SharePoint front-end web server must be running the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) service and the SharePoint Foundation web application service.

  • If you are using the advanced scenario, you can use one or more servers in the server farm to run the SMTP service and to have a valid SMTP server address. Alternatively, you must know the name of a server outside the farm that is running the SMTP service and the location of the e-mail drop folder.

For more information about installing the SMTP service, see Configure incoming email for a SharePoint 2013 farm.

As you plan to implement incoming e-mail, you must decide whether to use a basic or and advanced scenario, as described below.

You can enable a basic incoming e-mail scenario by installing the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) service on the server running SharePoint 2013 and enabling incoming e-mail by using the automatic settings mode with all default settings. In this scenario, e-mail is delivered directly to your SMTP server and SharePoint 2013 periodically checks for e-mail in the default e-mail drop folder that is automatically configured by the SMTP service.

Selecting the automatic settings mode and accepting all the default settings is the easiest way to enable incoming e-mail because all configuration settings are made for you and, therefore, little expertise is required. For most organizations, this configuration is all that is needed.

You enable a basic incoming e-mail scenario in the following steps:

  1. The server administrator uses the Add Features Wizard to install the SMTP Server feature on the server from which you want to receive incoming e-mail. This installs and starts the SMTP service on that server.

  2. The farm administrator enables incoming e-mail by using the automatic settings mode and accepting all the default values.

  3. The site collection administrator enables the incoming e-mail feature on the libraries and lists in which they want to store incoming e-mail and assigns each library and list a unique e-mail address in the form address@SMTPserveraddress, for example, sharedfiles@SMTPserver.contoso.com.

When users send e-mail to the address of a list or library, SharePoint 2013 detects that new e-mail has been delivered and sends it to the appropriate list or library based on the e-mail address.

NoteNote:
You can also use the automatic settings option in an advanced scenario and select whether to use the Microsoft SharePoint Directory Management service, a safe e-mail server, and an incoming e-mail server display address. These options are all discussed in the Using an advanced scenario later in this article.

If this basic scenario meets your needs, you can skip the remainder of this article. For more information, see Configure incoming email for a SharePoint 2013 farm.

For more advanced administrators, additional choices are available, some of which require more expertise to deploy than choosing the basic scenario with all default options. This section describes the following configuration options:

  • SharePoint Directory Management service

  • Incoming e-mail server display address

  • Safe e-mail server

  • E-mail drop folder

If you use the advanced scenario to configure incoming e-mail, you will need to perform additional procedures. For more information, see Configure incoming email for a SharePoint 2013 farm.

The SharePoint Directory Management service connects SharePoint sites to your organization's user directory to provide enhanced e-mail features. The benefit of using this service is that it enables users to create and manage e-mail distribution groups from SharePoint sites. This service also creates contacts in your organization's user directory so people can find e-mail-enabled SharePoint lists in their address books. However, using SharePoint Directory Management service requires more management because it is communicating with Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS).

NoteNote:
It is recommended that you use Exchange Server together with SharePoint Directory Management service. If you do not, you must customize your own directory management service.

You can configure the SharePoint Directory Management service by using either the automatic or the advanced settings mode. You can choose to enable the SharePoint Directory Management service in your SharePoint server farm, or you can use the SharePoint Directory Management service of another farm. One advantage of using the service running on another farm is that Active Directory permissions are managed in a centralized place (that is, on the other farm).

To enable this service on a server or server farm running SharePoint 2013, the SharePoint Central Administration application pool account used by SharePoint 2013 must have write access to the container that you specify in Active Directory. This requires an Active Directory administrator to set up the organizational unit (OU) and the permissions on the OU. The advantage of using the SharePoint Directory Management service on a remote farm is that you do not need the help of an Active Directory administrator to create and configure the OU if the OU already exists.

NoteNote:
There are a number of procedures that you need to perform if you plan to use SharePoint Directory Management service. For more information, see Configure incoming email for a SharePoint 2013 farm.

A typical directory management scenario proceeds in the following steps:

  1. A site collection administrator creates a new SharePoint group.

  2. The administrator chooses to create a distribution list to associate with that SharePoint group and assigns an e-mail address to that distribution list.

  3. Over time, the administrator adds users to and removes users from this SharePoint group. As users are added to and removed from the group, the SharePoint Directory Management service automatically adds and removes them from the distribution list, which is stored in the Active Directory directory service. Because distribution lists are associated with a particular SharePoint group, this distribution list is available to all members of that SharePoint group.

  4. By default, e-mail addresses are automatically generated for discussion boards and calendars on team sites and then added to the team distribution list. The e-mail addresses for these two lists will be in the following form, by default: GroupAddress.discussions and GroupAddress.calendar.

  5. By including e-mail addresses for discussion boards and calendars in the distribution list, all e-mail and meeting invitations sent to this distribution list will be archived in the team site.

For more information about SharePoint Directory Management Service, see Inside SharePoint: SharePoint Directory Integration.

When you configure the SharePoint Directory Management service to create distribution groups and contacts in Active Directory, you must provide the following information:

  • Name of the Active Directory container in which new distribution groups and contacts will be created. This must be provided in the following format:

    OU=ContainerName, DC=DomainName, DC=TopLevelDomainName

    Example

    OU=SharePointContacts,DC=Contoso,DC=com

  • Name of the SMTP server to use for incoming e-mail (or accept the default SMTP server if one exists). This must be provided in the following format:

    Server.subdomain.domain.top-level_domain

    For example, SharePointServer.support.contoso.com

  • Whether to accept messages from only authenticated users.

  • Whether to allow users to create distribution groups from SharePoint sites. If you choose yes for this option, you can also choose whether users can do any combination of the following actions:

    • Create a new distribution group.

    • Change a distribution group's e-mail address.

    • Change a distribution group's title and description.

    • Delete a distribution group.

When configuring the SharePoint Directory Management service to create distribution groups and contacts using a remote SharePoint Directory Management service, you must provide the following information:

  • The URL of the remote directory management service, for example, http://server:adminport/_vti_bin/SharePointE-mailWS.asmx.

  • The name of the SMTP server to use for incoming e-mail.

  • Whether to accept messages from only authenticated users.

  • Whether to allow users to create distribution groups from SharePoint sites.

Administrators can specify the e-mail server address that will be displayed in web pages when users create an incoming e-mail address for a site, list, or group. This setting is often used in conjunction with the SharePoint Directory Management service to provide a more friendly e-mail server address for users to type, for example, mylist@example.com.

You can configure SharePoint 2013 to accept e-mail from any e-mail server or only e-mail that has been routed through a safe-e-mail server application.

You can derive the following benefits by routing e-mail through a safe e-mail server:

  • User authentication   The SMTP service cannot authenticate users who send e-mail to your site, but Exchange Server can. The server administrator can use the SharePoint Central Administration website to specify that the system accept e-mail from authenticated users only if the e-mail is sent through Exchange Server.

  • Spam filtering   Exchange Server provides spam filtering to eliminate unsolicited commercial e-mail before it is forwarded to its destination — in this case, the server running SharePoint 2013. Another technique that can reduce spam is to allow members of the team site to archive e-mail only in lists on which you have granted write permissions to members.

  • Virus protection   Exchange Server provides virus protection for e-mail routed through it.

NoteNote:
Because this option is only available in automatic mode, you cannot specify one or more safe e-mail servers and also specify an e-mail drop folder.

If the SMTP service is running on another server than on the SharePoint server, you must specify the location from which SharePoint 2013 retrieves incoming e-mail. You specify the e-mail drop folder so that SharePoint 2013 knows from where to retrieve incoming e-mail. However, if you specify a specific e-mail drop folder, SharePoint 2013 cannot detect configuration changes on the remote e-mail server that is delivering the e-mail to your drop folder. This means that if an administrator configures the e-mail server to no longer deliver e-mail to this folder, SharePoint 2013 cannot detect that the configuration has changed, and therefore will not be able to retrieve the files from the new location.

NoteNote:
When incoming e-mail is set to advanced mode, you must ensure that you have the proper permissions on the e-mail drop folder. For more information, see Configure incoming email for a SharePoint 2013 farm.
NoteNote:
Because this option is only available in advanced mode, you cannot specify an e-mail drop folder and also specify one or more safe e-mail servers.

As a farm administrator, you have two settings modes from which to choose when enabling incoming e-mail: automatic and advanced. As described in the "Using a basic scenario" section, you can choose the automatic settings mode with default settings. However, the automatic settings mode has additional options that you can choose.

The following table describes the configuration options and whether they are configured on the Configure Incoming E-Mail Settings page in the SharePoint Central Administration website by using the automatic settings mode or the advanced settings mode.

 

Configuration option Automatic settings mode Advanced settings mode

Enable Incoming E-mail

Yes

Yes

SharePoint Directory management service

Yes

Yes

Incoming e-mail server display address

Yes

Yes

E-mail drop folder

No

Yes

The advanced and automatic settings modes are similar in that they both enable farm administrators to configure the SharePoint Directory Management service and the e-mail server address to display in web pages. These settings modes differ in that the automatic settings mode replaces the ability to choose what e-mail servers to accept e-mail from with the ability to specify the folder to which e-mail is dropped. SharePoint 2013 uses this e-mail drop folder to detect new e-mail messages.

NoteNote:
The e-mail drop folder setting is not available in automatic mode, because that mode automatically sets the e-mail drop folder to the folder that is specified by the SMTP service.

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