Exchange Server – Mailboxes vs Groups
Updated July 2016 – This article now includes information about Shared Mailboxes which is particularly relevant to Office 365 as you do not have to pay extra for them. These are slightly different to a full mailbox because the user account associated with them is disabled, so you cannot login as that user and set e.g. Out of Office via the Webmail, or connect from a phone.
When running Microsoft Exchange server, one thing we often come up against is shared access email addresses. There are several ways that Exchange lets you setup email addresses, including as an Alias, as a Group or as a Mailbox. You can also use a shared mailbox which does not require any additional license.
The table below lists the pros and cons of each type of setup, with the correct terminology so you know what to ask for as the best type of setup for your situation.
|Delivery method||Assigned to an existing mailbox, emails come into that mailbox the same as emails sent to the primary email address for that mailbox.||A copy is sent to each member of the group; they must communicate manually to determine who is dealing with it.||Email is delivered into a shared-access mailbox’s inbox; folders can be setup for each person accessing to drag emails into when they are dealing with it.||The same as Mailbox|
|Reply ‘on behalf of’ the shared email address?||No||Using Outlook, yes||Using Outlook, yes||Using Outlook, yes|
|Reply ‘from’ the shared email address?||Using Outlook, yes||Using Outlook, yes||Using Outlook, yes||Using Outlook, yes|
|Delivery to / Access by how many people?||1||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Delivery to external contacts?||Not possible||Yes||No||No|
|Share the Calendar?||Can only share the existing mailbox’s calendar||No, groups do not have calendars||Yes||Yes|
|Individual ‘read’ / ‘unread’ status?||NA – only 1 user receiving the emails||Yes||No – status is shared between all users who access it||No – status is shared between all users who access it|
|Appopriate for mobile access (iphone / Blackberry)?||Yes (cannot reply from)||Yes (cannot reply from)||Yes but not ideal||No|
|Appropriate for Outlook Web Access?||Yes (cannot reply from)||Yes (cannot reply from)||Yes but not ideal||Yes but not ideal|
|Can set Out of Office||Yes but it comes ‘from’ the main email address of the account||No||Yes, using Outlook or OWA (login as the mailbox)||Yes but not through OWA|