Wednesday, July 17, 2013

SharePoint Online Site Mailboxes

One of the hidden gems of the new Wave 15 (SharePoint 2013) version of Office 365 are Site Mailboxes. They are basically a full Exchange mailbox (for free) that can be associated with a SharePoint Team site.

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A Site Mailbox is not enabled by default but it is easy enough to do. You can press the Keep email in context tile on the front page of a new team site or

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you can ‘Add an app’ and select Site Mailbox from the list of available apps.

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Once the Site Mailbox has been added you’ll need to give it a few minutes to setup.

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As the above message highlights, it may take up to 30 minutes for access to the Site Mailbox. Site Owners will be sent an email when the mailbox is ready.

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You can now access the mailbox by pressing the Mailbox link from the Quick Launch Menu on the left hand side of the Team Site.

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The first time you access the mailbox you’ll need to set the default language and time zone

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You should then see the familiar Outlook Web Access (OWA) interface to the mailbox like so:

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So now you can send and receive as that mailbox just as you would with normal Exchange accounts.

To navigate back to your site simply select the site name in the top left of the screen.

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If you now go and look at your Office 365 users in the Admin centre you should see a new user that matches the Site Mailbox you just created like so:

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Clicking on that user you will see they have no licenses and can’t be assigned any.

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Now there is not much that you can do here to work with the Site Mailbox. What you need to do is access the Site Mailbox from SharePoint and then select Options from the Settings menu in the top right of the browser.

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You should then end up with a screen like

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In the middle of this screen you will see that Site Mailboxes are 5GB maximum in size.

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I won’t cover the standard OWA stuff here but if you select site mailboxes from the list you’ll see that it is blank. This is because a Site Mailbox isn’t really connected to other Site Mailboxes, BUT if you go to your own personal OWA and select the same options you should see

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all the Site Mailboxes you have access to.

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You should also see that you have ability to determine whether they appear in Outlook by simply checking the box to the left of the Site Mailbox.

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If you edit the Site Mailbox by selecting it and press the Edit button (the pencil) you’ll get another dialog window. In there you will find a sync status option as shown above. You will also notice that you have a button to start sync if needed.

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After a while (this is not instantaneous and may take up to 30 minutes or so), users who have rights to the SharePoint Team site, where you created the Site Mailbox, will see that mailbox appear in their Outlook desktop application like shown above.

Now they can happily drag and drop emails between the Site Mailbox and their own Inbox.

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If a message arrives with an attachment, as shown above, that attachment can be dragged and dropped to the Document subfolder and this will copy it to the Documents library in the SharePoint Team Site.

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This Documents subfolder is effective a direct link to the SharePoint Team site library and thus you can drag use it exactly like a linked Library in Outlook. That means you can drag and drop files that aren’t attachments here and they will also be uploaded to SharePoint.

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So Site Mailboxes are easy to set up, are free, get automatically provisioned to Outlook on the desktop and allow a connection for file transfers to a SharePoint. They make a great option for working with projects that may involve team members sharing information via email. Having calendar, contacts, documents AND emails for a project all in one location is very handy but that is not the only application for Site Mailboxes!

This post only scratches the surface of what is possible. If you are looking for more configuration of this mailbox like being able to change the inbound address as well as Send-As permissions then you are going to need to look at standard Office 365 PowerShell commands to achieve this. Not hard but beyond the scope of this post (maybe a future post so stay tuned).  

Here are some more resources to help you with SharePoint Site Mailboxes in Office 365:

Overview: Use a site mailbox to collaborate with your team - http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/sharepoint-help/overview-use-a-site-mailbox-to-collaborate-with-your-team-HA103927690.aspx

Prepare for using site mailboxes in Office 365 - http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/office365-suite-help/prepare-for-using-site-mailboxes-in-office-365-HA103834109.aspx