Enabeling Inbound e-mail for SharePoint 2010 in SBS 2011

Posted: March 18, 2011 in Inbound email, SBS 2011, SharePoint Foundation 2010
Tags: , , ,

Especially for small businesses, enabling incoming e-mail for SharePoint lists and libraries is a powerful if somewhat overlooked feature.  Before I gripe a bit about how Microsoft has handled doing this, I will share with you some general ideas about how to use incoming e-mail to solve real business problems.

  • Customer or vendor queries and requests. Set up a document library to receive incoming e-mail from outside senders. From the external web site, or by some other means, make this e-mail address available for customer/vendors/etc. to contact the business.  Set up a work flow on the library to initiate, and follow up, on action taken.
  • Keep track of sent e-mails. Use the library incoming e-mail address in the bcc field of outgoing email.  That creates a store, essentially, of the appropriate correspondence.  Views on the library can be created using the e-mail from, to, and other fields making this a powerful way to aggregate correspondence across multiple senders.
  • Use outbound e-mail to trigger tasks. You can’t enable incoming e-email for task and project lists, but you use work flows on a library, for example, to create a task when an incoming e-mail is received.
  • Incoming e-mails in team discussions. Use incoming e-mails from customers, vendors, partners, etc. to create discussion lists. So way much better than emails, as all of the parts of the threads are there for everyone to see.  Add  a column like status, couple that to a work flow, and you can use that to communicate back the sender, age off discussions, create views that highlight urgent topics, etc.

Think about coupling your accounting system to a document library by using an incoming e-mail address for it on purchase orders or sales orders.  I guess I have no end to ideas, but I am confident that each of you will be able to extend a list were I able to write down all of mine.

Now to my tiny rant.

Perhaps that is why enabling it for the internal web site, and then for each individual list or library, requires a bit of heavy lifting for the average user, and that goes doubly for SBS 2011 with SharePoint Foundation 2010 and Exchange 2010.  I do not understand why the SBS team has not created a wizard to both enable incoming email on the site and then to enable it for each list or library.

Perhaps it is just a fallout from non-SBS environments where administrators will want to exercise more control over how mail flows.  By contrast there is a single way to do this is SBS.  to illustrate this point further, note that when you enable incoming e-mail in SBS, you are prompted to install the IIS SMTP service but must not in SBS.  Now that should be crystal clear for everyone.

I raised the issue in a post to the Microsoft SBS forum that there was no documentation on incoming e-mail for SBS 2011, much less a wizard.  One of the responses was from Susan Bradley, aka SBS Diva and then lo and behold, this post appeared:

How to Configure Email Routing to SharePoint in SBS 2011 Standard

Well, thanks to the team for this posting.  I can assure you it works.  I now have as my mission some alternative ways of doing this, and hints and suggestions of ongoing effort.  Stay tuned while I no doubt shoot myself in the foot many times trying to validate my concepts with actually having it work, not screwing up the works while doing so.

I will repeat this message again and again.  One of the best reasons to upgrade to SBS 2011 is SharePoint Foundation 2010.  The interaction with Office 2010 hands you potent business applications that you can craft with little effort, enabling incoming e-mail aside.  I am on a mission to understand just how much and report back to you.  If you have some comments or ideas, I invite you to share them with us.

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Comments
  1. Scott Barber says:

    Hey Larry,

    Thanks for the post. I have been looking for this after following other instructions enabling SMTP and killing my outgoing mail route.

    Thanks again for the link! I’m going to be using this to allow me to email to a document library and then have a workflow which moves relevant data to a list.

    Cheers.

  2. Scott-

    You are most welcome. Glad to hear from down under, used to love going there.

    Your use is great, and the same thing works for calendars, e.g. to accept invites and show them for a group calender. One thing I have done for a lot of my clients is to set up a list for inquiries or support issues etc. with a workflow that monitored them being picked up and assigned to someone, then a second work flow to monitor their progress.

    FYI, once you have set up email for one entity, like your document library, adding another is very simple. I prefer to use Active Directory Users and Computers rather than Exchange Power Shell, and if you do, too, follow this:

    1. Email enable your list or library and remember the email address as XXXXXXXXXXX@companyweb
    2. Create a contact in the same OU you used for the first email contact. Name it appropriately, and set the email address as XXXXXXXXXXX@companyweb, same as above.
    3. Open the distribution group you previously created, click on the Members tab, and add the new contact.

    That’s it. Mail will now go to the new list or document library. Be sure to enable email from outside users if that is what you want on the SharePoint settings page.

    I appreciate your post.

    larry

  3. Greg Finlayson says:

    The key thing is the message ” Do not install the IIS SMTP service” (even though you are prompted to do so!). Excellent post.

  4. A great point. Thanks for clearing that up

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