How to use aliases in Exchange Online so customers don’t know your real email address

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It seems odd that Outlook and Exchange have a habit of making it difficult to work with more than one email address in an account. It turns out there are plenty of good reasons to use multiple addresses or even hide a home address. Perhaps you share a customer contact mailbox in a CRM system with several different users, are working on merging two different companies, or simply want to prevent users’ contact information from leaking to the outside world while working on a product. confidential.

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Aliases in Exchange

Whatever the reason, giving staff more than one address is increasingly common. But until recently, Exchange made it difficult to send messages using alternate identities.

Much of this was due to the design of Exchange’s mail transfer agent, the code that forwards email to the chain of mail servers that make up the Internet. It was originally designed to work with a single email address per user, with everything tied to that identity. If you try to send an email using an alias, an alternate email address, it will be replaced with the primary email address before being sent via SMTP.

If you were using Exchange in an enterprise, this approach is fine: support emails appear to come from a support alias, because they don’t leave the server or cluster. There is a vague rationale for allowing aliases to be received but not used for sending, as users could then redirect mail by replying from their correct address.

However, email now has to do much more than connect different parts of a business – it’s largely the way we do business. And aliases are part of those processes, especially as email-powered tools like Microsoft 365’s Booking Service become more common.

Inbound aliases have long been integrated with both on-premises Exchange and Exchange Online. You can give an individual user up to 400 different aliases, without affecting the amount you are charged. Aliases are not shared mailboxes or distribution lists: they are individual addresses that can be used to route mail to specific mailboxes.

Although you can use distribution lists to receive, route, and send email, they don’t give you the same level of control as individual aliases for users and shared mailboxes. There were complex low-level techniques that allowed Exchange users to send mail as aliases, but they required working with custom mail applications that used specific SMTP commands, not Outlook.

Managing aliases in Exchange Online

Aliases for active users

It is quite simple to add aliases using the Microsoft 365 admin center. If you’re using alternate domains, make sure they’re configured before adding an alias to a user.

In the admin center, choose Active users under Users in the navigation pane. Once this page opens, select a user and click on their name to open the user pane. Here you can choose Manage username and email to add an alias. You can enter any username and choose any currently configured domain. Once configured, click Save Changes to configure the alias.

Alternative domains

Alternate domains must be configured with all the correct DNS settings for Microsoft 365 accounts. This requires adding them to your Microsoft 365 account using the configuration tools in the admin center.

Once you’ve added the domain, connect it to your account by verifying it with a TXT record in the domain’s DNS records before setting up the MX records to send mail to the Microsoft 365 Exchange Online service. If you plan to send mail through this domain, you must first configure its SPF, DKIM, and DMARC anti-spam features on your DNS host.

Change of company name

After a company name change, you can configure an address such as [email protected] as an alias for [email protected], with mail sent to the old company name address arriving in their new account. regular business name. It’s a good idea to use aliases to redirect mail sent to common nicknames in a single mailbox, so [email protected] could be an alias for the more formal [email protected]

Similarly, you can assign aliases to team accounts, so that all possible variations of a team name, such as “accountspayable”, “accounts”, “accounts.payable” and any other version, match will end up in the same email account. It’s worth checking your mail logs to see if there are any common errors for important addresses that you can intercept and redirect with an alias.

Send mail as alias from Outlook

A recent update to Exchange Online finally added preview support for sending messages using aliases. Initially, you must use PowerShell to set the SendFromAliasEnabled parameter of the Set-OrganizationConfig cmdlet. When you set this, you can enable full alias support for all mailboxes; there is currently no way to set it for individual users or groups.

Once activated, you are using a new version of the Exchange SMTP service. As Microsoft points out, it’s in preview at the moment, as there are known issues that could cause problems in some cases. On-premises Exchange isn’t getting the new functionality, which means on-premises users won’t be able to send using aliases yet.

Not all Exchange mail clients support the new feature. Currently, it’s supported in Outlook mobile clients on iOS and Android and in Outlook on the web. Support for desktop Outlook is expected in Q2 2022, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

On the web, you should show the From field when composing messages, with a drop-down list of available aliases. On mobile devices, you must manually enter an alias, but it will be saved for future use. When it’s released for desktop Outlook, you’ll be able to maintain a list of commonly used aliases, which should make it easier to pick and choose which alias to use.

Once you’ve set up support, users should find working with aliases fairly straightforward. If necessary, they can keep home addresses hidden or use nicknames or alternate email domains to ensure that emails reach them no matter how they are addressed.

Microsoft’s plan to merge Outlook online with its desktop version should speed up the delivery of features like this. An Outlook code base across all versions will avoid situations where different Outlook have different implementations of the same feature or don’t all have it.

About Jon Moses

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