Like most companies, we have departments with dedicated staff. We want to set up job email addresses, like accounting@ and sales@. These emails should be seen by multiple staff members. What is the better way to implement this:

  • have a separate email account that the staff members all have access to? In this case a reply to an email addressed to sales@ would come from sales@.
  • forward an email to sales@ to the appropriate staff members, and thus an answer to an email to sales@ would come from, say, aubrey@.

Both methods have advantages (any replies will be visible to all in the first case) and disadvantages (we use Office365, thus an extra license would be needed for the first case).

What is the best way to set up email accounts for this scenario?


Neither approach. Instead, you should be doing one of the following:

  • Create a shared mailbox and grant access to all the users who need to read mail from it. Info about setting this up can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/admin/email/create-a-shared-mailbox?view=o365-worldwide. This approach is similar to having s shared account, except for a couple of things:

    • It doesn't require any special login. Once a user is authorized on a mailbox and they get the mailbox added to their Outlook configuration, it works just like any other mailbox on their regular account. This greatly simplifies things for your users, and also makes things significantly simpler if you have to revoke access for a user for some reason (you just revoke access for that user, no credentials to change at all).
    • If the mailbox is kept small enough, it doesn't need a license. Currently, the size limit is 50GB (which is a lot of mail). If it hits this limit, there's a grace period for receiving mail so you can add a license without losing any inbound mail, but it can't send email until there's a license added.
    • Some Outlook variants don't support shared mailboxes. Notably, the mobile and macOS versions can't access shared mailboxes.
  • Create an Office365 group containing the users you want, and then set it up to allow the members to send email on behalf of the group address. Info on doing this can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/admin/create-groups/create-groups?view=o365-worldwide and here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/admin/create-groups/allow-members-to-send-as-or-send-on-behalf-of-group?view=o365-worldwide. This works more like your forwarding approach, it doesn't need any licenses, and replies won't inherently be visible to all members.

Microsoft has an official page comparing these approaches located here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office365/admin/create-groups/compare-groups?view=o365-worldwide

Of note here is that both approaches (as well as both of your listed approaches) have an issue in that other users can't trivially see replies sent by a given user regarding mails received on the shared address. This can be easily fixed by just having your users always use 'Reply All' instead of 'Reply' (I believe that you can actually enforce this on Outlook with group policy, but I'm not 100% certain).

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