Email to SharePoint vs Site mailbox

26 mei 2015

In the process of moving to the Office 365 environment in the near future at one of our customers, we are investigating which features are changing for the users. The email to library functionality is used on a frequently basis by one of our customers.

Since SharePoint 2007 we are used to enable the email to library feature to store emails and/or attachments into SharePoint. A list that is set up to receive e-mail has its own address, and you just include the e-mail address in the To or Cc box of your message. Our customer has extended this feature by setting up a mail forward in Microsoft Exchange to the SharePoint e-mail address. Users outside the company are able to send their emails into SharePoint.

sitemailboxIn SharePoint 2013 On Premises you are still able to setup your farm for the e-mail to library feature and use the feature as before.
But in SharePoint Online this feature isn’t available. To achieve saving e-mail and attachments into SharePoint Online, Microsoft created the Site Mailbox Feature. The e-mail to library functionality isn’t available in SharePoint Online due to performance issues. Mail-enabled lists create contact objects in Active Directory. SharePoint Online is a multi-tenant environment, which would cause a large increase in traffic and thus performance.

Site mailbox
A site mailbox brings Exchange emails and SharePoint documents together. When one project member stores e-mail or documents using the site mailbox, any project member can then access the content.
The content is accessible directly via SharePoint but the site mailbox is also available in Outlook 2013 and gives easy access to store e-mails and attachments in your SharePoint site.

This creates a view of the content like we are used to. Email can be displayed within Outlook 2013 and the desired format, while documents are stored at SharePoint and has the ability to keep versioning and coauthoring. Microsoft Exchange synchronizes just enough metadata from SharePoint to create the document view in Outlook.

Although the e-mail to library is available within SharePoint 2013 On Premise, you can also setup the site mailboxes for On Premises. See this Technet article how to setup the site mailboxes.

Enable site mailbox
Before you are able to create a site mailbox you have to make sure the Site Mailbox Feature is enabled.


After activating the feature you can add the app by using Add an app on the site content page. The first time you open the app it will bring up the setup page to set up the language and time zone. This only has to be done once. It can take up to 30 minutes before the mailbox has been created. And as soon as this is done all users in the Owners and Members member groups will receive an email the mailbox is ready for use.

Site mailbox and Outlook 2013sitemailboxoutlook
When you are using Outlook 2013 you will see the site mailbox(es) you are a member of. The inbox is available but there is also a Documents folder. You can simply drag and drop attachments into this folder which makes the documents available in the SharePoint Document Library.

Nice options
There are some extra options with the site mailboxes which may come in handy:

  • If an e-mail discussion needs to be stored in SharePoint, you can add the site mailbox in the Cc and the thread is accessible from SharePoint;
  • You can forward documents stored in SharePoint to make sure the adjustments are being saved in the official document;
  • Not only one document can be forwarded, it is also possible to forward several documents in one email;
  • You can add the site mailbox to your favorites in Outlook;
  • By right clicking the Documents folder in Outlook you can choose Open in Web Browser which brings you directly to the SharePoint site;
  • By right clicking your personal mailbox in Outlook you can choose Manage All Site Mailboxes and get an overview of all site mailboxes you have access to;
  • External users are able to send to this mailboxes, no extra settings within Exchange have to be done.

With this change of scenery we need to have a closer look at the e-mail process our customer is using right now. This change is having a big impact on the way they work and will need new instructions.

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