Microsoft Exchange is one of the most powerful and robust communication platforms available. It allows employees to manage emails, messaging, contact lists and mobile communication. However, most people who are first exposed to the flexibility of Exchange either don’t understand how to establish and maintain rules or simply are unaware of how to use these rules to maximize their workforce’s productivity.
If you have little experience with Exchange and have been given the task of administering rules on an Exchange server, you may feel slightly overwhelmed. After all, there are many often-confusing details to understand, including:
1. Which rules are executed on the server and which are executed in the Outlook client
2. The difference between rule conditions and actions
3. The various types of rules that can be established on an Exchange server
In this article, we’re going to explore these issues. Though you may at first feel intimidated, by the end of this article, you’ll have an excellent overview of how Microsoft Exchange works and how it can be used to maximize the productivity of your employees. To figure out how best to use Exchange in your company, it’s important to understand the benefits of establishing rules on the server.
Benefits Of Using Exchange Rules
Because the Exchange server is the focal point of all employees’ communication, it’s well-positioned to help employees manage their emails and other messaging needs. Setting up rules on the server has the following benefits, including:
1 – Saves Employees’ Time – In today’s fast-paced corporate world, employees are often drowning in emails and other messages that can easily be managed with server rules.
2 – Increases Workforce Productivity – The less time that employees spend trying to manage the mountains of emails and other messages, the more time they can devote to more important tasks.
3 – Increases Employees’ Efficiency – As above, if employees are able to devote less time to manage emails and other messaging communication, they can spend more time and attention on critical responsibilities.
Understanding Rule Conditions And Actions
When you create a rule on the Exchange server, there are two primary elements to keep in mind: conditions and actions. Let’s talk briefly about each one.
Rule Conditions – Conditions are based upon restrictions. That is, if an email comes into the Exchange server and passes a restriction that has been created to properly determine the appropriate action, the engine tasked with executing rules takes a defined action.
Rule Actions – Actions are simply operations that have been defined for the Exchange server’s rule engine to execute if an incoming email meets predefined restrictions.
Exchange Server Rules vs. Outlook Rules
Another important distinction that you’ll need to understand when establishing rules is the difference between rules controlled by the Exchange server and those controlled by the Outlook client. Let’s quickly define the difference.
Outlook Client Rules – These are rules that are established solely within the Outlook client. They affect the handling of emails based upon defined restrictions and actions created by someone who has logged into a particular inbox. Once an email has been delivered to the Outlook client, the Exchange server cannot execute any actions.
Exchange Server Rules – These are rules that are created and defined solely on the Exchange server. The restrictions and corresponding actions that are defined in the rule engine are executed when emails are received onto the server. However, once emails are delivered from the server to the appropriate client, no further Exchange rules can be executed on those emails.
Example Exchange Server Rules
When you’re first learning about creating rules on the server, you may find it difficult to intuitively design creative restrictions and actions to execute. However, like most things, experience drives creativity. Over time, you’ll find new ways to establish rules to make the most of the Exchange server’s flexibility. Let’s talk about a few common rules that you can create.
Out Of Office Replies – If an employee is on vacation or otherwise unavailable, you can create a rule on the server that sends a predefined template message in response to any email sent to that’s employee’s inbox.
Forwarding – If an employee would rather receive incoming email from one or more senders at an alternative inbox, you can establish a rule that forward all emails that are destined for the employee’s default inbox to the alternate location.
Message Tags – If email from specific sources are determined to take priority over other emails (for example, from the president of your company), you can create a rule on the server that tags emails from those sources. Similarly, rules can be created to tag emails in a variety of ways once incoming emails pass the predefined restrictions.
Because Microsoft’s Exchange server platform is so robust, it will likely take some time to fully appreciate its capabilities in defining rules. However, it’s worth the time. A well-defined set of rules created on the server can have a significant impact on the productivity and efficiency of your workforce. Over time, you’ll discover new ways to create rules that can further maximize your employees’ time.