Enabling Incoming Email Functionality in SharePoint

3/12/2011 5:07:07 PM
SharePoint 2010 can process inbound email messages and accept them and their attachments as content for SharePoint document libraries, lists, and discussion groups. Indeed, SharePoint technically does not require the use of Exchange for this component, as it utilizes its own SMTP virtual server that it can use to accept email from any SMTP server, including non-Exchange boxes.

Integration with Exchange, however, has significant advantages for SharePoint. Most notably, new email-enabled content within SharePoint can be configured to have contacts within Exchange automatically created within a specific organizational unit (OU) in Active Directory. This makes it so that email administrators don’t need to maintain the email addresses associated with each SharePoint list or document library in the farm.

Installing the SMTP Server Service on the SharePoint Server

The first step to setting up a SharePoint server as an inbound email platform is to install the SMTP Server service on the SharePoint server. Typically, this service is installed on the server or servers running the web role. To install the SMTP Server Service on the server, perform the following steps (these steps assume Windows Server 2008 R2):

Open Server Manager (Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools, Server Manager).

Under the Features node, click Add Features.

Click the check box for SMTP Server.

From the dialog box shown in Figure 1, choose to add the required role services.

Figure 1. Adding the SMTP Server feature to a SharePoint server.

Click Next to continue.

Click Next at the Web Server intro dialog box.

Leave the Role Services set at the defaults and click Next to continue.

From the Confirm Installation dialog box, shown in Figure 2, click Install to install the SMTP Server feature on the server.

Figure 2. Finalizing the installation of the SMTP Server feature on a SharePoint server.

Click Close when complete. Repeat for any remaining web front ends where the incoming email feature will be supported.

Configuring the Incoming Email Server Role on the SharePoint Server

After the SMTP Service has been installed on the server, inbound email can be enabled through the SharePoint Central Admin tool. Incoming email functionality can be configured in two ways: automatic mode or advanced mode. Automatic mode sets up inbound mail access using default settings, whereas advanced mode allows for more complex configuration to take place, but should only be used if the SMTP service is not used to receive incoming email, but rather the server is configured to point to a different SMTP server. To enable incoming email functionality in a SharePoint farm, and configure it with the most ideal options, do the following:

Open the SharePoint Central Administration Tool from the server console (Start, All Programs, Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Products, SharePoint 2010 Central Administration).

Click the System Settings link in the navigation bar.

Under E-Mail and Text Messages (SMS), click the link Configure Incoming E-Mail Settings.

From the Configure Incoming E-Mail Settings dialog box, shown in Figure 3, click Yes to enable sites on the server to receive email.

Figure 3. Enabling incoming email for a farm.

Set the Settings mode to Automatic.

Select Yes to use the SharePoint Directory Management Service.

Enter an Active Directory OU where the new distribution groups and contact objects for SharePoint will be created. This OU must be created in AD in advance, and the SharePoint service account must have rights to create and modify objects in this OU. The OU must be listed in LDAP format (for example, OU= SharePoint,OU= Contacts, OU= Resources,DC= companyabc,DC= com).

Enter the SMTP mail server for incoming mail, which will be the SharePoint server name in this example. If load balancing multiple incoming email servers, enter an alias that can be used to connect to a load-balanced VIP.

Under the setting for accepting messages from authenticated users only, click Yes, so that only authenticated domain users can send email to the server. This setting can be changed to No if you want to accept anonymous email from the Internet into the site content.

Scroll down in the page, and examine the settings listed in Figure 4. Check to allow the creation of distribution groups from SharePoint sites.

Figure 4. Finalizing incoming email settings for a farm.

Enter a display address for the incoming email server; it should match the domain alias of the organization. An SMTP address policy must also be created in Exchange to match this domain name if it doesn’t already exist.

Finally, configure which email servers SharePoint will accept email from. Enter the IP address of any Exchange hub transport servers that will be relaying mail to SharePoint. In this example, is the IP address of the Exchange hub transport server.

Click OK to save the changes.

Using the Directory Management Service

The Directory Management Service in SharePoint 2010 uses a timer job within SharePoint to automate the creation of contact objects. These contacts are automatically created to allow inbound mail to document libraries or lists within SharePoint to be automatically enabled.

For example, when a document library called Companyabc-doclib is created and selected to be email-enabled, the SharePoint Directory Management Service automatically creates a contact object in Active Directory that has a primary SMTP address of companyabc-doclib@sp1.companyabc.com, in this example. This contact then inherits a secondary SMTP address of companyabc-doclib@companyabc.com through Exchange recipient policies. These policies need to be set up if they are not already in place.

After the contact is automatically created, users can send email to this address and have it flow through the Exchange server, which then forwards it to the SharePoint server (the primary SMTP address). It is then accepted into the SMTP virtual server on the SharePoint server, and then imported into SharePoint via a timer job that runs on the server. In this way, all emails sent to that address appear in the companyabc-doclib document library.


For the Directory Management Service to work, the account that runs as the SharePoint Central Admin application pool identity account needs to have add and modify rights to the OU that is specified under the Incoming Email Settings page. If this account does not have rights to the OU, automation of these contacts will fail.

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