Benefits of using email-enabled SharePoint document libraries

By email-enabling document libraries in SharePoint, you can share information with co-workers for a set period of time.

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Prior to the release of Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft announced that the future of public folders was in question, and that SharePoint libraries would take their place. Microsoft quickly changed its stance and continues to support Exchange public folders, but there still might be a number of compelling reasons why you would want to consider storing incoming messages in SharePoint document libraries -- instead of public folders.

SharePoint can enable incoming mail on lists and libraries. It also offers several out-of-the-box features like Alerts, Enterprise Search and Information Management policies, all of which provide for a richer collaborative experience.

One instance where these features are valuable actually has to do with technical newsletters. Many SharePoint users subscribe to various email-based technical newsletters and forward those messages to team members. Email-enabled document libraries provide a central location to store these newsletters, removing the administrative burden of manually sharing the information with other team members.

This feature also allow users to subscribe to the document library via SharePoint Alerts. These alerts can be set to immediate, daily or weekly summary notifications.

Newsletter subscriptions that are automatically delivered to an email-enabled document library form part of SharePoint's full-text index. Employees can search this index at a later date using SharePoint's Enterprise Search capabilities.

Email enabling a document library in SharePoint

This tip assumes two things:

  • You have enabled email support within SharePoint's Central Administration.
  •  

  • You have configured Microsoft Exchange Server to route messages to the SMTP service on a SharePoint Web front-end server.

To enable incoming email within a document library, navigate to Settings/Document Library settings. In the Communications section located on the right, select Incoming email settings. The resulting screen has a number of options allowing you to enable incoming email (Figure 1).

 SharePoint options for enabling incoming email messages.
Figure 1. You have several options in SharePoint to enable incoming email.

Next, follow these steps:

  • In the Incoming E-mail section, select Yes, which is located under  Allow this document library to receive e-mail?
  •  

  • Next, specify a unique label to form part of the email address. Be as specific as possible.

    For example, if this document library was set up to receive TechTarget's SearchExchange.com newsletter, you would enter the following address:
    searchexchange.techtarget@<domain>.com.

  •  

  • There are a few options to choose from in the E-mail Attachments section. If email messages that enter this library do not contain attachments, you can ignore this section.
  •  

  • In the E-mail Message section, you can set it to save the original email.

    Note: If you're receiving HTML newsletters, select Yes. If the newsletters are always attachments (i.e., .pdfs) within an email, select No and rely on the E-mail Attachments section to deal with attached documents.

  •  

  • In the E-mail Meeting Invitations section, you have the option to store attachments to any meeting invitations that are sent to this document library. Select No since we're not utilizing this document library to facilitate meeting requests.
  •  

  • In the E-mail Security section, you can choose to specify who send email messages to this library (site members or anyone). If you're using this document library to receive email messages from external sources or anonymous users, you will need to select Accept email messages from any sender.
  •  

  • Click OK to confirm your changes.

On the back end, the Microsoft SharePoint Directory Management Service that is connected to Active Directory creates a contact in the form of <Site Name> <Document Library Name> and assigns it a valid SMTP address. The Active Directory container that the contact is created in is specified under Central Administration -> Operations > Incoming Email Settings.

To confirm that the contact has been created, launch the Exchange Server 2007 Management Console and navigating to Recipient Configuration node/Mail Contact. The recently created contact will also be listed in your Outlook Global Address List (GAL).

Sending an email to the Exchange/Outlook contact that was just created should route automatically to the document library (Figure 2).

Created email will route to your document library
Figure 2. The created Exchange/Outlook contact will route to the document library.

Configuring Information Management policies

Content managers and site administrators can also use SharePoint's Information Management policies to create expiration policies and automated workflows in order to control the lifecycle of email that's delivered and stored within a document library. This can potentially archive or dispose of content that resides in these libraries after a specified set period of time.

Information Management policies can be created at the site collection level and can be reused throughout all SharePoint sites -- or at the document library level.

Enabling expiration policies on a document library gives you a basic Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) strategy for email-enabled document libraries. Expiration options allow you to create a consistent retention period for your email messages, based on a created or modified date.

To set an expiration policy, go to a document library and click on Settings/Document Library settings, followed by Information Management policy settings, located under the Permissions and Management section.

  • Select "Define a policy …"
  •  

  • The Edit Policy: Document page will appear and give you a number of policy options. Select the Enable Expiration checkbox.
  •  

  • This gives you a number of options, such as the ability to set retention periods for items as well as the option to choose which action to take once the set time period is reached. In the example below, we'll set an expiration policy to delete items after two years, based on creation date.
  • set an expiration policy
    Figure 3. This is where you can set an expiration policy for your items.

     

  • Click OK to apply the expiration policy.

View the individual item's properties, found in the document library, to confirm that the expiration policy has been enabled (Figure 4).

Created email will route to your document library
Figure 4. Confirm that the item's expiration policy has been enabled.

About the author: George Khalil has 12 years of experience as manager of the information technology team at William Buck, an Australian national business advisory firm. Khalil is responsible for overseeing the provision of day-to-day IT support, as well as designing and implementing the company's IT systems.

Khalil's strong technical knowledge and hands-on experience includes diverse enterprise solutions, products, tools and concepts primarily utilizing Microsoft products such as SharePoint, Exchange Server and Windows. He is also a Microsoft Certified IT Professional, Technology Specialist, Systems Engineer and Systems Administrator. You can read George's blog at http://sharepointgeorge.com/.

Do you have comments on this tip?  Let us know.


This was first published in April 2010

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