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By default, Exchange Server Out-of-Office replies are not sent to the Internet; they have to be manually enabled.
This is so people outside an organization cannot, for instance, use Out of Office as a component in a social-engineering attack. It also avoids giving spammers confirmation that they have a "live one" on their distribution list.
If an administrator chooses to enable Out-of-Office replies to the Internet, however, there's a new problem: Out-of-Office replies cannot be selectively suppressed for specific mailboxes or sender/recipient addresses. It's all or nothing.
Microsoft admits that the only way to really work around this is issue is by using an event sink -- but not everyone has the patience or the aptitude to write one.
Fortunately, someone else has gone through the trouble. Exchange programmer Victor Ivanidze has created an event sink called SelectiveOOF that you can use to decide which remote hosts receive Out-of-Office messages.
When installed, the SelectiveOOF event sink can accept two criteria to suppress or allow Out-of-Office messages. You can declare that all replies to a given domain, or any domain, will be automatically suppressed, and then provide a list of exception domains. (If you click on "Add * (any domain)" in the sink's setup screen, this will by default suppress replies to all domains.)
If you're only allowing to a select few domains -- such as satellite offices or affiliated companies -- then you can block all first and then set up exceptions. On the other hand, if you want to send Out-of-Office notices to all but a few domains, you can list those excluded domains first in the top of the sink setup form and leave the bottom half blank.
Note that because of the way Microsoft Exchange handles events and Out-of-Office messages, previously suppressed Out-of-Office messages will not be resent if you disable the sink or change the restriction lists. Out-of-Office messages are only sent once.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter.
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This was first published in November 2005