Email forwarding on Exchange Server 2013/2016

Sometimes an organization requires to automatically forward emails on Exchange server, or even externally (e.g. to a gmail account) for auditing purposes, data leak protection (DLP), availability, CRM support etc. In other words, there are cases when the message should automatically reach more than one recipient.

Luckily Exchange provides a feature called transport rules. With these rules you can set up the server to check processed messages and search for specific properties (e.g. specific sender, recipient or a keyword). When these properties meet conditions configured in the rule the message is forwarded to different recipients. Below you can find a description how to build and such rule.

Configuring automatic forwarding on Exchange 2013/2016

First you need to open ECP (Exchange Admin Center) and go to the mail flow tab in the left pane.

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Next go to rules tab on top and click the ” + ” icon visible above the list of rules. This opens a menu where you need to select Create a new rule… .

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This brings up a new window with the new rule setup wizard where you can name your rule (the Name field), configure its conditions (*Apply this rule if… menu), select the rule’s action (*Do the following… menu) and more.

Let’s say you want your manager to know about all emails sent outside your organization by his assistant. Once you enter the name of the rule, click the Apply this rule if… dropdown and select  The sender is… option.

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This opens a new window where you can select the assistant’s email. Highlight it on the list and click the add-> button. Then click OK.

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Next, make sure to click the More options… link visible at the bottom of the new rule wizard – this unlocks more actions in the Do the following… menu. When you open it there are three different methods available in terms of message forwarding:

  • Forward message for approval… This option allows to stop the message from leaving your organization until it is accepted by the defined user or sender’s manager.
  • Redirect the message to… The message is not delivered to the original recipient and is redirected to the one defined in the rule.
  • Add recipients… As the name suggests this action allows to add more recipients to the message in the ToBcc, or Cc field.

Each of these actions has its own limitations – Forward message for approval requires manual interaction, therefore, it is not entirely automatic. The Redirect the message to… action completely omits the original recipient’s mailbox, which is not desired in our example scenario. The Add recipients… is the closest one to our requirement, however it is not “silent”  – the recipient might see that he or she was not the only one getting this message as some email clients might show the “undisclosed recipients” phrase in the address field.

Let’s build the rule with the Add recipients… action. Select it from the dropdown menu and click to the Bcc box.

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In the window that pops up select recipients of your choice – in our example it is Hanna’s manager, Clark Kent.

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Confirm your selection with the OK button. Next in the main rule’s wizard window click Save to finish.

That’s it – your rule is now ready to add Clark Kent as the Bcc recipient to every single message Hanna Dean sends. The main drawback is that even with the address hidden with the Bcc field the original recipient might see that in their email client (as the “undisclosed recipients” phrase). Moreover, if the Bcc recipient clicks reply-to-all and sends a message it’ll simply make aware the original recipient that there are more people in the conversation without knowing it originally. That might be perceived dishonest depending on the conversation’s subject. Lastly, the Bcc field is very often used by spammers, therefore, your message might land in the junk mail or even worse – be completely blocked and your domain might be blacklisted by the spam-filtering facilities.

Extending email forwarding capabilities of Exchange

A complete solution would be to perform mail redirection directly on the server level, without modifying the original message at all. CodeTwo Exchange Rules Pro allows automatic email forwarding, offers a wide range of conditions that trigger the action and keeps you safe as it does not tamper with the original email header at all.

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