If you use Outlook, you might want to send a copy of each incoming message to a different email address.

  • Some people forward messages to a GMail or Windows Live address when they go on vacation.
  • Employers might want an easy way to see incoming messages addressed to a departed employee.
  • The easiest way for a small business to set up a Blackberry is to forward messages to the Blackberry address supplied by the cell phone carrier.

If a business has an onsite Exchange Server, it’s possible to forward messages with a setting on the server. Typically the administrator creates an Active Directory contact with an outside SMTP address, then sends a copy of a user’s messages to the contact. It’s not very pretty but it works.

There is a way to do it with an Outlook rule that sends a copy of each incoming message to an outside address, as well as delivering the message to the original Outlook mailbox.

The twist is in the words chosen for the rule. You won’t forward the message, you’ll redirect it.

Message forwarding  When an Outlook rule automatically forwards a message you receive, it leaves a copy of the message in your Inbox and it changes the forwarded message. It adds “FW:” to the subject line and it changes the sender to – you! Your GMail account fills up with messages from yourself, with no easy way to see the original sender until you open each message.

Message redirection  On the other hand, when a rule automatically redirects a message you receive, it leaves a copy in your Inbox and sends the message unchanged to the new email address. To the recipient, the message appears as though it came directly from the original sender. There is no indication that the message was delivered by way of your Outlook account.

Here’s an explanation from Microsoft of the difference between mail forwarding and mail redirection.

There are a couple of things to remember.

If you have a standalone copy of Outlook – no Exchange Server – the rule will only process messages when Outlook is running. If your computer shuts off while you’re on vacation, the messages stop being forwarded. “Redirected.” Whatever.

If your business is running Exchange Server, this type of rule is processed by the server – it’s a “server-side” rule that is processed even if Outlook is not running.

Sending business mail outside the company has some security implications, so some Exchange Servers are locked down to prevent mail forwarding. It seems to work fine with the default configuration of Exchange in Small Business Server.

Server-side mail forwarding rules are not allowed with any of the hosted Exchange services that I’ve tried. At the moment, it’s not possible to forward messages to an outside address from a Microsoft Online Services account, for example, but there is reason to think that it may be allowed within the next six months or so.

The process to set up a mail redirection rule in Outlook:

  • Click on Tools / Rules and Alerts / New Rule.
  • Start from a blank rule / Check messages when they arrive
  • Do not check any conditions. When you click Next, you’ll be prompted: “This rule will be applied to every message you receive. Is this correct?” Yup.
  • Check the box to “redirect it people or distribution list.” Click on the words “people or distribution list” and type in the forwarding address in the TO: box at the bottom.


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