Parlae Solutions Blog

SharePoint Administration - Set up Outgoing Email


  • What is outgoing email?
  • How do I do it?
  • Gotcha's and Potential Issues
  • Different SharePoint Version?
  • Final Thoughts

Email, though many have come to barely tolerate it in terms of spam, serves a common purpose within the SharePoint architecture. The primary use is of course to notify people of events which someone, either themselves or someone else, has deemed that a user needs to be made aware of. The focus of this article is to set up the platform to allow for these email message to be sent out from SharePoint to keep users informed on everything they may need to know. The primary way to enable this platform is through the use of what SharePoint likes to call in its Email Integration area Outgoing Email. This series is meant to be a quick and simple way to get anyone with minimal experience in administering SharePoint through some everyday administrative tasks which are sometimes necessary when setting up a SharePoint environment. The aim would be that this should be a quick reference point that can always be referred to when you need to perform the action described in one of this series' articles.


What is it?

So, what is Outgoing Email? This is a good first question and while some will already know it is not known to everyone. To explain it simply, Outgoing Email is just email sent by SharePoint. Any email that SharePoint may send that does not come from a custom assembly, though some will hook-in to it, will be sent in SharePoint's Outgoing Email. For instance if you've been invited to a SharePoint site and the user inviting you has left everything alone you will normally receive an email welcoming you to the site from SharePoint. When Joe in Accounting needs IT to fix (read: turn on) his computer he can submit a ticket within SharePoint and assuming someone has set it up, an alert will be sent to the IT department to send help his way. Also if Bill over in Sales is setting up a new client for a sale he just made and his boss, Sally, needs to approve it when he submits it Sally can get an email to approve the new client.


How do I do it?

So how do you set this up you ask? Well it is pretty simple in reality. Assuming you have an SMTP server or exchange server available you can simply point SharePoint at it. If your server is nice enough to allow SharePoint to send messages to it without authenticating itself then you're ready to go. If your server is a big more finicky you may want to set up a relay server between them using IIS on the SharePoint Application Server or another server outside of the farm. Check out the following link for how to do this with Office 365 but it is nearly identical with any other internet mail provider.


Once you have your server then you can go about configuring the SharePoint side. This is commonly accomplished by using SharePoint's Central Administration.

NOTE: In previous versions Microsoft allowed these settings to be configured through the usage of the stsadm commands. Click the following to learn more:

To start simply hop into Central Admin and navigate to System Settings Heading.

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On the System Settings page you can then Navigate to "Configure outgoing e-mail settings" under the E-Mail and Text Messages (SMS) heading.

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Now you will be presented with the following form.

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On this form you will notice there are 4 properties which can be set. Off the bat you can likely ignore the Character set but this is useful for installations where you will need a different character set for your language. Following that you should see From address and Reply-to address. These are exactly as they state the email address the emails the server sends will be from and the email address that when one of the sent emails is replied to will be delivered to. Often times the email will be marked as from SharePoint but the reply-to will be the IT department or an administrator. The final field the Outbound SMTP server will be for the server you have set up to accept email from SharePoint from as discussed above.

When complete your email should look something like the following.

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NOTE: It should be noted that neither email address need be a real email address in most situations as long as your SMTP server will accept the email and process it properly.


Gotcha's and Potential Issues

So are there any pitfalls or issues with setting this up? Like with most things there can be. For instance one thing you may want to do is set it up so when the IT Site sends out an email it's from and reply-to addresses reflect IT but when Accounting sends out an email it's from and reply-to addresses reflect Accounting. Pretty simple request right?

If you have each of these departments set up as separate web applications. These web applications containing the respective site collections then you can. A web application can have its own outgoing email set up. This can be done when you go to Manage Web Applications.

The gotcha is that you cannot do this if you want to host multiple site collections on the same web application. SharePoint only allows changing the email down to the web application layer and no settings exist allowing you to do this with SharePoint out of the box on a site collection level or lower.

One of the common issues that has come through our office that is posted about quite frequently online as well is integration with Exchange Online. Multiple reports of issues where the server acts as a specific user to send the email on behalf of someone instead of simply from the outgoing email address have occurred. This is commonly found in situations where workflows are present but it seems to be quite a common issue so if you are relaying email to your Exchange Online account this is something you should take into account.


Different SharePoint Version?

As mentioned previously you can use the stsadm command line tools within PowerShell for configuring the outgoing email in SharePoint 2010 but Microsoft did not continue that trend within SharePoint 2013. So what are the major differences between different versions of SharePoint with regards to setting up outgoing email?

The answer is very little actually. From SharePoint 2007 until SharePoint 2013, and likely in SharePoint 2016 it will follow, the configuration of Outgoing Email has been almost identical. The same four fields have been used for the past 3 versions of the product! The only difference being the way that you navigate within the Administration to locate the page to set them.


Final Thoughts

The process for setting email with the Outgoing Email settings in SharePoint is in general quick and simple. There are clearly excellent benefits to an organization who heavily utilizes email with the introduction of SharePoint emails. As mentioned there are some differences between the different versions of SharePoint but in many cases the differences are minute. If email is something you need or maybe you didn't know you need hopefully this tutorial has helped in getting you up and running.

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