Server-Side Rules in Outlook 2000

Saturday Oct 7th 2000 by Brien M. Posey

Running Exchange Server? Server-side rules offer some handy advantages for message management in Outlook 2000.

A portion of my article Color-Coding Messages and Setting the Rules mentions applying rules that can act upon incoming e-mail messages. For example, you can set up a rule that will automatically delete spam from known senders. You can set up another rule to move certain types of messages to specific folders or to forward them to other users. As you can see, rules can be very handy. What that article didn't mention, however, is that you can create rules in more than one place.

In the original article, I focus on client-side rules. Client- side rules are bound to an Outlook or Exchange client. These rules go into effect only when you access your mailbox from that specific client. However, if you're running Exchange Server, you can assign certain rules at the server level. These server-side rules are always in effect, whether you're logged in at the moment or not. For example, if you set a rule to delete any messages from an irate user, the inbound messages would be deleted the minute they came into the mail server. The messages would be deleted whether you were logged in through your own copy of Outlook, logged in at a friend's desk, or not logged in at all.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some stipulations to server-side rules. First, they only work on Exchange Servers. Second, they can only be used to perform operations that rely totally on server resources. For example, you couldn't set up a server-side rule to move messages to a personal folder, because the reference to the location of your personal folders resides on your Outlook client. Because Exchange Server doesn't know anything about where you keep your personal folders, it can't forward messages to them.

However, these rules can do things like forward messages to other users, flag a message as read, or automatically respond to a message. Server-side rules can be useful in spite of their limitations.

When you create a rule through Outlook 2000, Outlook uses the method you use to connect to your inbox to determine whether a rule should exist on the client side or on the server side. If Outlook uses the normal Exchange Client add-in to connect, then any rules you apply to the inbox will be stored on the server. However, if you connect to your e-mail using SMTP, then the rules will be stored on the client side. Outlook can even store rules in both places.

As you can see in Figure 1, my copy of Outlook contains two inboxes. The top copy is for my local Exchange server, while my bottom copy is related to SMTP mail from a foreign mail server (yes, I know this isn't the optimal configuration, but I'm trying to make a point). The inbox at the top of the screen uses server-side rules, whereas the one at the bottom of the screen uses client-side rules.

Figure 1: You can use separate rules for separate inboxes.

If you want to take a look at server-side rules, you can do so easily by selecting the inbox and choosing the Rules Wizard command from Outlook's Tools menu. When you do, you'll see Outlook's Rules Wizard dialog box. You can use the Rules Wizard to create rules that apply to the inbox. You can also gain some additional control over how the rules are updated on the server by clicking the Options button. //

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance writer. His past experience includes working as the director of information systems for a national chain of health care facilities and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. Because of the extremely high volume of e-mail that Brien receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message, although he does read them all.

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