Using Mail Users/Contacts to redirect email in Exchange Online

Being a geek, I have a few domain names registered, including one that I use for my family’s email. I don’t pay for Exchange Online mailboxes for us all though. Instead, I have a full Office 365 subscription, my wife has Exchange Online and the children (and some other family members) use a variety of free accounts from Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.

Earlier this evening, my son asked me to switch his family email from iCloud to GMail¬†(he has an Android phone, and was getting annoyed with winmail.dat files in iCloud), so I had to unpick my email redirection method… which seemed like a good time to blog about it…

Obviously, my wife and I have full mailboxes in Exchange Online but other family members are set up as contacts. In the Office 365 Admin Center they show up as unlicenced users but if I drill down into the Exchange Admin Center I have some more control.

Each family member is set up as a contact/Mail User. Each contact has been set up with at least two email addresses:

  • user@myfamilydomain.com (that’s not the real name but it will do for this example);
  • user@externalmailprovider.com (i.e. user@icloud.com, user@gmail.com, user@hotmail.com).

By setting the primary email (the one prefixed with upper case SMTP: rather than lower case smtp:) to the user@gmail.com (or wherever), mail will be received at user@myfamilydomain.com but is redirected to their “real” email address.

Exchange Online shows them as type Mail User and lists their external email address as the primary.

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