Office 365 vs Open-Xchange – e-Mail Aliases

(This post is part of a series comparing our experiences with Microsoft Office 365 and Open-Xchange e-mail hosted by Rackspace. Click here for the overview)

Our e-Mail Alias Needs

Here at Asatte Press, we use e-mail aliases heavily. We buy almost everything we use on the web. As such, we have more than 100 different companies for which we have registered online profiles. Each of these profiles demands to have an e-mail address for status notifications, invoicing, upgrade announcements, and so on. Now, say I have an employee Fred who is setting up a new project for the company and needs to sign up for four new online services in the process. Do I want to have Fred register his personal company e-mail address as the contact address for the company? What if Fred leaves? What a nightmare.

In order to work around this common problem, we use e-mail aliases. Instead of having Fred use his own Asatte Press e-mail address, for registering a profile with the company XYZ, we create an “alias” like VendorContactXYZ@asattepress.com and point this alias to Fred@asattepress.com. That way, when Fred leaves and is replaced by Sally, we can simply redirect the e-mail alias to Sally’s e-mail address.

Our requirements are:

  1. Unlimited number of aliases
  2. Central table of aliases for easy maintenance

The first requirement eliminated Google Docs from consideration. They can only support 30 aliases per ID. Office 365 does meet the first requirement, but not the second. Rackspace E-Mail meets both requirements and adds three bonus features:

  1. A single alias can be pointed to more than one e-mail address.
  2. The target e-mail addresses can be external to the system.
  3. Aliases can be exported to and imported from spreadsheets in bulk

Office 365 e-Mail Aliases

So, it is the middle of the day. You have your normal e-mail open, and you are filling out a web form. You suddenly realize that you need a new e-mail alias for IJK corp. What do you have to do as an Office 365 administrator? Let’s walk through the procedure.

1 – Log Into Admin Account

Screen Capture Log Into the Separate Admin Account

Log Into the Separate Admin Account

The first step is to log into the separate “onmicrosoft” administrator account. In order to avoid confusion, I bookmarked the administrator account in Internet Explorer (which tends to pop up the yellow warning box) and use my personal e-mail account from Firefox. While we were using it, Office 365 blocked the browser from remembering your password, so you had to remember and retype your annoying secure password every time.

2 – Wait for Admin Screen to Load

Screen Caputre of Wait for Admin Account to Load

Wait for Admin Account to Load

Next, you have to wait for the admin account to load and initialize, typically around 30 seconds.

3 – Bring Up “Manage Exchange” Screen

After the admin account loads, you click the blue “Manage” link under “Exchange”

Wait Another 30 sec for Manage Exchange  to Load

Wait Another 30 sec for Manage Exchange to Load

You wait for the “Manage Exchange” element to load, usually another 30 seconds. On some days, this component may never load at all. On normal days, it is apparent that it had to sequentially add quite a few different elements. You will see the screen slowly filling in, one element at a time.

4 – Select a User

Screen Aacpture of Wait 15 sec for User Details to Load

Wait 15 sec for User Details to Load

The next step is to select a specific user. This point is a problematic design. Aliases are assigned to specific users rather than the other way around. In any event, you wait another 15 seconds for the user information to load. Again, some days it never loads at all.

5 – Scroll Down to E-Mail Options

Screen Capture of Expand E-Mail Options

Expand E-Mail Options

The section of the dialog box you need is buried at the bottom. You will need to scroll down to find it. The section is called “E-Mail Options” for some reason even though what it actually does is control e-mail aliases.

7 – Scroll Both Outer and Inner Windows

Scoll Inner and Outer Window to Display Alias List

Scoll Inner and Outer Window to Display Alias List

You may want to check to see if you have already assigned the alias (and simply forgotten it). You may also have more than five aliases assigned to this user already. In this case, you will have to use both outer and inner scroll bars to scroll the small display up and down to check the alphabetically sorted list of aliases.

8 – Assign the Alias

Screen Acpture of Add the Alias

Add the Alias

Success! You are now ready to assign the actual alias! Don’t forget to properly distinguish between the “onmicrosoft.com” domain that Microsoft creates for initial registration and your actual company domain. Obviously, you will now need to back out of several layers of nested menus by clicking “OK”

Rackspace/Open-Xchange e-Mail Aliases

The Rackspace E-Mail procedure is much quicker.

1 – Log Into Control Panel

Log into Control Panel

Log into Control Panel

Unlike Office 365, the Rackspace e-mail system does not create a separate domain or a separate admin account. Instead, the Rackspace E-Mail system has a control panel. Since the access to the control panel is a different URL, you can maintain two bookmarks in a single browser: one for e-mail and one for the control panel. I find this arrangement much more convenient. No need to log out of the e-mail system or open a different browser.

Unlike the Office 365 login, the Rackspace e-mail control panel does not suppress the browser’s ability to remember your password. Login takes less than 4 seconds from Austin. It might take longer from some other geographic location.

2 – Select Manage Aliases

Select "Manage Aliases"

Select “Manage Aliases”

The second entry in the top box of the control panel is “manage aliases”. Click on that link.

3 – Alias List Screen

Alias List Ready in 3 Seconds

Alias List Ready in 3 Seconds

The alias list will come up within 3 seconds. From this screen we can either add a single alias using a menu, or upload multiple aliases in bulk from a spreadsheet. There is also a control at the bottom of the screen to export all the aliases to a spreadsheet.

4 – Add an Alias

Add Alias Members

Add Alias Members

Here we can see how adding an alias works. You can select multiple members from your domain and click “Add” to add them. You can also add up to four external aliases.

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