Communication, Collection, and Collaboration! Oh, My!

Email Systems in Microsoft 365 Business Standard and Beyond

As we implement new information systems technology for small and medium businesses, we find that (most of the time) business owners get overwhelmed by the number of options that are out there. So, as a way of simplifying the process of grasping the nuances of the Microsoft 365 suite of collaboration options, it might be useful to talk about the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

This article assumes you are a small business that has a subscription to Microsoft 365 Business Standard or  Premium

Most small burgeoning businesses are in the adoption phase of Microsoft 365 email.  It is the easiest and most cost-effective means of managing your email services.  We highly recommend it over the G-Suite email or just plain-ole \”webmail\” or IMAP email systems.

Most of the time these companies are very happy with having a crispy new company url (SomeYoungCompany.Com) , a website to go with it, and want to get all of those leads pouring in to their email so they can serve these new customers that need their products and services.  

Really, you will want to think about how to receive, process, and store those emails now and into the future so you don\’t create additional work for yourself or your tech company and end up costing additional money down the road in labor or productivity lost that you could have saved with some advanced planning.

The quickest and easiest solution is to create a mailbox for every email address in your business and an email address for every employee and aliases if an employee is responsible for an email address other than his or her own.  This will work, and may be the best fit for some businesses,  but pause for a second and think of all of the email addresses in your company and how they can be best utilized within Microsoft 365. [*formerly Office 365]  There are many options that can save time and money down the road.  This is where a partnered IT company can help lay out your options and smooth the decision making process.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Not counting Teams collaboration tools (that is a whole different article and series of instructionals) there are 4 ways of sending and receiving emails using Microsoft 365 tools that are available to subscribers.
  2. Mailboxes are your primary source of interpersonal communication with the outside world and what most people think of when collaboration tools are discussed.
  3. Aliases are not actually a thing in themselves, but they are worth exploring as they can be misunderstood and confused with some of the features reserved for the other means of communication.
  4. Shared Mailboxes are meant to be a means of two way communication with a group of people.  Think of it as a queue of email-communicated tasks or a well of leads for sales or a drop-bucket for communication requests from web forms.
  5. Groups are meant to be a way for groups of people to communicate amongst themselves.  This is more akin to a message board and is most used for group collaboration on a single subject or with common interest.


A mailbox is usually associated with a single user and requires a license.  A mailbox is required for a user to log on to and use Office 365 email.

    • Mailboxes require a paid license
    • Mailboxes are what is commonly referred to as an \”Email Addresses\” but it goes deeper than that.
    • A Mailbox is really just a repository for message files that has an \”Email Address\” attached to it so the server knows where to put the emails addressed to that address.
    • Users need a mailbox in order to log in and use email
    • One cannot have access to other email features like shared mailboxes without first having a mailbox.
    • Every humane expected to receive email in your company needs access to a mailbox



A Microsoft 365 Email alias is another email address attached to your mailbox. You can have any number of email addresses that flag messages for your mailbox.  However, any email you send will come from your primary email address.

    • An alias is another email address that a person can be reached at
    • Aliases do not require a license
    • All email sent to an alias goes into the users inbox.
    • The primary email address is always the \”from\” address

Shared Mailboxes

A shared mailbox is shared with one or more users.  Shared mailboxes do not require a license and include the features of a normal mailbox.

    • Shared mailboxes cannot be logged into directly.  It shows up on their folder list, and a user must have their own mailbox to be able to see that folder.
    • Shared mailboxes are not supported on mobile Outlook
    • Shared mailboxes appear as separate mailboxes in Outlook and Outlook on the web.
    • A user with \”send as\” permissions can send email from the shared mailbox email address
    • If a user with \”send as\” permissions replies to a message in a shared mailbox, the reply appears to come from the shared mailbox email address
    • A user can also (if they have permission to do so) send a message “on behalf of” a shared mailbox. The message will appear to come from “Jane Doe on behalf of ”
    • Calendars and contact lists in shared mailboxes are fully useable by users having access to the shared mailbox
    • Emails sent from a shared mailbox by default appear in the sent items of the user sending the email message.
    • Shared mailboxes support subfolders (i.e. it is possible to create folders under inbox for example in order to organize email)



Office 365 Groups have much the same functionality as shared mailboxes. Groups however can have associated SharePoint Team Sites, OneDrive documents, and OneNote notebooks. If collaborating around a mailbox is important to your business, a group may be a better fit than a shared mailbox.

    • Like shared mailboxes, groups cannot be logged into directly
    • Groups are supported on mobile devices
    • Groups appear beneath a users mailbox in Outlook
    • A user can send email and have the message appear to come from the group email address
    • A user can also (if they have permission to do so) send a message “on behalf of” group. The message will appear to come from “Jane Doe on behalf of ”
    • Email sent as a group email address will not appear in the group Sent Items folder, in fact there is no visible Sent Items folder. This cannot be changed
    • Groups do not support subfolders.
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