public folders
ExchangeSavvy

ExchangeSavvy

ExchangeSavvy develops enterprise-grade management and migration tools for Microsoft Office 365 and Exchange Server.

What Are Microsoft Exchange Public Folders?

Public Folders is one of the many features within Microsoft Exchange. Its purpose is to give Outlook users access to common folders for sharing information. Exchange Administrators can control user access by assigning permissions to a Public Folder. You can also make a Public Folder available to everyone in an organization as well.

Public Folders also support the following features:

  • Contacts
  • Calendar Items
  • Messages
  • Journal Entries
  • Notes
  • Custom Attributes
  • Templates

Why Would You Use Public Folders?

For many organizations that have been using Microsoft Exchange, Public Folders is an easy way to share content with multiple users and groups. Most users already have access to Microsoft Outlook, so adding this feature to their mailbox view makes sense and is easy to implement. Administrators can define the Public Folder Hierarchy and assign ownership status to separate parts of the hierarchy to ease the administrative burden. The delegated administrators can then manage permissions from Outlook directly. You can even configure folders to receive email through mail-enabling the folder.

What Are Mail-Enabled Public Folders?

Mail-Enabled Public Folders allow the folder to receive email directly to it. They are assigned an SMTP address once you set the folder to be mail-enabled. In a shared environment like Public Folders, mail-enabled public folders offer a nice way to centralize email delivery for specific groups or departments without having to give control of mailboxes to multiple users. You can even allow users the ability to send email on behalf of mail-enabled public folders too, making them a powerful solution for managing a team email address without the need to have a separately defined email account that you log into.

How Are Organizations Using Public Folders?

Due to the simplicity of deployment and the ease at which users can share content, Public Folders are often found at the core of business processes. Add in the ability to also receive email directly to the folder, and you can streamline a business process pretty easily. Here are some examples:

  • Organize projects into their own dedicated folder.
  • Separate sub folders created to further organize specific project content and mail-enabled folders to receive email specifically related to the project.
  • Specific business unit folders for sharing content specific to it.
  • Team tracking calendars that everyone has access to by creating a calendar folder
  • Folders tied to email addresses for receiving voicemails and faxes by using mail-enabled folders
  • Custom templates for auto-replies to team mail-enabled folders (i.e.: “We have received your inquiry and we will respond within 24 hours.”)
  • Contact repository

How Can You View Public Folders?

Interacting with Public Folders is done using Microsoft Outlook. In order to see and work with your Public Folders, you need to have been given access and you need to enable the view within your Outlook profile:

NOTE: Outlook 2013 is being used as an example, but the steps are similar for other versions.

  1. Open Outlook and select your mail profile if prompted.
  2. By default, you will not see the Public Folder Hierarchy.
    Public Folders in Outlook
  3. At the bottom of Outlook, you will see options such as MailCalendarPeopleTasks, etc. Click the (…) button and then select Folders. This will alter your mailbox view on the left-hand side, displaying your Public Folder Hierarchy.

    Public Folders in Outlook
  4. Based on your permissions, you will be able to browse the Public Folder Hierarchy. You can also AddEdit, and Delete content, which includes creating/deleting folders. You can also manage permissions on specific folders if your administrator has given you the rights to do so. In order to get this functionality, it needs to be first configured on your Exchange server. Lastly, you can add frequently visited folders to your Favorites, making it easy to get them multiple times without having to traverse the Public Folder Hierarchy each time.

How to Enable Exchange Public Folders

How To Enable Public Folders In Exchange 2010

Exchange 2010 supports Legacy Public Folders, which means it has its own dedicated database for supporting your entire Public Folder Hierarchy. You can only have one Public Folder Database on an Exchange 2010 server per organization. The Public Folder database is added in the same way you add a new Mailbox Database, which can be added via Powershell or through the Exchange Management Console (EMC):

  1. Open the EMC
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  2. At the top left-hand corner, expand Microsoft Exchange On-Premises (server.domain.local)Organization Configuration, then select Mailbox
  3. Click on the Database Management tab up on the top left and then either right-click somewhere in the box below and select New Public Folder Database… or under the Actions pane on the right-hand side
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  4. The New Public Folder Database dialog window will appear. Create a name by entering it in the Public Folder Database Name field and then select Browse to select the Exchange 2010 server that will host the new Public Folder Database. Click Next.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  5. Set your Database File Path and Log Folder Path. Check the option to Mount this Database to make it available and then click NextPublic Folders in Exchange 2010
  6. View the Configuration Summary, and if everything looks good, click New to create the Public Folder Database.
  7. Once completed, click Finish.
  8. Now that you have your Public Folder Database created, you can proceed with creating your first Public Folder. Public Folders can be added via PowerShell or through the EMC. To do this in Exchange, open the EMC, expand Microsoft Exchange On-Premises (server.domain.local) on the left-hand side, then select Toolbox at the bottom. Double-Click on Public Folder Management Console in the center pane.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  9. On the top left-hand side, expand Public Folders – server.domain.local.
  10. Select Default Public Folders and then click on New Public Folder… on the far right-hand pane.Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  11. Place the name of the folder under Name. In this case, the root path \ is where the folder is being created from. Then click New to create the folder.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  12. Once the folder creates successfully, click Finish.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  13. If you would like to mail-enable the folder you created, you can do this via PowerShell or use the EMC through the Public Folder Management Console. To do this, open the EMC, expand Microsoft Exchange On-Premises (server.domain.local) on the left-hand side, then select Toolbox at the bottom. Double-Click on Public Folder Management Console in the center pane.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  14. On the left-hand column, under Public Folders – server.domain.local, expand Default Public Folders. Select the parent folder of the folder that you want to mail-enable. This will list all of the subfolders in the center pane, including the new folder you created. In the center pane, click on the new folder. Under the Actions pane on the far right-hand side, the option to Mail-Enable the folder will appear. Click on it to mail-enable the folder.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  15.  Once mail-enabled, you will see a new option for Manage Send As Permission…, which allows you to add users that can send email on behalf of the mail-enabled folder.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  16. On the Manage Send As Permission dialog box, click Add to add users that you want to be able to send email on behalf of the mail-enabled public folder. When finished, click Manage.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  17. By default, the alias used for the mail-enabled public folder SMTP address is the name of the folder. You can configure this by going to the Actions pane on the far right-hand side and clicking Properties.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010
  18. On the Properties window, select the E-Mail Addresses tab. You can then select the SMTP address and click Edit to change it. Click OK when finished.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2010

How To Enable Public Folders In Exchange 2013 Or Exchange 2016

Exchange 2013 introduced Modern Public Folders. Public Folder Hierarchy and Content are stored and distributed amongst one or more Public Folder Mailboxes. These mailboxes replace the need for a dedicated Public Folder database, so end users will not need to be concerned about how many Public Folder Mailboxes you have configured or which Public Folder Mailbox holds their content. Public Folders are still displayed in the same way as they were with Legacy Public Folders when viewed from Outlook. Modern Public Folders also have the benefit of being in a Database Availability Group (DAG), which can now be replicated for backup purposes just like User Mailboxes.

Do I Need A Public Folder Mailbox For Each Mail-Enabled Public Folder?

It’s a common point of confusion between a Public Folder Mailbox and a Mail-Enabled Public Folder. It may seem that they are the same, but they are not. Microsoft limits the number of Public Folder Mailboxes to 1,000 in Office 365 Exchange Online, and it’s not uncommon to find Public Folder implementations with many thousands of Mail-Enabled Public Folders, so, at first glance, it can seem that you can’t migrate Public Folders to Office 365. Public Folder Mailboxes are nothing more than using the context of a mailbox to store the Public Folder Hierarchy and content, so just think of your Public Folder Database now consisting of one or more of these Public Folder Mailboxes grouped together. The view of your Public Folder Hierarchy remains unchanged, and within that, you can create Mail-Enabled Public Folders. You can have any number of mail-enabled public folders within them, just like you can with Legacy Public Folders.

NOTE: Exchange 2016 has the exact same dialog prompts as Exchange 2013.

To begin adding Public Folders, you need to create at least one Public Folder Mailbox:

  1. You can add a Public Folder Mailbox using Powershell (2013) (2016) or the Exchange Administrative Center (EAC). Open the EAC and log in with administrative credentials
  2. Select Public Folders on the left-hand side, then click on Public Folder Mailboxes at the top of the main window. Click on + to open the New Public Folder Mailbox dialog.
    Public Folder Mailbox
  3. Create a name for the new Public Folder Mailbox, such as PFMbx_1. Then, select the Organizational Unit and Mailbox Database. Click Save when finished.
    Public Folder Mailbox
  4. The new Public Folder Mailbox will be listed as Primary Hierarchy, which means that it will also be the only Public Folder Mailbox that will retain the Read/Write copy of the Public Folder Hierarchy. All other Public Folder Mailboxes created after the Primary will be labeled as Secondary Hierarchy, which while still containing Public Folder content, will have a Read-Only copy of the Public Folder Hierarchy.
    Public Folder Mailbox
  5. Now we can proceed with creating a Public Folder. You can add a new Public Folder either with PowerShell (2013) (2016) or with the EAC. In the EAC, click on Public Folders in the far left-hand column. Select Public Folders at the top of the main window and then click on the + sign.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2013
  6. The New Public Folder dialog will appear. Enter a name for the new Public Folder and then click Save.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2013
  7. The new Public Folder will appear in the Public Folders section, such as the Test Folder below.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2013
  8. You can mail-enable the folder you just created by either using PowerShell (2013) (2016) or using the EAC. While still viewing your Public Folder from the previous step, select Enable on the far right-hand side.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2013
  9. Warning dialog box will appear asking to confirm that you want to mail-enable the folder. Click Yes.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2013
  10. If you want to add/change the alias for the assigned SMTP address to the mail-enabled public folder, then select the mail-enabled public folder under the Public Folder section, then click on the Pencil icon to edit it.
    Public Folders in Exchange 2013
  11. In the Properties window, select Email Address on the left-hand side. You will see the SMTP address currently assigned to your mail-enabled public folder listed. You can edit the current alias by selecting the Email Address and then click on the Pencil icon. Otherwise, you can add another SMTP address by clicking the +. Click Save when finished.
    Mail Enable Public Folder

How To Enable Public Folders In Exchange Online

Exchange Online supports Modern Public Folders. While it’s the same Modern Public Folders concept you have seen in Exchange 2013and later, the big difference is the limits imposed on your Office 365 tenant. This is one of the main reasons that you can’t do straight migrations of these mailboxes over to Office 365. In order to enable Public Folders in your tenant, you need to start off by creating at least one Public Folder Mailbox:

  1. You can add a new Public Folder Mailbox with via PowerShell or through the Exchange Admin Center (EAC). Login to your Office 365 tenant.
  2. select the Admin tile.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  3. Expand Admin Centers on the bottom of the column on the left-hand side and select Exchange.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  4. In the EAC click on Public Folders near the bottom of the column on the left-hand side.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  5. In the main window, click Public Folder Mailboxes near the top.
    Public Folder Mailbox
  6. Click on the + sign, which will display a prompt where you can create a name for this new Public Folder mailbox:
    Public Folder Mailbox
  7. Enter a name for the new Public Folder Mailbox and then click Save.
    Public Folder Mailbox
  8. On the Public Folder Mailboxes window, you will see the new Public Folder Mailbox that you created, which in this case is PFMbx_1. Notice that under the Contains column that it says Primary Hierarchy. The first Public Folder Mailbox that you create on your tenant will automatically be labeled Primary Hierarchy. Any additional Public Folder Mailboxes that you create will be labeled Secondary Hierarchy.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  9. Next, we need to create a Public Folder. You can add new Public Folders either using PowerShell or the EAC. In EAC, click Public Folders up on top.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  10. Click on the + sign, which will bring up a prompt to enter the folder name. Since we have no folders, the path the folder will be placed in is the root.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  11. Your new Public Folder will appear, in this case, a folder called Commercial. I’ve also added sub folders, so Has Subfolders is set to Yes.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  12. To mail-enable your public folder, you can either use PowerShell or the EAC. In the EAC, make sure it is selected under Public Folders, then select Enable on the far right-side column.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  13. The Warning prompt will be displayed asking if you want to make the folder mail-enabled. Click Yes.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  14. If you want to add/change the alias for the assigned SMTP address to the mail-enabled public folder, then select the mail-enabled public folder under the Public Folder section, then click on the Pencil icon to edit it.
    Public Folders in Office 365
  15. In the Properties window, select Email Address on the left-hand side. You will see the SMTP address currently assigned to your mail-enabled public folder listed. You can edit the current alias by selecting the Email Address and then click on the Pencil icon. Otherwise, you can add another SMTP address by clicking the +. Click Save when finished.
    Public Folders in Office 365

How To Add Permissions To Public Folders

Permissions can be assigned in either Outlook or Exchange. The types of permissions levels are listed below:

  • Owner
  • Publishing Editor
  • Editor
  • Publishing Author
  • Author
  • Nonediting Author
  • Reviewer
  • Contributor
  • None

The various permission levels consist of combinations for the following permissions:

  • Read
    • None
    • Full Details
  • Write
    • Create Items
    • Create subfolders
    • Edit own
    • Edit All
  • Delete Items
    • None
    • Own
    • All
  • Other
    • Folder owner
    • Folder contact
    • Folder visible

You can view more information on what each permission level means for Public Folders (link is for Exchange 2010, but the permission concepts are the same for Exchange 2010 and later)

How To Add Permissions To A Public Folder In Exchange 2010

  1. To add permissions via Exchange 2010, you can either add them via PowerShell or through the Exchange Management Console (EMC). Open the EMC, expand Microsoft Exchange On-Premises (server.domain.local) on the left-hand side, then select Toolbox at the bottom. Double-Click on Public Folder Management Console in the center pane.
    Public Folder Permissions
  2. On the left-hand column, under Public Folders – server.domain.local, expand Default Public Folders. Select the parent folder of the folder that you want to add permissions to. This will list all of the subfolders in the center pane, including the new folder you created. In the center pane, click on the new folder. Under the Actions pane on the far right-hand side, click on Properties.
    Public Folder Permissions
  3. In the new window, select the Permissions tab up on top. From here, you can see what users already have access to the folder, such as Default and Anonymous. Click on Add to insert another user that should have permissions to the folder. Once done, make sure that user is highlighted, then select the appropriate Permission Level below. You can also select Custom and choose the exact permissions too. Click OK when finished.
    Public Folder Permissions

How To Add Permissions To A Public Folder In Exchange 2013 Or Exchange 2016

  1. When choosing to add permissions via Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2016, you have the option to add them via PowerShell (2013) (2016) or through the Exchange Administrative Center (EAC). To add them using the EAC, select Public Folders in the far left-hand column, then choose Public Folders at the top of the main window to view a list of your folders.
    Public Folder Permissions
  2. Select the folder that you want to add permission to. On the far right-hand window, select Manage.
    Public Folder Permissions
  3. In the new window that appears, click on the + to add a new permission to the folder.
    Public Folder Permissions
  4. In the Public Folders Permissions dialog box, you can click on Browse… up on top to search for a user to add. You can then select the Permission Level on that folder for the specific user you have added. There are a number of preset designations to choose from, or you can customize the permission based on the check boxes below. Click on Save when finished.
    Public Folder Permissions

How To Add Permissions To A Public Folder In Exchange Online

  1. To add permissions to public folders in Exchange Online, you can either apply them using PowerShell or in the Exchange Admin Center (EAC). To add them in the EAC, select Public Folders in the far left-hand column, then choose Public Folders at the top of the main window to view a list of your folders. Select the folder for which you want to add/edit permissions and then in the far right-hand column, click Manage.
    Public Folder Permissions
  2. In the new window that appears, click on the + to add a new permission to the folder. You can also select a current user from the list and click the Pencil icon to edit their permissions to the folder.
    Public Folder Permissions
  3. In the Public Folders Permissions dialog box, you can click on Browse… up on top to search for a user to add or change. You can then select the Permission Level on that folder for the specific user you have added. There are a number of preset designations to choose from, or you can customize the permission based on the check boxes below. Click Save when finished.
    Public Folder Permissions

Conclusion

Public Folders offer a lot of functionality with minimal setup. They are also flexible when it comes to configuring them via PowerShell or through the administrative interfaces. It’s also intuitive for end users to get the hang of them rather quickly by navigating a simple folder structure. It’s no surprise that many organizations are still using Public Folders today.

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