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Compare forwarding, aliases, distribution groups, and shared mailboxes

Your Microsoft 365 email includes several types of addresses to save time and enhance collaboration. These addresses are associated with your email plan and don't have their own username or password to sign in.

Jane, a real estate business owner, manages a team of employees. Let's look at how she uses email forwarding, aliases, distribution groups, and shared mailboxes to work with her team.


An email forward automatically delivers mail to another email account. When someone sends a message to your Microsoft 365 email address, you'll see it in the other account's inbox.

Jane has both personal and a professional email accounts. To save time spent checking email, she creates an email forward so her professional Microsoft 365 email, jane@, automatically forwards to her personal Gmail account. Now she only needs to sign in to Gmail to see all her email.

Forward your Microsoft 365 account to another email address.


Aliases are a good way to make a small business look bigger. An alias is a completely different email address added to a mailbox. Everything sent to an alias email address is received in the primary email account's inbox.

Jane creates the alias careers@ using her primary email account, jane@. When a future employee sends an email to careers@, it's automatically delivered to jane@. When Jane responds, the future employee sees a message from jane@.

Create an email alias.

Distribution groups

Distribution groups save time when you're collaborating with a group. Instead of individually including each person's email address, you can use the distribution group address to email everyone in the group. Approved users can also send email as a distribution group, such as for HR or training groups. To include someone outside of your domain (like a vendor or supplier), first add them as a shared contact.

Jane creates the distribution group team@ to send email and calendar appointments to her three employees.

Create a distribution group.

Shared mailboxes

Shared mailboxes provide a generic email address that multiple people can access and send from. They offer improved collaborative features including dedicated storage to see previous messages, a shared calendar, and contacts. Permission is required to access or send as a shared mailbox address.

Jane's two assistants help answer general questions and respond to inquiries. For both assistants to access and respond to mail, Jane creates the shared mailbox questions@.

Create a shared mailbox.

Related step

  • To turn any of these address types into an email account with its own mailbox, delete it and then create it as a user.

More info

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