A combination of MacroView software with Microsoft 365 / SharePoint Online enables solutions that offer a lot of benefits for the replacement of Exchange Public Folders.
For years, many organisations have relied on Exchange Public Folders to manage the emails that were important to the organisation. E.g., as an email arrived from a customer in respect of a project, the routine was that a copy of that email would be saved into a Public Folder for that project, which might well be nested under the Public Folder for the customer. Over the years, thousands of Public Folders were created, containing large volumes of emails – in many organisations terabytes of emails.
Now the sun is setting on Exchange Public Folders! The latest versions cannot accommodate the sizeable Public Folder environments built on earlier versions of Exchange.
Microsoft indicates that the SharePoint Online environment organisations have as part of their Microsoft 365 subscription is the appropriate new place to store the emails previously in Public Folders. The challenge is that with the out-of-the-box integration of Outlook and Microsoft 365 / SharePoint Online, users find that saving essential emails to SharePoint Online is much harder than it was to save them to Public Folders. Saving to the SharePoint Online areas used by Teams sites is no better. Users complain that:
In this blog post, we will see how adding MacroView DMS as a ‘front-end’ to an email store based on Microsoft 365 / SharePoint Online enables solutions that adequately replace Public Folders.
Furthermore, MacroView provides a migration tool that allows you to synchronise your Exchange Public Folders & Outlook folders and PST contents to SharePoint Teams.
As a worked example, let’s use a 4-level tree of Public Folders:
In SharePoint Online, you could replicate that folder tree, but a more thoughtful approach might be to use a structure like this:
If you wanted to use Microsoft Teams, you might create a team for each project, with folders in the general channel. The MacroView software can enhance a teams site to be suitable for managing Outlook emails – see Saving Outlook Emails in Outlook Teams. In this article, we’ll focus on using SharePoint Online, but you might want to look at Replacing Public Folders with Microsoft Teams.
MacroView + SharePoint / Teams replacement solutions have the following 13 advantages:
The screenshot below shows how the MacroView software would display this structure in Outlook. The MacroView software automatically discovers all the areas in the Microsoft 365 tenant for which the user has permission and shows them to the user as an accurate tree view. This leads to the first advantage – the MacroView software makes it easy for the user to visualise the structure – the new SharePoint-based email store looks like a tree much the same as the Public Folders tree.
When the user clicks on an area in the Microsoft 365 email store, the MacroView software displays the emails stored in that area. The display shows the Subject, To, From and Received Time for each email, together with a paperclip icon to indicate whether it has attachments. If the user clicks on the Subject heading, the emails are grouped by Conversation Topic. In summary, a MacroView + SharePoint Online solution provides a viewing experience similar to viewing emails stored in a Public Folder.
The MacroView software allows the user to save an email by dragging and dropping to any document library, document set or folder that appears in their MacroView tree-view display.
The MacroView user can select one or multiple emails in any Outlook folder (including Public Folders) and drag and drop them to save them to SharePoint Online. Numerous emails are saved in the background, so you can work in Outlook while the save proceeds.
To save emails to an Outlook folder (e.g. a Public Folder), you drag and drop to an area on the left of the Mail window. To save emails to SharePoint with MacroView, you drag and drop to a place on the right of the Mail window. From a user viewpoint, that’s the only difference!
As it saves an email to Microsoft 365 / SharePoint Online, the MacroView software automatically records the attributes of the email (To, From, Subject, etc.) as metadata.
The advantage of using a document set for each Project is that the document set is a great way to implement automatic metadata recording. E.g. as an email is saved, either to one of the stage folders or to the project area itself, metadata attributes such as project name, project code, project manager, project start date, etc. can be recorded automatically for the email. By ‘automatically’, we mean without prompting the user for metadata.
As the user drags and drops to one of the stage folders – e.g. to contracts – the MacroView software can automatically record the value of a stage metadata column – again as part of avoiding the need to prompt the user for metadata as they save.
In summary, a typical MacroView + SharePoint Online solution to replace Public Folders does not prompt the user for metadata as they save emails – i.e., the same experience as when saving to a Public Folder. The MacroView solution captures and records metadata, but it does so automatically.
The way the MacroView software automatically records the attributes of emails and other metadata as emails are saved to SharePoint Online enables a significant advantage compared to a Public Folder solution. This advantage is that the user can efficiently search for emails across the SharePoint email store.
In our worked example, emails can be found based on a combination of the content contained in their email body or one of their attachments and / or metadata such as project type, project start date and project manager, as well as on email attributes such as to, from, subject, received time, etc.
The availability of metadata makes the search much more efficient than using only content in the search criteria. Such searches are not possible against a Public Folder based email store.
As it saves an email to SharePoint Online, the MacroView software automatically names the MSG file it creates. This automatic file name prevents duplicate copies of any email in any area of the SharePoint email store – no matter how many recipients attempt to save that email to that area. A Public Folder store does not prevent duplicate copies of an email.
MacroView makes it easy and intuitive to save emails from any Outlook folder to areas in SharePoint Online – it makes it just as easy to save attachments or files from a Windows folder. This brings us to another advantage of a MacroView + SharePoint Online replacement for Public Folders – easy to have all the documents and emails related to a client / project / transaction in one place.
As you drag and drop to save an email, the MacroView software can automatically split off the attachments in the email and save them separately to the same area as the email. Depending on your chosen configuration, the resulting MSG file can contain the email and its attachments or the email body. See this MacroView blog post: Emails and documents together in SharePoint
A user in Outlook can use the search site tree command of MacroView to rapidly find the SharePoint Online area they want to work with and be automatically navigated to that area. The user experience is much better than navigating to a specific Public Folder in a large tree of Public Folders.
A further advantage of a MacroView + SharePoint Online solution as a replacement for Public Folders is that the emails can be saved automatically. The MacroView Corporate Email Filing module can insert a unique filing tag into the subject of an email to save the email to a specific SharePoint Online area. All subsequent emails in the same conversation will have the filing tag in their subjects, meaning that all these emails are automatically saved to the same SharePoint Online area as they are received and sent.
The labels and label policy mechanisms of Microsoft 365 enable another distinct advantage of a MacroView + SharePoint Online solution compared to the Public Folders it is replacing. All files arriving in a folder can be automatically labelled to be protected as records for a specified time. E.g., emails and attachments saved to a contracts folder can be protected from alteration or deletion for seven years from the date they were saved. See this MacroView blog post: Effective email records management in your SharePoint environment.
The MacroView software provides an easy to implement and easy to use way of integrating a CRM, Practice Management or other line of the business system to a SharePoint Online email and document store. By simply clicking on a documents and emails hyperlink in the record for a customer or project, the user is switched into MacroView DMS Explorer and automatically navigated to the area where the documents and emails for the customer or project are stored. You can then click to view and open those documents and emails and drag and drop to save additional emails and attachments from Outlook or files from any Outlook folder.
Migration emails from a large Public Folder structure into a replacement Microsoft 365 / SharePoint Online / Teams structure can be challenging. MacroView can assist with the migration in several ways:
For more details, see Migrating from Public Folders to SharePoint Online or Teams.
Sometimes the best way to approach migration from existing Public Folders is not to do a complete migration. Business users can use the bulk email filing capability of the MacroView software to move the emails (and other files) for active, current customers and projects to the relevant new area in SharePoint Online. The business user selects multiple emails in an existing Public Folder and then drags and drops them to the corresponding new area in SharePoint Online. The moved emails are automatically deleted from the Public Folder.
With this ‘grass roots’ migration approach, the SharePoint Search engine can index emails in their existing Public Folders. While working in Outlook, a MacroView user can perform a unified search – so that some results are from the new SharePoint Online areas while others are from the legacy Public Folders. This approach is relevant for finding emails for inactive or closed clients and projects. It dramatically reduces the urgency of migrating all Public Folder content to SharePoint Online.
For more information about solutions for generating and managing documents and emails using SharePoint and Microsoft 365 contact MacroView.