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Using Office 365 Transport Rules to create email signatures

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Find out what Office 365 Transport Rules are, how they work and their limitations managing Office 365 signatures.
For many organizations, it is often preferable that all emails contain a specific signature or disclaimer that is consistent for all users. Rather than relying on each employee to be take charge of their own email signature design, IT administrators find it easier to apply a designated template from one central location. For an organization on Office 365, this is done using something called Transport Rules.


What are Office 365 Transport Rules?

In basic terms, Office 365 Transport Rules, also known as mail flow rules, look for specific conditions within emails sent by your organization and take an action you specify. They are similar to inbox rules used by many email clients like Outlook, but a Transport Rule will take actions on a message that is in transit rather than after it is delivered. Office 365 Transport Rules come with a large set of conditions, exceptions and actions, giving you a number of messaging policy options.

Using Office 365 Transport Rules

The main reason that Office 365 Transport Rules are used is for business compliance and security requirements. For example, you could decide that you want to block anyone from receiving emails with attachments for legal requirements, so you would set up a Transport Rule to block all messages sent to and from your users with attachments. You could then set up another action where a recipient is sent a separate email to let them know that a message has been blocked because it contained an attachment.

transport-rule-create.jpgOther reasons to use Office 365 Transport Rules include filtering confidential information, redirecting emails before delivery and, of course, applying Office 365 email signatures to all messages.

For a step-by-step guide to creating your Office 365 signature, visit this article

Limitations of using Office 365 Transport Rules for email signature management

Using Office 365 Transport Rules lets an organization set up and apply a disclaimer to all inbound and outbound messages. Notice that we say disclaimer rather than email signature; Office 365 only really lets you create a plain-text disclaimer to appear at the bottom of your email. This is the first of a number of limitations to managing Office 365 signatures using just Office 365 Transport Rules.

disclaimer.jpgTo learn more what you can and can’t do in an Office 365 signature, visit this article.

So, let’s say that you want to your email signature to include imagery. To do this, you’re going to have to use HTML. Assuming you’re comfortable using HTML, you’ll then have to paste this code into the Office 365 disclaimer editor and ensure that all images are web-hosted (embedded images won’t work).

disclaimer-text.jpgYou’ll probably want to see how your signature looks and test it to see if it functions correctly. Well, too bad! Using just Office 365 Transport Rules means you won’t be able to test how your email signature design or see how it ‘behaves’ before it is deployed to your users. Even then, different email clients render HTML in different ways. Just because it works in Outlook doesn’t mean that it’ll work in Gmail. It’s important to note that HTML in email signatures actually operates differently to HTML on websites, so you could find that your signature doesn’t end up looking like it should when it goes live.

Then, you might want to give different signature templates to different departments. This means you’ll have to create multiple Office 365 Transport Rules. Depending on the size of your organization, this could potentially lead to hundreds of different rules you will then have to keep track of, not to mention how time-consuming it could be creating rule-after-rule.

By now, you might be thinking that using Office 365 Transport Rules to manage email signatures sounds more trouble than it’s worth. This article has not even mentioned other issues like blank spaces appearing in contact details, the fact that your signatures won’t work on mobiles or that you won’t be able to create separate reply signatures.

In the end, your best bet to solve this problem is to invest in an email signature management solution. Otherwise, you’ll find that this task will take up time you’d rather spend on other more important jobs.

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