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Centralizing Junk Email Folder Administration

Alexander Zammit

Alexander Zammit Photo

A Software Development Consultant with over 20 years of experience. Many of his projects involved Exchange integrated applications, including a FAX server, a mail security product and anti-spam products.

  • Published: Jul 28, 2005
  • Category: Anti-Spam
  • Votes: 5.0 out of 5 - 3 Votes
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Each Exchange mailbox has its own Junk Email configuration settings. Administering multiple mailboxes, setting a consistent configuration, quickly becomes challenging. We need tools to centrally administer these settings.

Filtering SPAM to the Junk Email folder enables users to maintain focus on their Inbox. Emails still reach their destination but the final separation minimizes the disruption caused by SPAM.

Indeed the Junk Email folder offers a nice decentralized SPAM filtering solution. End recipients have the opportunity to check for misclassified emails relieving the administrator from such a burden. Each user can further setup Safe Senders, Safe Recipients and Blocked Senders lists customizing filtering based on their needs.

Decentralized solutions bring with them administrative challenges. One can expect (or maybe hope) that users keep an eye on their Junk Email folder. Beyond that Administrators have to take care for the proper system configuration and maintenance. With per mailbox settings this task becomes more difficult.

This article is the third in a series. In Bringing Together the Exchange Anti-SPAM Cocktail we identified the different anti-SPAM filtering layers distributed between Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003. In Enabling/Disabling the Junk Email Folder we looked into the reasons why Junk Email enablement/disablement is tricky. Today we look into applications and scripts useful in administering the Junk Email folder. Specifically we are interested in having a means to centrally enable/disable the delivery of emails to this folder.

Choosing the Right Tools

With two different Junk Email enablement mechanisms, the first step is to identify the settings to be modified. If we go using these tools blindly we risk to be modifying the wrong setting and thus get the impression that "it doesn't work". This was amply discussed in the previous articles.

Hence we need to choose one of the following two:

  1. The Junk Email folder for the server-side Intelligent Message Filter.
  2. The Junk Email folder for the client-side Outlook 2003 anti-SPAM filter.

Hereafter I will refer to the first case as server-side filtering and the second as client-side filtering.

Managing Server-Side Junk Email Filtering

We start by looking at the resources available to manage the server-side Junk email filtering. These are the settings which mailbox users would normally access through Outlook Web Access.

Outlook Web Access Web Administration

Outlook Web Access Web Administration is available from the Microsoft Download Center. It provides an administrative interface to OWA including its Junk Email functionality. The tool is an ASP.NET application requiring.NET v1.1 and IIS.

The following is the main application page showing the various configuration categories. Here I am highlighting the categories containing settings related to Junk Email management.

Outlook Web Access Web Administration

Selecting the 'Junk E-Mail' category will show various limits for the Safe Senders/Recipients and Blocked Senders functionality.

Junk E-Mail Handling

Going back to the main page and selecting the 'Server-wide feature support' category exposes another Junk Email management option. Right at the bottom you will find the 'Junk E-mail filtering' checkbox. Through it, you may disable and hide the Junk Email functionality altogether.

Server-wide feature support

Clear this check-box, save changes and login to a mailbox through OWA. You will see that the Junk Email settings are gone. This effectively disables delivery to the Junk Email folder for server-side filtering.

OWA Junk Email Options

Enabling the Junk Email folder through scripting

The OWA Administration tool offers useful functionality, but fails to offer the most requested feature i.e. enabling the Junk Email folder for all mailboxes. Evan Dodds, a Program Manager in the Exchange Admin/SysMgmt team, provides an excellent script that fills this gap.

The script must be fed with a text file listing the mailboxes for which the Junk Email folder is to be enabled. You will also need an account having the necessary rights over the mailboxes being accessed. For a copy of the script and complete details check his article IMF and the Junk E-mail folder in Outlook

Managing Client-Side Junk Email Filtering

Next we look at the resources available to manage the client-side Junk email filtering. These are the settings which users would normally access through Outlook 2003.

Managing Outlook through Group Policy

Group Policy is the most effective administration interface when it comes to managing Outlook configurations. To begin with, you will need the Policy Template files available for download from the Office 2003 Resource Kit download center. From here you may either download the Office 2003 Editions Resource Kit (ork.exe), or just download the Office 2003 Policy Template Files and Deployment Planning Tools (Office-2003-SP1-ADMs-OPAs-and-Explain-Text.exe). Ork.exe includes the entire tool set whereas the latter just contains what we need for Group Policy.

Configuring Outlook now becomes a matter of setting up Group Policy correctly. Once you extract the Policy templates, look for outlk11.adm. You will now need to create a Group Policy Object GPO based on this template and associate it to the users/computers to be applied to. I will skip many details here. For more information check the links at the references section.

Group Policy Object

The above screen grab shows the various policies configurable once the template is loaded within the Group Policy Object Editor. The policies are grouped under the Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 folder. Collapsing Tools | Options, Preferences, Junk E-mail leads to the policies of interest to us.

The 'Junk E-mail protection level' policy enables us to set the Outlook Junk Email filtering to No Protection (disabled), Low, High or Trusted Lists Only. To configure this just open the policy properties, select Enabled and select the appropriate level at the 'Select level' list.

Junk E-mail Policy

References

Bringing Together the Exchange Anti-SPAM Cocktail

Enabling/Disabling the Junk Email Folder

Exchange 2003: Outlook Web Access Web Administration

Evan's (mostly) Microsoft Exchange Server Blog - IMF and the Junk E-mail folder in Outlook

Office 2003 Resource Kit Download center

Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding the Group Policy Feature Set

Enterprise Management with the Group Policy Management Console

Managing Users' Configurations by Policy

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