How can students see faculty contact details if one email system is hosted and the other is on-premise?

…and vice versa?  This is a question that I have been asked a lot now that many of my customers are now at that all-important mailbox provisioning stage.

Currently if you host your student mailboxes on Exchange Labs and keep your faculty and staff mailboxes on, say, an on-campus Exchange mail solution, the two systems cannot ‘see’ each other and are unaware of each other’s existence.  So for example, when a student looks at their Global Address List in Outlook, all they see is other student contact details; there is however a way in which you can provide contact details for faculty and staff right into the student GAL.

Exchange Labs Contacts contain the e-mail addresses and other information for users who exist outside of an Exchange mail domain.

The way this works is a mail administrator takes a snapshot of the faculty/staff contact information they would like students to see in their GAL; this is created as a CSV file.  This CSV file is then laid out in such a way that it can be used by the CSV Import tool supplied for use with Exchange Labs, or with PowerShell.  The administrator then creates a collection of contacts in the student Exchange Labs mail domain.  These contacts do not have mailboxes or anything like that in the student domain, think of them just as you would contacts you may have stored for your own personal use in your own mail client, except they are visible to everyone.  Once you have created these contacts, you can keep them up to date on a scheduled basis using the Update or Delete actions in conjunction with CSV Import or PowerShell.

So what about the ‘vice versa’?  What if you want students to appear as contacts in your faculty/staff mail system.  This is achieved in much the same way.  Many email solutions such as Exchange allow you to create shared contacts for those accounts that do not have mailboxes locally.  The same file that you use to create student mailboxes on Exchange Labs can be re-purposed to create contacts on whatever system you are running on-campus.

A note on Distribution Groups.  DG’s also have SMTP addressed, for example AllPsychologyStudents@contoso.edu.  A DG will exist on one side of the overall Exchange Solution described above, but similarly, a contact can be created for this group on the other side of the solution in the same way as you would create a contact for a remote mailbox.  The other thing to note is that Distribution Groups can contain both users with mailboxes in the same mail domain, and contacts from another domain, so if you wanted to created a group for say a research project that contained both Faculty and Students, this is entirely possible.

Jonny

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