Friday, January 1, 2010

Running rules when Outlook is closed


By David Gewirtz

Reader Sergio Iacobucci writes:

First of all thank you for this service it great to find somewhere where they offer tailored answers!
Ok, I have a rule set up in a mailbox that we do not want to monitor. This rule sends an automatic reply to all the emails that get sent to it and tells them that if their question isn't answered to email another inbox that we are monitoring.
However the issue I have here is that, as far as I am aware, rules do not run in Outlook unless you sign in and open the inbox.
Do you know of another way so that we do not have to keep signing in and so that the rule can run in the background without us having to worry about it?

First, I probably should clarify to Sergio that we're not really offering a service. We get hundreds of letters a week and we typically only choose one to answer. If you are having a serious Outlook problem, you should turn to the topics and troubleshooting sections of OutlookPower or call Microsoft support.

We've had people call and cry and whine because we wouldn't solve their technical issues in seconds. OK, so those were our relatives, but you know what I mean. We're just editors and writers here. If you want real technical support in a responsive manner, call your relatives and cry and whine at them.

Anyway, back to Sergio's question.

So, here's the deal. When Outlook is closed, it's not running and won't process rules. There is, however, a pretty elegant solution, but it involves your email server, not your email client.

Email servers are always running. They have to be, because they're responsible for recieving, storing, and forwarding your email. Many email servers have server-side rules, where you can log into your server account, and set up rules to run on that server.

Sergio's problem is actually pretty easy, regardless of what server he normally runs. In his case, I recommend using a hosted Exchange service, where some other company runs an Exchange server and his account on the Exchange server can run rules.

Most people think hosted Exchange is expensive, but it can be surprisingly affordable. One of our favorite hosted Exchange providers is IT Solutions Now at They're not an advertiser; we just like them. Their hosted Exchange accounts are $10 a month. That's a pretty cheap answer for Sergio's problem.

Now, the last part of Sergio's question requires further consideration. Recall he states "... without us having to worry about it". He's talking about rules in Outlook. You always have to worry about them!